Hartford is the capital of Connecticut and one of the oldest cities in the United States. It is home to the nation’s oldest public art museum (Wadsworth Atheneum), the oldest public park (Bushnell Park), the oldest continuously published newspaper (The Hartford Courant), and the second-oldest secondary school (Hartford Public).

Connecticut River and bridge, Hartford, Conn.

A large part of Hartford County lies in a valley which was created in the Paleozoic era. The Connecticut River courses through this valley whose central location, fertile soil, and abundant natural resources made it an attractive choice for settlements. The earliest inhabitants of the area were Native Americans of the Pequot and Mohegan tribes.

Bird’s-eye view of the capitol and State Building

Europeans arrived to the valley in 1637 after first settling in Massachusetts. At the time, “Connecticut” was only a word referring to the valley that cuts through the state. The valley was known in Massachusetts as a rich, beautiful, area with an abundance of food and space. The land to the east and west of the Connecticut River, which today makes up much of Connecticut, was largely unexplored at the time.

View of Connecticut River and Hartford skyline

When Massachusetts colonists moved to the Connecticut Valley they founded three plantations on the Connecticut River. The plantations were named Watertown, Newtowne, and Dorchester, now known as the cities of Wethersfield, Hartford, and Windsor. These three plantations were the birthplace of the State of Connecticut.

By 1637 Hartford’s growth outpaced Wethersfield and Windsor. That same year, the city changed its name and officially became known as Hartford. Hartford became the co-capital of Connecticut in 1701, sharing the title with New Haven until 1875, when Hartford became the sole capital.

Municipal Airport, Brainard Field, Hartford, Conn.

Hartford’s Brainard Field was the first municipal airport between New York and Boston. The dedication was held on June 11, 1921. Brainard Field was the first airfield connecting New York to New England, and served as a major civil airfield until 1947, when a majority of commercial flights moved to Bradley International Airport.

Conlan Highway along the CT River

The Whitehead Highway (also variously known as Conlin–Whitehead Highway and Conlan-Whitehead Highway), is a short 0.67-mile span of I-91 that leads to the State Capitol in Hartford. Whitehead Highway was originally to be part of Interstate 484, an auxiliary route of I-84.

In 1968, an extension of Whitehead Highway was proposed that would connect I-91 to I-84 at exit 48 via a short tunnel under the state capitol. This would have reduced traffic at the intersection of I-91 and I-84 near downtown Hartford, but the extension was cancelled in 1983.

Asylum Street from Railroad Station

Asylum Street took its name from The American Asylum at Hartford for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf & Dumb. The school was founded in 1821 in the Asylum Hill neighborhood. Famous residents have included Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Main Street north from State Street

This is a view of Hartford’s Main Street in the 1950’s. In the distance you can see 942 Main St, officially known as the Cheney Building, which still stands today. The building opened in 1877 and is considered the finest example of Romanesque architecture in the United States. It is now home to City Steam Brewery and a Residence Inn.

Lafayette Statue near Capitol Hill

Hartford’s Lafayette statue is a bronze statue of Marquis de Lafayette, a French aristocrat and military officer who fought in the American Revolutionary War. The statue was dedicated on September 21, 1957 and reads,

“A true friend of liberty who served as a Major General in the Continental Army with “All possible zeal. Without any special pay or allowances” until the American colonists secured their freedom, and whose frequent visits to this State, as aide to Washington, as liaison officer with supporting French troops, and in the pursuit of Freedom, are gratefully remembered.”

State Capitol and Statue of Lafayette

Connecticut’s state legislature first met in Hartford at the Old State House, designed in 1792. The building seen here is the present Connecticut State Capitol. The Capitol was completed in 1878 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1971. The Capitol Building is open to the public, with self-guided and guided tours available on weekdays.

View of Travelers Tower from Bushnell Park

Travelers Tower was the seventh tallest building in the world when it was constructed in 1919. It is currently the second tallest building in Hartford. The tower is the fourth headquarters of Travelers Insurance Company.

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