Hartford, Connecticut: Landmarks~History~Neighborhoods | Downtown: Constitution Plaza. All photos ©Karen O'Maxfield. All Rights Reserved.
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Constitution Plaza came into being in the early 1960's as part of an urban renewal project. It replaced twelve acres of land that had historically been populated by newly-arrived immigrants in the city. At the time the project was proposed, the area was known as East Side, the Front Street/Market Street Italian district. The demolition of the area forced 108 businesses, 187 families and 31 individuals out of the neighborhood and was legally challenged in a case that went to the state Supreme Court in 1954. When the development concept won out, then-Mayor James H. Kinsella threw a brick through the window of a run-down building, marking the razing of the Front Street neighborhood.

Constitution Plaza, Hartford, CT ©2011 Karen O'Maxfield. All Rights Reserved.

The plaza was named in a contest open to the general public. Mrs. June Martin of Wethersfield Avenue, a waitress, was selected by a panel of judges from more than 9,000 entries. She won a $500 cash prize for her effort.

Largely comprised of office buildings, the plaza itself hosts a water fountain created by Masao Kimoshita that was designed with the awareness that a traditional fountain would likely soak passing pedestrians with spraying water due to frequent wind gusts across the plaza. In response to this, the fountain was designed to resemble a mountain stream, with water flowing downward in a gentle cascade. The fountain pool is paved with black stones from Japan, and slabs of Quebec granite and Georgia white marble comprise the horizontal and vertical slabs that create the sculpture through which was flows. The clock tower, at the north end of the plaza, was also designed by Masao Kimoshita.

In 2004, UConn's School of Business opened the Graduate Business Learning Center on the plaza, offering part-time and executive MBA Programs, classroom and conference facilities.

Hidden away in the recesses of the Plaza is the bell from the U.S.S. Hartford, Admiral Farragut's flagship during the Civil War battles of New Orleans (1862) and Mobile Bay (1864). Farragut famously uttered the line, "Damn the torpedoes—full speed ahead!" The anchor from the same battleship is located on the campus of the University of Hartford in West Hartford.

Much of the activity on the plaza is seen during the noon hour on weekdays during warm weather when workers flock to the plaza to enjoy the open space. Several festivals and events take place on the plaza, and the entire plaza comes alive with lights during the December holidays.

More recently, with the connection of Constitution Plaza to Hartford's Riverfront Plaza, river views, noon-hour concerts and special events are more abundant.

For a interesting look at some of the colorful history of the old area known as East Side, check out this 1959 piece by Herbert J. Stoeckel.

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