February 2: The World’s First Two-Sided Building

Today in 1961, the Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company unveiled plans for a new corporate headquarters building in downtown Hartford, featuring a bold and revolutionary elliptical design unlike anything the city — or the world, for that matter — had seen before. Designed by the famous modernist architect Max Abramovitz, the new Phoenix Mutual Life…

January 27: His Big Idea Didn’t Have a Prayer

Willard C. Fisher was one of a handful of early 20th century professors at Middletown’s Wesleyan University who gained national recognition — although in his case through controversy, not his economics lectures. Professor Fisher was a strong-willed man who never hesitated to voice his opinions, regardless of whose sensibilities he might offend. But he was…

January 17: Hartford Takes an Electrifying Gamble

  On January 17, 1901, the Hartford Electric Light Company (HELCO) took a major — and somewhat risky — step into the steam-powered future with the delivery of a huge, innovative, first-of-its-kind steam turbine-powered generator. The massive 90,000-pound machine arrived on a custom-designed railroad car following a long journey from the Westinghouse Machine Company of…

October 8: Completing the World’s Largest Stone Arch Bridge

  For most of the 19th century, travelers passing between Hartford and East Hartford crossed the Connecticut River over a wooden covered bridge, constructed in 1818 and expanded several times to include additional lanes and, eventually, room for trolleys. In 1895, the entire structure burned down in a spectacular fire that, according to newspapers, some…

September 28: The Seed That Became UConn Planted at Mansfield

    On this day in 1881, the small agricultural school that would later become the state of Connecticut’s flagship university held its first classes in a former orphanage building located in Mansfield. The Storrs Agricultural School, consisting of just three faculty members and thirteen students when it first opened, offered young men the opportunity…

July 31: All Aboard The Branford Trolley Line!

  Today in Connecticut history, one of the first electrically-powered trolley lines in the United States began service between Branford and East Haven, Connecticut. July 31, 1900 marked the inaugural run of the Branford Electric Railway, which was hailed as a more efficient and sanitary way to transport people along the Connecticut shoreline than the…

July 12: Buckminster Fuller’s Car of the Future

  R. Buckminster Fuller, the inventor, architect, author, and futurist best known for his popularization of the geodesic dome, was one of the most prolific public intellectuals of the early 20th century. In the early 1930s, Fuller coined the word “Dymaxion” — a portmanteau of the words “dynamic,” “maximum,” and “tension” — and applied it…

June 29: Governor Baldwin Signs Bill Requiring History in Schools

  Connecticut history made history on this day in 1943, when Governor Ray Baldwin signed a law setting new standards for citizenship education in Connecticut schools. The new law required that any college or grade school that received state funding — public or private — include a comprehensive study of American history and government in…

April 16: Planting The Seeds of Connecticut’s Grange Movement

  As the United States grew exponentially in size and population over the course of the 19th century, formal social groups and fraternal societies of all kinds sprang up across the country with missions that encompassed lofty themes of patriotism, industry, fellowship, and civic service.  The National Grange of Patrons of Husbandry was one such…

March 3: Connecticut’s Joseph Hawley Heads America’s First World’s Fair

  As a country, the United States of America’s first hundred years of existence were marked by incredible growth in nearly every possible way, largely defined by the forces of westward expansion, immigration, and the Industrial Revolution it the 19th century.  As the 100th anniversary of the nation’s founding in 1876 approached, a proposal came…