If you are planning a trip to Connecticut and you want to visit places of historical importance, its capital is likely to be high on your list. Connecticut’s capital has been hotly debated in the past – so let’s find out more about it.
The capital of Connecticut has always been Hartford, but the confusion comes in because Connecticut was initially two separate colonies: the Connecticut Colony and the New Haven Colony. In 1662, these colonies were united by Charles II, and Hartford became the capital. However, in 1701, a New Haven was established as a second, co-existing capital, and there were two capitals of Connecticut for well over 100 years.
This setup means that there is a wealth of history to discover and unpick when it comes to Connecticut’s capital, so we’re going to use this article to do just that. We’ll look at the location and history of Hartford, figure out when and how it became the capital, and check out some of the top locations you should visit while you’re there.
Where Is The Capital Of Connecticut Located?
Hartford is in the center of Connecticut, slightly north of the dead center, on the Connecticut River. It is located a little south of Springfield, and is surrounded by other towns, including Manchester, New Britain, Torrington, and more.
Brief History Of Hartford
Hartford is thought to be one of the oldest towns in all of Connecticut. Many people date it to 1635, when it was settled by a group of people led by John Haynes and Thomas Hooker. However, it should be noted that settlements and fortifications already existed in the local area, belonging to the Dutch and the Native Americans.
Hartford was a particularly prosperous city, and became very wealthy compared to neighboring towns. It was initially called Newtown, but the name was changed just 2 years later, honoring England’s Hertford. One of Hooker’s followers was from Hertford.
Because the town was outside the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s jurisdiction, there were problems with authority and governance. Thomas Hooker therefore wrote a document called the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, which gave governance power to the people. It is thought that this is one of the first practical assertions about people having the power to limit those who govern them.
Connecticut didn’t become a separate, recognized state until 1788, and its constitution wasn’t adopted until 1818, so the town of Hartford far predates Connecticut State.
However, in 1701, it was obliged to share the title of capital with New Haven, a nearby settlement – which we will cover in more detail in the next section.
It is also important to note that Mark Twain and his family lived in Hartford from 1874 to 1891, so the capital is commonly associated with this famous author.
When Did Hartford Become The Capital Of Connecticut?
Hartford was always the capital of Connecticut, and predates the formation of the state. It has been wealthy, popular, and successful throughout its existence, but a royal charter joined the two settlements in 1662, and in 1701, legislation stated that Hartford and New Haven would be the co-capitals.
There had been a long-standing sense of rivalry between the two, both founded by reverends, within a few years of each other (Hartford was first). This led to an uneasy existence, and the twice yearly General Assembly meetings were split between the two places, meeting in Hartford for summer and New Haven for fall.
Toward the end of the 1860s, there was a debate about the effectiveness of being ruled by two capitals, and since both capitol buildings were in need of repairs, there was an expense tied to the debate. Officials turned to the public to ask which city should become the capital of Connecticut, and Hartford was selected in 1873, after fierce competition.
Why Is Hartford The Capital Of Connecticut?
It is somewhat surprising that Hartford came out as the winner of the debate, because it was smaller, less prosperous, and had fewer opportunities. However, Hartford’s supporters offered $500,000 toward the construction of a new capitol building, and a plot of land to go with the building, which may have tipped the scales.
The new building was constructed in 1878, at great expense, while the Old State House was preserved. By contrast, New Haven’s was destroyed.
Other potential explanations for Hartford’s position include its proximity to the river, its population, and its wealth. It is now known as the “insurance capital of the world,” and has a thriving atmosphere.
Best Places To Visit In Hartford
There are lots of great things to do and see in Hartford, including a visit to Mark Twain’s home. It is a 3-story Victorian mansion that you can walk around, seeing everything that Twain would have enjoyed during his time in Hartford.
You will also learn more about Twain and his wife, and it was in this building that The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer was written – so it’s a must-see if you love the book.
If that doesn’t appeal, you might want to consider visiting the Connecticut Science Center, which holds nearly 170 different exhibits, aimed at all ages. Alternatively, try out the State Capitol building, which offers both guided and self-guided tours, and has some truly impressive architecture to enjoy.
If you would rather be outdoors, you might want to look into the Elizabeth Park Rose Garden, which was named for Elizabeth Pond and was created in 1903. This offers a truly spectacular display of colorful blooms and beautiful plants, and in the winter, you can go ice skating in the park. It certainly makes for a breathtaking day out.
A final option is the Connecticut Historical Society Museum, which is packed with history and many different interesting collections, including tavern signs, women’s suffrage items, and all sorts of other things.
Hartford is a fascinating capital with a rich history. It might have come close to losing its place once, but it held on to its title and it is an extraordinary place to visit, with stunning places to see, incredible architecture, and a whole lot more.