Hartford, Connecticut: Landmarks~History~Neighborhoods | City Center: Old State House.
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As is customary for early settlements, the settlers of Hartford created a large central common in which to congregate and hold meetings. The first meetinghouse was a very plain structure, measuring only 36 feet by 23 feet and had a thatched roof. More improved structures were subsequently built, but the area of town on which these buildings were located remained the same. Unknown are the exact boundaries of Meeting-House Yard. For the first one hundred years, the town (of Hartford) as a corporation, owned all the land in the plantation and there was no need to record exact measurements. However, it is thought to have been a ten-acre field in 1640.

In 1792, the Connecticut General Assembly set about to make sure the construction of a suitable state house was undertaken. Funding for the project came from—among other sources—a lottery in which citizens would purchase tickets at $5 each. It took two years for the lottery to raise enough funds for the building, generating an a common opinion at the time that there was a distinct lack of "the spirit of enterprise in lottery speculations." Nevertheless, the State House building was completed and its design is credited to Charles Bulfinch.

The cupola was built in 1826 by John Stanwood to resemble the one on city hall in New York. A bell is housed in the cupola but no longer chimes out the hour. The clock face was added in 1848 and replaced in 1918. The original statue of Blind Justice, made of white pine painted gold, topped the cupola from 1827-1976. It now sits at the top of the stairs on the second floor, having been replaced by a fiberglass version. Originally, the statue faced east, towards the Connecticut River as that was the main port and point of entry for newcomers to the city. A compass embedded in the floor on the first level of the building is the point from which distances to Hartford area measured.

Around 1882, the iron fence bearing a motif of oak leaves and axes that surrounded the State House was removed to make room for construction of a post office, and reinstalled at the Old People's Home on Jefferson Street. During a recent restoration, a reproduction fence was put into place. The oak leaves symbolize Connecticut's Charter Oak Tree while the axes symbolize the authority of the state.

At some point in all of this reconstruction, the grade level of the center part of the square was lowered by some 15 feet.

Among notable events that have taken place, General Lafayette was made a citizen here; P.T. Barnum served in its legislature; the trials of Cinque and the Amistad opened here in 1839; and the USS Nautilus was given to Connecticut by President Carter in a ceremony here in1981.

The Museum of Natural and Other Curiosities is located on the third floor. Created by Joseph Steward in the late 1700's, the museum contains unusual artifacts, among which are a calf with two heads, a unicorn's horn and one of George Washington's buttons. Now, more than 200 years later, a new kind of exhibit can be experienced at the Old State House. "History is All Around Us" is a multimedia experience that opened in September 2006. The Old State House is open to the public year-round.

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Old State House, Hartford, Connecticut ©2011 Karen O'Maxfield. All rights reserved.

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Old State House, Hartford, Connecticut ©2012 Karen O'Maxfield. All rights reserved. Old State House, Hartford, Connecticut ©2013 Karen O'Maxfield. All rights reserved. Old State House, Hartford, Connecticut ©2012 Karen O'Maxfield. All rights reserved. Old State House, Hartford, Connecticut ©2012 Karen O'Maxfield. All rights reserved.
Old State House, Hartford, Connecticut ©2012 Karen O'Maxfield. All rights reserved. Old State House, Hartford, Connecticut ©2012 Karen O'Maxfield. All rights reserved. Old State House, Hartford, Connecticut ©2012 Karen O'Maxfield. All rights reserved. ©2012 Karen O'Maxfield. All rights reserved.
©2012 Karen O'Maxfield. All rights reserved. Old State House, Hartford, Connecticut ©2012 Karen O'Maxfield. All rights reserved. Old State House, Hartford, Connecticut ©2012 Karen O'Maxfield. All rights reserved. Old State House, Hartford, Connecticut ©2012 Karen O'Maxfield. All rights reserved.

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