July 19, 2022

The Connecticut State Capitol opened in 1878. It was designed by Richard Mitchell Upjohn in a High Victorian Gothic style.
The exterior is built of Connecticut marble and Rhode Island granite.
The Capitol was built for $2,532,524.43 (somebody was very precise). Replacement cost is in the neighborhood of $200,000,000.
The dome is made of brick and marble covered in copper with gold leaf. The gold is 3/1000 of an inch thick and weighs a total of three pounds.
The Capitol is home to the State Senate, the State House of Representatives, the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, and the Secretary of State.
The Hall of the State House of Representatives is on the second floor of the Capitol.
The room is decorated with ornate stenciling and stained glass windows.
Desks in the Chambers are original. The House has 151 members.
Paneling is carved walnut.
Jane and Dave at the rostrum
Stained glass window in the House Chambers

Imagine if you will, a Chamber on the third floor of the Connecticut Capitol known as the Senate Chambers. It rests inside the gold dome of the Capitol. One of Seth Thomas’s first electric clocks is in the room. The Lieutenant Governor presides over 36 State Senators from the Charter Oak Chair. Let’s take a minute and direct our imaginations to that chair: Think about how Connecticut had been granted a charter that ensured its relative independence from King Charles II of England. When James II succeeded to the throne, his agents demanded the return of the charter. The charter was hidden for safekeeping in an oak tree on a nearby Hartford estate, thus keeping the charter in the possession of the men of Connecticut. When the oak fell in 1856, its wood was used to build an elaborate chair, carved with oak leaves. It is this chair and this chamber that we have to imagine because one Senator has requested that visitors be prohibited from the third floor of the Capitol.

Due to the courtesy and consideration of a tour guide, we have a photo of a photo.

Photo of a photo of the Senate Chambers

Interior details of the Connecticut Capitol include a rotunda, stenciling, arches, columns, sculptures, and historic items.

Rotunda detail
Nathan Hale served as captain in the Continental Army. He volunteered to cross enemy lines to gather information on the strength and plans of the British. He was caught and hanged without a trial. He has been designated Connecticut’s Hero and his statue has a prominent place in the Capitol.
Nathan Hale said “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country”.
Prudence Crandall has been designated Connecticut’s State Heroine. In 1833 she established the first academy for African-American women in New England. She was harassed, laws were passed to keep the school from operating, and she was subjected to hardships and violence. The school closed after 18 months.
Portrait of Prudence Crandall from the concourse between the Capitol and the Legislative Office Building. In 1994 a class of fourth graders proposed that a position of State Heroine be created and that Crandall be named to fill it. After another group of students became involved, a statue in her honor was unveiled in the Capitol in 2008.
Flags of Connecticut fighting regiments from the Civil War to the War on Terror are on display in the Hall of Flags. 55 of the flags are from the Civil War.
The flag of the 29th Connecticut Colored Infantry Regiment. The regiment is credited as being the first infantry regiment to enter Richmond, Virginia when the city surrendered in the Siege of Petersburg.
One of the decorations in the Hall of Flags
Interior floors are inlaid with marble and red slate from Connecticut and colored marble from Italy.
Photo of a photo of the compass rose floor mosaic as it can be seen from the third floor which was not available to visitors when we were there.
“The Genius of Connecticut”, considered to be the protector of Connecticut, was created in bronze by Randolph Rogers and was placed on the dome in 1878. A hurricane damaged the supports and the statue was removed. During World War II it was sold for scrap in support of the war effort.
The statue is 17′ 10″ tall and weighs 6,600 pounds.
A new bronze statue was cast in 2009 from the original plaster model.
The Hotchkiss Revolving Cannon was designed by Connecicut engineer Benjamin B. Hotchkiss. He was unable to sell his invention to the U.S. government and opened a plant in France. Hotchkiss cannons were sold to the Spanish government and used against U.S. forces in the Spanish-American War.
This tree with an embedded cannonball is from the Civil War Battle of Chickamauga near Jane’s hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The State Seal of Connecticut. The grapes and motto were on the 1639 original seal brought from England. The motto translates to “He Who Transplanted Still Sustains”.

Legislative Office Building

Our tour of the Capitol began in the Legislative Office Building which was opened in 1988 and is connected to the Capitol via an underground concourse. It was designed by the architectural firm of Russell Gibson von Dohlen.

Connecticut Legislative Office Building
The structure is covered in rough and polished granite from Texas.
Atrium
“Eagle” by David von Schlegell represents civic pride, strength, and virtue. The eight-foot tall statue is made of aluminum covered with gold leaf and perches on a 24-foot column of granite from Connecticut.
The black and beige stones in the floor are from Italy, the gray stone is from Mexico, and the rose stone is from Spain.
The colored stones give the floor a 3-D effect.
Doors to meeting rooms in the Legislative Office Building are made of cherry and were designed by Rick Wrigley. The top panel is the state seal. The middle panel contains a state symbol, in this case the state bird, the American robin. The bottom panel contains a bronze medallion that looks like the rosette on the floor.
The state symbols are created in marquetry in which veneers are cut and pieced to form a picture. The woods used include ebony, holly, rosewood, Australian walnut, anigre, and lacewood. This panel represents the Fundamental Orders which established self-government for Connecticut in 1639.

Other state symbols include the American robin as the state bird, the Mountain Laurel as the state flower, the European mantis as the state insect, the sperm whale as the state animal, and “Yankee Doodle” as the state song.

The Old State House

The “Old” State House was designed by Charles Bullfinch. It was his first public building. [His other works include the U.S. Capitol, the Maine State House, the Massachusetts State House, and Faneuil hall.] It was built in 1796 and used until 1878.

Connecticut’s Old State House is in the Federal style.
The first story is 20 feet high and is made of Portland, Connecticut brownstone. The second and third stories are brick patterned in Flemish bond where alternate bricks have their short edge and long edge facing out.
Both the Connecticut House of Representatives and Hartford’s City Council have used this room.
The House/Council chamber has been restored to its 1870’s appearance.
The Senate chamber has been restored to its 1818 appearance.
The Senate chamber features an original 1801 Gilbert Stuart painting of George Washington.
Joseph Steward rented the third floor of the old capitol as a painting studio. In 1797 he opened “Joseph Steward’s Museum of Natural and Other Curiosities” there. The items on exhibit are thought to be like those Steward had.
Two-headed calf
It’s estimated that only one in two million lobsters is blue. We think this one has faded from its typical bright blue.
Taxidermy
A wooden statue of Justice was mounted on top of the building in 1827 to symbolize fair and equal administration of the law. It was moved inside in 1976 and replaced with a fiberglass replica The statue might not have aged so much if firefighters hadn’t used her for target practice.
Categories: Travel

4 Comments

Laura · August 7, 2022 at 10:51 am

A lot of great history, but did you find this Capitol as eye appealing as some others? I did not for some reason but cannot tell you why. Interesting nevertheless.

    Jane Appel · August 7, 2022 at 8:16 pm

    Laura, I appreciated the artistry of this capitol but I didn’t really like it. It brought out my Euro-centerednes: The style didn’t seem “American”. I absolutely loved the Legislative Office Building, though.

Jay · August 7, 2022 at 1:59 pm

I was impressed by the fact that a state the size of CT has 151 State representatives. I guess folks in a divided neighborhood can just hang over the fence and compare notes with their neighbors in the adjoining district. And I saw no geocaching!

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