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History Timeline


Download "Influential Events in Hartford 1635-1878"

The 1600's


Sixteen men, their wives, children, and horses, cows and swine arrived in Hartford in October seeking a new home.


On the high ground just west of the Connecticut River, the new settlement at Hartford built its first meeting house. The building, 36 by 23 feet, was used for the court, religious services, and community meetings.


The meeting house, just two years old, on the square in Hartford was already too small for the religious services and court business of the growing colony. The assembly gave the old building to the Reverend Thomas Hooker. The new building, fifty feet square, was made of wood and faced the river.


The General Court ordered on July 5, 1643, that a market be held at Hartford weekly, every Wednesday on Meeting House Square. All manner of goods and merchandise were sold here, including cattle. Meeting House Square became a lively place where townspeople gathered to learn the news, and exchange goods and services.

The 1700s


Once again, the colony of Connecticut had outgrown its meeting house. The General Assembly ordered that a new State House be constructed on Meeting House Square for the growing colonial Assembly. The Assembly ordered that the building be seventy feet in length and thirty feet in width.


The Independence celebrations at the State House lighted more than high spirits. No one knows how or when the State House caught fire, but the fireworks or candle illumination, along with the feasting and frivolity that marked the day probably contributed to the fire that badly damaged the building.


The General Assembly appointed John Chester and others to a committee to superintend the erection of a new state house in Hartford.


The construction of the new Hartford State House began. Because of the irregular financing of the project, the General Assembly authorized a lottery. The attempt to raise $4000 failed.


Jeremiah Halsey agreed to complete the building in return for a grant to the "Gore Tract."


Construction stopped due to lack of funds. The building walls were up and funds were requested for the roof.


Asher Benjamin "made the drawings and superintended the building of a circular staircase in the State House at Hartford, Connecticut, the first circular rail that was ever made in New England."


Furniture was purchased from Jeremiah Halsey.


The first session was held in the new building on May 11.


A Committee of the General Assembly inquired into the expense of building the State House.


Mr. Joseph Steward, a noted painter of Connecticut's social and political leaders, established a museum in the attic of the State House. Mr. Steward displayed his paintings and natural and artificial curiosities.


Outside window shutters were purchased.


A case and chests for public papers were purchased.

The 1800s


The General Assembly directed the Comptroller to finish the windows.


Gilbert Stuart was commissioned by the General Assembly in May to paint a portrait of George Washington.


Leonard Kennedy was paid for finishing and hanging windows in the chambers and for work in the Treasurer's office "for its security."


The immense portrait of George Washington was placed in the Senate Chamber of the State House. The painting, costing $840, was commissioned by the General Assembly to honor the late great president. The Assembly also authorized the printing of the Farewell Address given by President Washington for permanent display in the State House.


The first stoves were purchased for the State House.


William Boardman was paid for repairing the pillars in the portico and laying step stones.


The roof was repaired.


Flagstone to complete the stone walk through the State House Yard were purchased.


Joseph Steward's Hartford Museum moved out of State House.


Chairs and benches were purchased for accommodating the public and for the committee rooms.


The portico was repaired again.


A "Russian stove" was bought for Treasurer's office.


Hartford Convention convened. Stoves, stove pipes and wood were purchased for heating the convention sessions.


The wooden balustrade was installed, not to improve the look of the building, but was added to render it safe for firemen. Fire buckets, cisterns, and iron cellar doors were added as fire-safety measures. Wells were dug on the northwest and southwest corners of the square to store water for fire emergencies.


The portico was enclosed.


The Constitution of Connecticut required changes in the State House. The new duties of the governor required that he and his cabinet keep offices in the building. The Senate would no longer vote its own members or meet in secret. The public was now able to observe the Senate's sessions from behind a railing.


The Congregational Church was disestablished. The Governor's Council was renamed the Senate.


A room was fitted up for the School Fund Commissioner.


A room was fitted up for the governor.


The roof was repaired and re-shingled.


Final settlement was made with Jeremiah Halsey.


A cupola was erected on the roof of the building that would house a bell. The statue of Blind Justice was placed on top of the cupola. The building was painted white at this time.


A bell was cast for cupola.


The Senate chamber was renovated. The raised platform was extended and new furniture was purchased for the enlarged Senate.


Rooms were built in the basement.


An elaborate iron fence was installed around State House Square. The State House yard was re-landscaped.


The Secretary of State office was enlarged to the north wall. The stairway was removed and a new stair was built at the east end of the second floor hall.


The exterior was repainted.


The House chamber was renovated. The floor was raised and other features (door, fireplace jambs) were correspondingly shortened. The old bench seats were replaced by curving rows of seats.


The Hartford Natural History Society was given use of the third floor.


The wood shingles on the roof were replaced with tin.


The Secretary of State's office was expanded to include a library on the third floor.


The roof was painted.


A flagpole and flag were installed on the cupola.


A furnace was installed for the courtroom.


The first clock was purchased for the cupola.


The exterior was repainted and the roof was repaired.


Safes and locks were purchased for the Treasurer's and Comptroller's offices.


The first fountain was built in the east yard.


The State Library was built within the east portico.


A balcony on the west side of the building was added between 1855 and c.1865. The second floor windows of the west projection were lowered accordingly.


Gas lights were installed in the State House.


Picture frames for the portraits of Connecticut governors were purchased.


The Senate and the House were redecorated. Moveable slat blinds were added.


The roof was repaired.


An iron safe for the executive office was purchased.


The roof and the exterior were repainted.


A second clock was installed. The arched windows in the cupola were replaced by single rectangular openings. The cupola was repainted.


Extensive work was undertaken, including piers added under the first floor support beams, major plumbing, and interior painting.


Hartford was selected as the sole capital. The General Assembly approved plans for a new Capitol building to be built near Bushnell Park.


Workmen digging the foundation for the Post Office discovered two old cisterns for the State House.


New steam pipes for heating House chamber were purchased.


The exterior was repainted.


The last session of the legislature was held in the building in March. The building was then turned over to the city of Hartford for use as City Hall.


Seneca W. Lincoln was hired as the architect for the renovations.


The work to change the building from state to city government was completed. The stairway was turned, the halls were plastered, the first floor was enclosed, windows were added to the third floor of the east portico, the third story west projection windows were enlarged, Victorian woodwork and furniture were added, new floors and new carpets were installed, and the School Fund mezzanine was removed. The building was painted gray. The "entire dome' was painted.


The flagstaff, found to be in bad condition and causing the dome to sway, was removed during the renovations. The statue of Justice atop the cupola was turned to face west.


Trees were removed, the yard was filled on the north, south, and east sides.


Double thickness "French glass" two-over-two sash were ordered for some of the windows.


The Main Street approach was concreted. Two gas lamps were purchased.


Hartford Steam Heating Co. began supplying steam for heat. The boiler was no longer used.


The fence installed in 1834 was removed for the construction of the post office that was built only feet away from the east side of the Old State House.


The courtroom was converted to offices for the Water Commission, Police Chief, Board of Health, by the addition of brick partitions. The old ceiling was completely taken down and a new one was installed.


The city contracted with H.E.L. Co. for electric lights.


The city coat of arms was painted in the west tympanum.


A new floor was laid in the House chamber.


The Senate ceiling was repaired again and repainted with "frescoes."


The building was painted yellow.

The 1900s


The city shield was added to the balcony.


The Municipal Art Society called for a restoration of the building. Architect William C. Brocklesby outlined a restoration program.


Exterior repairs were authorized, including the resurfacing of the brownstone to remove the paint, roof trusses, a new tin roof, and cornice and balustrade replacements. Extensive rebuilding of the stone and brick walls, including 224 square feet on the east elevation and 180 square feet on the west elevation was done.


The south entrance was converted to a window during the stonework restoration.


The building was completely rewired.


Two comfort stations were built in the basement.


The Old State House was abandoned. For almost 150 years, the Old State House of Connecticut adjusted to political winds and fashion whims. No longer housing state or city government, the building faced a bleak future. It was used randomly as a community center and public comfort station.


The paint was removed from the brick exterior using sandblasting.


The first floor small-pane sash was restored by the Municipal Art Society.


The firm of Smith and Bassette presented a report on restoring the building.


Restoration work began with H. Hilliard Smith as the architect with Robert D. Andrews of Boston consulting.


A new Seth Thomas clock movement was installed.


The restoration was completed. The changes included a new slate roof, structural steel for the roof and the floors, new hardwood floors over concrete, Colonial Revival woodwork for the halls and courtroom, new Main Street and second floor spiral stairways, and a Colonial revival courtroom.


The building opened on New Years Day.


Private citizens came to the rescue of the historic State House in Hartford. Former Governor Morgan Gardner Bulkeley formed a group known as the Bulfinch Ten to raise funds to preserve the Old State House. The building remained without a clear purpose and its future uncertain.


The post office was taken down. Plans were begun to restore the east yard. The statue of Blind Justice was re-gilded, repaired, and turned east again.


W.P.A. projects repainted the State House, built a new iron fence on the 1834 coping, and produced photographs and measured drawings of the structure.


The Newton Brainard Senate was reconstructed.


The Old State House of Connecticut was named a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior. The building stood lonely and bleak until the Connecticut Historical Society opened it to the public. The landmark status and new occupants protected the building against future threats.


The City Council terminated the maintenance of the Old State House and the Connecticut Historical Society could not maintain it alone. The city wanted to tear down the National Historic Landmark for more parking. A citizen group formed to save the building.


The Old State House Association began work on the restoration, including new utilities, structural steel, and removal of the Senate column capitals. A glassed-in first floor and a reproduction statue of Blind Justice were among the renovations added to the building. Museum facilities were installed.


The Old State House Association launched a visionary future plan for the building that would not surrender to the wrecking ball. Made structurally sound and historically accurate, the building would be accessible and welcoming to all. Lively and varied programs would engage the public in celebrating the heritage of Connecticut and designing its future.


The portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart returned to its home in the magnificently restored Senate Chamber of the Old State House just in time for its 200th Anniversary on May 11, 1996. The event was celebrated with a parade with nearly all of the 169 Connecticut towns represented.

The 2000s


August 1. The Connecticut General Assembly's Office of Legislative Management acquires a 99 year lease with the City of Hartford for the Old State House.


Connecticut's Old State House begins a partnership with the Connecticut Historical Society to coordinate the annual History Day in Connecticut program, the state's affiliate of the National History Day competition.


An original 1776 copy of the Declaration of Independence goes on display in the Senate Chamber. More than 1,200 people attend this one-day event, highlighted by a dramatic reading of the declaration by Connecticut's governor, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and other dignitaries.

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