Connecticut: The Constitution State
Several locations in Hartford represent the concept of freedom so cherished in the American mind. We encourage you to visit these sites. For more information or to learn how to participate in other free civic related activities to help you improve your understanding of U.S. government and history call us at: (860)695-6334.
State Capitol Tours
The Connecticut State Capitol first opened for the General Assembly in January, 1879. Constructed of New England marble and granite and crowned by a gold leaf dome, the Capitol was built at a cost of $2,532,524.43 and has an estimated replacement value of more than $200,000,000. In addition to housing the State Senate Chamber, Hall of the State House of Representatives and offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Secretary of the State, the statehouse and surrounding grounds abound with memories and mementos of Connecticut's early years.
The Charter Oak Tree: Legend and Depictions
The Royal Charter of 1662 is one of the earliest and most significant legal documents in Connecticut history. The Charter, preceded only by the Fundamental Orders, is the source of the legend of the Charter Oak. While the Fundamental Orders, prepared by Roger Ludlow and other leaders of the Colony in 1639, were considered the first constitution; the Charter was signed by an English king, Charles II, and virtually guaranteed Connecticut the right to govern itself.
In October 1687, on the order of the English crown, Sir Edmund Andros, Governor of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, was sent to Hartford with some 60 heavily armed troops to seize Connecticut's Charter, which authorized the colony to operate independently. During a long and increasingly tense meeting held at the Old State House, all of the candles were knocked over, plunging the room into darkness. Capt. Joseph Wadsworth of Hartford whisked the Charter out of the room, ran down Main Street, and hid it in an old hollow oak tree, where it remained hidden for almost two years.
In 1689, the people of Connecticut voted to re-establish the government according to the old Charter. Among the original 13 colonies, only Connecticut maintained self rule up to the American Revolution. The oak tree was blown down in a violent storm about 150 years later and made into a chair that is now displayed in the Capitol Building. The desk of the Governor of Connecticut, as well as the chairs for the Speaker of the House of Representatives and President of the Senate in the state capitol were made from wood salvaged from the Charter Oak. The Charter Oak grew at the corner of Charter Oak Ave. and Charter Oak Place. A marker designates the spot. The original Connecticut Charter may be seen at the Connecticut State Library (across from the Capitol).
Connecticut’s Old State House
Built in 1796, the Old State House is the oldest state house in the nation. The building opened in May 1796. Oliver Wolcott, signer of the Declaration of Independence was the first Governor to serve here. Major state and national events have, and continue to occur at the Old State House. Lafayette was made a citizen here. The Old State House is a registered National Landmark and open to the public year-round, free of charge.
The Connecticut Freedom Trail
In recognizing the importance to Connecticut of numerous sites in the state that are associated with the heritage and movement towards freedom of its African American citizens, the Connecticut General Assembly in 1995 authorized that these locations be developed into a Freedom Trail. Included on the trail are several locations in Hartford.
Faith Congregational Church: 2030 North Main Street
One of earliest African-American churches founded in Connecticut.
Frank T. Simpson House: 27 Keney Terrace
The first employee of the first Connecticut state civil right agency.
Harriet Beecher Stowe House: Farmington Avenue and Forest Street
Known for her book, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," she was an outspoken abolitionist during the decades leading up to the Civil War.
North Cemetery: 2053 North Main Street
Historic 19th century graveyard includes those of several African-Americans who fought in the Civil War.
Soldiers and Sailors' Monument: Bushnell Park
This monument honors the memory of all those from Connecticut who have given their lives in defense of the country.
Union Baptist Church: 1921 Main Street
An historic church and a focal point for the African-American community in Hartford over the decades.