Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Hunt for Hartford's History: CT Open House Day 2013, Part Three

We concluded our CT Open House Day 2013 expedition with a quick walk through the Old State House.  It was the first state house to be constructed in the new nation and was completed in 1796, built on the site where the original colonial capitol building had stood from 1720 until 1783 (when it was destroyed by fire).

Connecticut's Old State House, Hartford, CT. 
Apologies for the ugly scaffolding that's obscuring the pretty architecture!


Did you know that Connecticut, despite its small size, actually had two seats of government until 1873?  State government was divided between Hartford and New Haven for almost a century, until the state constitution was officially changed in 1873 to recognize Hartford as the only official captiol city.  Five years later, the newly proclaimed sole capitol city finished work on a new, much larger capitol building and the state legislature moved to its new - and current - home in 1878.  After this date, the Old State House served as Hartford's City Hall for a number of years before it was quite recently restored and re-opened as a museum.

The grand entrance hall of the Old State House.

The Senate chamber (below) has been restored to its original Federal-era appearance.  The room features a Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington that was commissioned by the Aseembly in 1801.

Old State House Senate chamber.

Washington portrait, painted between 1801-4 by Gilbert Stuart.

The House of Representatives (below), in contrast, has been brought back to its Victorian days, a choice made by the city when the room functioned as the convening space of the City Council.

House of Representatives in the Old State House.

Because there is no photographic or written evidence of how the courtroom looked in its earlier days, the room has been restored but left largely empty and now caters to events and other functions.  It was in this room that Prudence Crandall, CT's official state heroine, was tried in 1833 for breaking the state's "Black Law" and admitting a young African-American woman to her female academy.  This courtroom also saw the beginning of the Amistad trial.

Old State House's courtroom.

Statue of "Blind Justice" that once crowned the building's cupula.

Additional photos from the day can be found in our Hartford flickr set.

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