February 12: Sherlock Holmes’ “Farewell Tour”

  A scion of one of Connecticut’s oldest and most prominent families, world-famous actor and playwright William Hooker Gillette was born in Hartford in 1853.  He left Hartford at the age of 20 to seek his fame and fortune as an actor and stage producer and met with moderate success until 1899, when he landed…

February 8: Defending the West from the Worst

  A descendant of the Joseph Wadsworth who protected his colony’s charter by hiding it in the legendary Charter Oak, Elijah Wadsworth would also be tasked with saving his people’s government. Not from a takeover, however, but from a British invasion. And not in Connecticut, but in in the part of Ohio once owned by…

February 4: Colt Firearms Factory Destroyed By Fire

    On the morning of February 4, 1864, just after 8:00am, the loud, sharp, incessant tones of a steam whistle pierced the air in Hartford, alerting city residents to danger.  As men and women rushed toward the source of the noise in the city’s south end, they were shocked to find the massive East…

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 24: Legislators Create the Connecticut Hall of Fame

  On January 24, 2005, state legislators unveiled a plan to establish an official Connecticut Hall of Fame to honor the state’s most distinguished citizens.  Supported by individual donations, state grants, and Connecticut-based businesses, the Hall of Fame was created to recognize the accomplishments of notable inventors, entertainers, artists, politicians, athletes, and others with an…

January 19: Connecticut’s First African-American Female Pharmacist

  Born in Hartford on January 19, 1886, young Anna Louise James was the eighth of eleven children born to Willis James, a former slave who had successfully escaped from a Virginia plantation via the Underground Railroad.  As a child, Anna’s family moved from Hartford to Old Saybrook, where she graduated high school and, as…

January 18: Hartford Civic Center Roof Collapses

  At 4:19am on January 18, 1978, downtown Hartford narrowly missed being the site of one of the deadliest disasters in American history when the entire roof of the Hartford Civic Center arena — covering an area of nearly 2.5 acres and weighing 1,400 tons — suddenly collapsed onto a coliseum of 10,000 empty seats. …

January 17: Hartford Becomes America’s First Steam-Powered City

  On January 17, 1901, the city of Hartford took its first step into the steam-powered future with the delivery of a state-of-the-art 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 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where it was manufactured as a special…

January 12: Mary Townsend Seymour, Civil Rights Champion

  Born in Hartford in 1873, lifelong civil rights activist Mary Townsend lost both her parents at the age of 15, and was adopted into the family of local black activist and Civil War veteran Lloyd Seymour.  A few years later, she married one of his sons, Frederick Seymour, and the newlyweds settled in the…

January 10: Samuel Colt, Legendary Gun Manufacturer, Dies at 47

  Today in 1862, gunmaker Samuel Colt died in Hartford. Though he was only 47 years old, Colt died one of the richest men in the United States and left a legacy of manufacturing and innovation that changed the face of Hartford, Connecticut to the Western American frontier and beyond. Internationally recognized for his formative…