Hartford's primary business district and the center of its arts and culture, the area we call Downtown has been the heart of the city since its establishment in 1636.
In 1749, a square—marked with monuments set at each corner—contained the Meeting House, House of Correction, stocks and a pillory for punishing criminals. The square was where all town festivities and ceremonies took place. The north and south lines were about where Kinsley and Bob Steele (formerly Grove) streets are now located. In 1927, James and Ruth Goldie created an illustration of Pioneer Hartford that provides a sense of place.
There are several monuments and plaques at notable locations from the city's history. The First Church of Christ and Ancient Burying Ground are two of the city's oldest establishments., as is the Old State House. However, there are only a few residential structures than remain from the city's earliest history. Among them, the Butler-McCook Homestead on Main Street, built in 1782, was home to four generations of family that witnessed the changes in Hartford from the American Revolution up into the 20th century. Today, it is a house museum with splendid gardens, open to the public. The Amos Bull House, another 18th century structure, was built as a dry goods store and a residence but wore many other faces over the years. In the 1960s, it was faced with demolition and, through preservation efforts, was moved to its current location on Prospect Street. The Isham-Terry House, located on High Street just north of the city center is an 1854 Italianate Villa that is open for tours April through December. These residential properties and others are managed by Connecticut Landmarks, a nonprofit preservation organization.
Main Street—the primary north/south thoroughfare—was once known as King's Highway. It was road that Generals Washington and Knox, Alexander Hamilton and Lafayette used during the Revolutionary War to greet Rochambeau and his French officers. It was also here that Jeremiah Wadsworth made his home and entertained a number of important dignitaries—including George Washington—during the 1700s.
Hartford's City Hall is located on Main Street. The current structure is the third location of the seat of government for Hartford. When the original wooden state house fell into disrepair, funding for its replacement 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 reconstruction. It was common opinion at the time that there was a distinct lack of "the spirit of enterprise in lottery speculations." Nevertheless, the second building (now called the Old State House) was completed and its design is credited to Charles Bulfinch. It is now an historic museum (more).