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Hartford Travel Guide

32. Study in Green and White: The Loomis Homestead

Hartford, Connecticut is one of New England’s most historic and celebrated towns. Founded in 1633 by the Dutch as a trading post along the Connecticut River, Hartford was initially settled by colonists leaving the Massachusetts Bay Colony. By 1638, the powerful families of Hartford, Windsor, and Wethersfield had joined forces to create the Hartford Colony. They charted the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, which is considered the first constitution in the Americas. Today, Hartford’s past remains visible in its architecture – a polyglot display of Victorian gingerbread and exuberant Gothic Revival mixed in with nondescript buildings and modern skyscrapers.

Hartford is the state capital of Connecticut and is home to numerous office buildings. Its most impressive structure is the gold-domed capital, which was designed by eminent architect Richard Upjohn in 1879. This building remains one of the most spectacular in New England. Styled in the joyous Gothic Revival, it employs towers, gables, turrets, porches, arches, and finials on the exterior, announcing to everyone that the state government resides inside. The interior of the building is lavishly decorated with stained glass windows, murals, polished granite, and cute balconies that give off an exuberant look from the outside. The state capitol is located on a 40-acre park, Bushnell Park, which wasz designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The complex is home to the Connecticut Supreme Court, the State Museum, the State Library, and the Legislative Office Building. On the grounds, you’ll also find a pond, a restored 1914 carousel, and a spectacular 100-foot Soldiers and Sailon Memorial Arch that has elaborate carvings that honor Hartford’s Civil War heros.[1]

Hartford is often nicknamed the “insurance capital” because it is home to more than 40 insurance companies. The Travelers Tower, where the Travelers insurance company is headquartered, was the tallest building in New England for decades. Today, you can still go up to the Observation Deck to enjoy a fine view.[2]

While the city depends on insurance today, it grew up on manufacturing. The Colt revolver was produced in Hartford. In 1856, Samuel Colt built a factory with a blue dome shaped like an onion. It is still visible today along the Connecticut River. At the peak of the Civil War, the city produced 1,000 revolvers a day and the factory was the largest armory in the world. Colt, however, was extremely ambitious. He built a wharf, ferry facilities, worker’s housing, and a hall which he used to entertain his employees. The Village at Colt’s Armory and the Colt Park South Meadows Complex are reminders of Samuel Colt’s importance to the growth of the city. His former estate is located in Armsmear, which was the most luxurious residence built in Connecticut in the 1850s. You can see the complex if you hike up the hill.[3]

Hartford is also the cultural capital of Connecticut, home to theatre and musical attractions and a number of fine museums. The Wadsworth Atheneum, located at 600 Main Street and built in 1842, is one of them. It boasts a nice collection of Hudson River School art work produced from artists such as Frederic Church, Thomas Cole, and Albert Bierstadt. Earlier works from Trumbull, Copley, Eakins, Peale, and West are also on display, as are the later works of Stella, Wyeth, and de Kooning. There is also a rich collection of Meissen, silver, and glass, as well as a reception room that used to be part of a Hartford mansion. You’ll also find a collection of textiles and costumes.[4]

For theatre and music performances, you can visit the Hartford Stage Company. It is famous for its cutting-edge plays, which are performed in a modern building constructed in 1977. The theatre attracts leading playwrights, directors, and performers, and is located at 50 Church Street near the Civic Center.[5]

Chase, Suzi Forbes, and Ann Lee. New England. New York: Macmillan General Reference, 1994. ISBN: 0671878999.

[1] Chase, 186
[2] Id.
[3] Id. at 186-87
[4] Id. at 187
[5] Id.

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