Connecticut Capital Building
If Hartford, Connecticut is a mix of gritty neighborhoods and gleaming insurance headquarters today, in the late 1800’s it was considered a model city. Mansions popped up in the Nook Farm area, which rivaled Concord, Massachusetts with the number of artists and writers who clustered in that area. Insurance companies were also popping up, and bringing massive wealth into Hartford.
When Hartford was chosen to be the capital city for Connecticut over New Haven, the leaders wanted to build an impressive capital building to show that they had arrived as one of the great cities in North America. Richard M. Upjohn was chosen as the architect and proposed a Victorian Gothic design to sit up in the hill adjacent to Bushnell Park. Walking around the property, you see the grandness of their vision, even if they cut corners in a few places. Marble, granite, stained glass and ornate fixtures show the wealth of the era.
I’m not an architect, but I appreciate a great building when I see one. Perhaps some architects find the building audacious (it was and still is), but its a great time stamp from a time in the 1870’s when Hartford was a wealthy city with some of the nations literary giants walking its streets. Hartford is not that city anymore. Poverty encroaches on many areas of the city that were once highly desirable neighborhoods for the elite. The Nook Farm area is now the high school and apartment buildings, with a few historic buildings like Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s homes still telling stories from another time. The Capital Building tells a story too. Of wealth and privilege for sure, but also of a city that was finding it’s place in a crowded corner of the country between Boston and New York.