October 10: Home-Schooled Wethersfield Native Engineers the Erie Canal

  Benjamin Wright, the chief engineer behind some of the most famous civil engineering projects in United States history — including the Erie Canal — was born to Grace and Ebenezer Wright of Wethersfield today in 1770. Ebenezer’s accumulated debts had forced young Benjamin to forego most of his formal schooling to take up odd…

October 9: Nazi Airship Carries Corporate Bigwigs On “Millionaire’s Flight” Over Connecticut

  Today, the name “Hindenburg” is most closely associated with the fiery, disastrous crash that destroyed the famous dirigible in 1937. Before its demise, however, the massive, 800-foot-long German airship was considered the pinnacle of modern aerospace engineering and luxury travel, and often attracted both notable passengers and crowds of awe-struck spectators wherever it went….

October 8: A Bridge That Wouldn’t Burn

  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 8: “Old Nan” Comes to the End of the Line

  When  Amtrak’s Northeast Regional train 67  crossed the Niantic River  on its nighttime  run from Boston to New York at 11:39 p.m. on September 7, 2012, it was the last train ever to travel on “Old Nan,” the 105 year old railroad drawbridge  between East Lyme and Waterford,  a historic “choke point” on the nation’s busiest rail line.  At…

July 12: The Car of the Future — in 1933

  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 28: The Mianus River Bridge Disaster on I-95

  Early in the morning of June 28th, 1983, at around 1:30 am, a 100-foot span of Interstate 95 in Greenwich collapsed into the Mianus River. It was one of the most infamous American bridge disasters of the 20th century. Three people died and three more were seriously injured, when a car and two tractor-trailers…

April 28: Corruption Paves the Way for the Merritt Parkway

  Connecticut’s historic Merritt Parkway is the oldest scenic parkway in the United States. One of the first limited-access, divided-lane highways in the country, its novel use of entrance and exit ramps preceded the Eisenhower interstate system by decades. Lined with trees, carefully maintained green spaces, and with dozens of uniquely designed stone overpasses, the…

January 15: They Got On the Wrong Train

  Today in 1878, right after hearing the famed evangelist Dwight Moody preach that “repentance is grabbing your bag and coat and getting out of the wrong train and onto the right one,” a group of revival-attending passengers in Hartford boarded a specially ordered train that took them to one of Connecticut’s deadliest train disasters….

December 11: The World’s First Jet-Powered Helicopter Flies Over Bloomfield

  Today in 1951, aerospace engineer Charles H. Kaman’s modified K-225 helicopter took its first test flight in Bloomfield, Connecticut, changing the future of helicopter aviation forever. As the first helicopter to use a jet engine to power its drive shaft, the K-225 demonstrated a way to make helicopters fly faster and higher, with less…