Visiting state capitol buildings is one of the first things we do when visiting the capital city. (Read about our adventures at the New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Wyoming, and Colorado Capitol buildings.) It’s a little ironic that it took our family, who has lived in Connecticut for almost 20 years, this long, but we recently, finally made it to the CT Capitol for a tour.
Connecticut was founded in 1662 and is known as the Constitution State, as it was the first state to adopt a constitution. Built in 1878, the Connecticut Capitol building, located in downtown Hartford, was designed by Richard M. Upjohn to replicate a Victorian Gothic style. The building overlooks Bushnell Memorial Park’s 41 acres in the heart of Hartford and was restored in the 1980s to the original colors and design. The addition of the Legislative Office Building (LOB), which opened in 1988, allowed for office space for Connecticut’s 151 Representatives (each representing approximately 25,000 constituents) and 36 State Senators (each representing approximately 90,000-100,000 constituents). The “LOB” also allows for more public meeting spaces and opportunities for state officials to meet as committees and with public interest groups. The first and second floors of the LOB and the first floor of the Capitol are both open to the public; upper level floors house private offices and chambers and guests must be accompanied by officials.
Playing “I Spy” at the CT State Capitol:
- The state seal and flag, both of which depicts three sets of grapevines that represent the first three settlements (Hartford, Windsor, and Wethersfield) and first three colonies (New haven, Saybrook, and Hartford) and include the Latin Qui Transtulit Sustinet phrase (which means “He who transplanted still sustains”)
- The door panels of the meeting rooms of the LOB; each door is etched with the state seal, legislative seal, and a different etching in each door (like the state insect, the praying mantis).
- The Connecticut Hall of Fame (second floor of LOB) which includes well known names like actress Katherine Hepburn and actor Paul Newman, Chief Ralph Sturges, author Mark Twain, baseball player Jackie Robinson, and UCONN coaches Geno Auriemma and Jim Calhoun.
- The chronological history of Connecticut, starting in 1636, displayed across eight boards, which begins at one end of the Capitol Concourse. (Bonus: Stand in the middle circles and speak loudly- what do you notice?)
- The CT Wall of Honor: with sculpture memorials to heroes of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War; names of Connecticut soldiers who received the Medal of Honor; and photographs of servicemen and servicewomen in the Armed Forces who died in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
- Two states of the Genius of Connecticut: The plaster model used to create the bronze statue that topped the Capitol dome is displayed in the North lobby, and a 2009 version is displayed in the Rotunda. (The original had to be taken down in 1938 for fear that a hurricane would destroy it).
- Statues of Connecticut hero Nathan Hale and heroine Prudence Crandall; learn about their positive contributions to America.
- The Horse Fountain, used by legislators and their staff in the 1800s, who would fill buckets of water and bring them outside to their horses.
- The Hall of Flags, which includes a massive display of dozens of flags used by regiments in the Civil War through the Warm on Terrorism.
- The portable, foldable bed used by Marquis de Lafayette in the American Revolution; learn the origin of the phrase “Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!” from this era.
Bonus: If the House and Senate are not in session, guided tours are allowed to peek into chambers. Outside the House Chamber, look for the 1876, 20 gallon Columbus Urn, used as the representatives’ water cooler until the 1920s. Outside the Senate Chamber, look up inside the gold dome.
If time permits, head across the street to the Museum of Connecticut History, located in the Supreme Court Building, located at 231 Capitol Avenue, and open on weekdays from 10am-4pm. Admission is free and includes access to exhibits featuring portraits of former governors, Freedom Trail quilts, and thousands of items related to the history of Connecticut.
Looking for other nearby fun? Check out our posts featuring the Connecticut Science Center, the Wadsworth Atheneum Art Museum and the Mark Twain House & Museum and see our index of attractions throughout Connecticut here. Interested in touring other state Capitol buildings? Check out our post featuring the New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Wyoming, and Colorado Capitol buildings. And follow along on our adventures on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.