Hartford Fire Insurance Company Building, Hartford Connecticut

The Hartford Fire Insurance Company Building, at the corner of Trumbull and Pearl Streets around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

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Hartford is often regarded as one of the world’s major insurance centers, and one of the first companies here was the Hartford Fire Insurance Company.  It was founded in 1810, and in 1869 the company built this building at the corner of Pearl and Trumbull.  The left-hand side of the building is clearly older; the addition to the right was probably put on in the late 1890s or early 1900s.  However, the company continued to grow, and in 1921 they moved to a new location in Hartford outside of downtown.  I don’t know when this building was demolished, but today a modern skyscraper sits on the site of the old insurance building.  The company is still located at the site they moved to in 1921, although they have changed names.  They are now The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., but they are better known as just The Hartford.

The street scene in front of the building is interesting; it captures the era in which automobiles and horse-drawn carriages shared the streets.  Here, a car takes a left turn from Trumbull onto Pearl Streets; the blurriness of the car and the woman in the white dress give the impression of a car taking a sharp turn at a decent speed while a pedestrian hurries across in front of it.  Behind the car is a carriage with “Besse’s Ice Cream” written on the side.  A 1904 ad from Printers’ Ink indicates that “Besse caters for Weddings, Parties, Banquets and gatherings of all kinds,” so perhaps the two men driving the carriage are heading to such an event.  The most unusual method of transportation in the photo, though, seems to be the thing that the two boys are riding in the right foreground – it looks like a wooden crate with four bicycle wheels attached to it.

Allyn House, Hartford Connecticut

The Allyn House at the corner of Asylum and Trumbull Streets in Hartford, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

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The Allyn House was built in 1857 by Timothy Allyn, and in its heyday was one of the city’s premier hotels.  In his 1867 Illustrated Guide to the Connecticut Valley, Henry Martyn Burt describes it as “the largest and most elegant” of Hartford’s hotels, and that “no pains have been spared to make this a first class hotel in every respect.”  As built, it could accommodate almost 300 guests, many of whom were likely businessmen involved in Hartford’s insurance industry, as well as politicians working and visiting the state capital.  Around the time that the first photo was taken, it was the Hartford residence of many prominent state politicians; at various times the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Comptroller, Attorney General, and Speaker of the House lived here.

The ground floor of the building had several stores, including the Allyn House Drugstore, which as seen in the first photo offered “Ice Cream Soda,” and another sign advertises that “We Make A Specialty of Fancy Egg Drinks.”  There are two bicycles leaning against the building, and based on the frames one appears to be a men’s bike, and the other a woman’s bike.  Perhaps a young couple stopped at the drugstore to get some ice cream soda on a hot summer day?

The building was demolished in 1960, and today the location is at the southeast corner of the large block around the XL Center.  However, one of its contemporaries survives today; the building at 105-115 Asylum Street is located diagonally across the intersection, and it was built in 1855.  It was also owned by Timothy Allyn, and architecturally bears some resemblance to the former Allyn House.  A present-day photo of it can be seen on the Historic Buildings of Connecticut blog.

Hartford Life Insurance Company, Hartford Connecticut

The Hartford Life Insurance Company building at the corner of Asylum and Ann Uccello Streets, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

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The building in the first photo was once the home of the Hartford Life Insurance Company, and it stood on the northeast corner of Asylum and Ann (today Ann Uccello, named after Hartford’s first female mayor) Streets.  Aside form housing insurance offices, the ground floor also featured a number of storefronts, with the Jas. Duggan & Co. situated at the corner.  The awning advertises what was apparently a house brand medicine of likely dubious quality, called Duggan’s Rheumatic Elixr.  Elsewhere in the windows, other advertisements are visible, including several for Moxie soda, which as mentioned in this post was sold as a product with medicinal benefits.

However, perhaps the most bizarre ad is the large banner just to the left of the corner, which reads “Your Mother gave You Sulphur and Molasses. Give Your Children Sulphur and Molasses Kisses.”  Apparently these ingredients were once commonly taken in the spring and fall as “blood purifiers,” a belief that was probably based in part on sulfur’s laxative effect.  It was, like many other drugs of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (and, to an extent, today as well), marketed using all sorts of vague claims about benefiting the liver and kidneys, curing malaria and “blood troubles,” and in general “maintaining bodily vigor and health.”

Today, the site of the building is now part of the large block that makes up the XL Center, formerly the Hartford Civic Center.  The arena opened in 1975, and was home to the NHL Hartford Whalers before the team moved to Raleigh and became the Carolina Hurricanes.  Today, the facility is used by the Hartford Wolf Pack minor league hockey team, and is often used by the University of Connecticut basketball teams for important games.

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch, Hartford Connecticut

The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch on Trinity Street in Hartford, around 1900-1910.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The arch in 2015:

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Many cities and towns across the country have some sort of Civil War monument with a statue on top, but Hartford took it one step further and designed a pair of medieval-style towers connected by an arch.  The monument honors the approximately 4,000 Hartford citizens who served in the war, about 400 of whom never returned home.  It was dedicated in 1886, and spans Trinity Street not far from the State Capitol, which is off to the right, beyond the right-hand tower.  At the time that the first photo was taken, the section of road in front of the tower was a bridge over the Park River.  The bridge is still there, but the river has since been put underground and the grade was raised on the old riverbed.  Trinity Street has also changed – there are no longer any trolley tracks running down the middle, and because of how narrow the arch is, the street has been reduced to a single lane of one-way traffic.

Corning Fountain, Hartford Connecticut

The Corning Fountain in Bushnell Park in Hartford, around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The fountain in 2015:

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The Corning Fountain was given as a gift to the city of Hartford in 1899 by John J. Corning.  It was designed by J. Massie Rhind, and features Native Americans representing local tribes, with a deer on top.  The city’s name literally means “hart ford,” as in “a place where deer cross a river,” so the hart or stag has become a symbol of the city.  Not coincidentally, the animal is also the symbol of The Hartford investment and insurance company.  The statue is located in Bushnell Park, a large public park that was created in the 1860s.  Prior to the construction of the park, this area was a fairly polluted industrial area.  Corning’s father operated a grist mill on the spot where the statue now sits, and the statue was given by his son in his memory.

Connecticut State Capitol, Hartford

The Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford, seen from Bushnell Park around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The capitol in 2015:

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For many years, Connecticut had a rather unusual capital city arrangement.  Despite being geographically one of the smallest states, they had two capital cities: Hartford and New Haven.  The General Assembly alternated locations, thus accommodating both the section of the state along the coastline, as well as those who lived further inland.  The state even had two different state houses, with one in each city.  This was presumably beneficial for travel when the system was established in 1701, but by the second half of the 19th century railroads made the 35 miles between the two cities far more manageable.  It was impractical to continue to have two different capitals (not to mention two different capitols), so in 1875 Hartford became the sole capital city.

To commemorate the unification of the capitals, Connecticut built a new state capitol at the southern end of Bushnell Park, and it has been the seat of Connecticut government ever since.  The only readily apparent change between the two photos is the statue on top of the dome.  Called, “The Genius of Connecticut,” it was damaged in the 1938 Hurricane and taken down; several years later it was melted down as scrap metal for the war effort.  In front of the building, Bushnell Park is still there, albeit with more trees and substantially more parking spaces than in the 1906 scene.