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Old State House, Hartford

4.2
#5 of 8 in Historic Sites in Hartford
Government Building · Hidden Gem · Historic Site
The Old State House (completed 1796) in Hartford, Connecticut is generally believed to have been designed by noted American architect Charles Bulfinch as his first public building. The State House is currently managed by the Office of Legislative Management of the Connecticut General Assembly.

The exterior building and the Senate have been restored to its original Federal style; the Representative's chamber is Victorian, and the halls and courtroom are Colonial Revival.

The Hartford State House is, in appearance, very similar to the Town Hall of Liverpool, England, built in the mid-18th century and perhaps depicted in one of Bulfinch's architecture books. However, all materials came from the United States. Its first story is 20 feet high and constructed from Portland, Connecticut brownstone. The second and third stories are brick patterned in Flemish bond. The cornice is wooden.

The State House has been modified somewhat since it was first built. As originally constructed, the building had neither balustrade or cupola, but the balustrade was added in the early 19th century for the protection of firemen, and the cupola was constructed in 1827 with its bell and John Stanwood's statue of Justice. An original (1796) stone spiral staircase behind the northern arch, designed by Asher Benjamin, led to the second and third floors; it no longer exists. In 1814, the Hartford Convention was held there. In 1839, the start of the Amistad trial was held there.

The building had been in danger of closing in 2008 due to financial constraints. State and Hartford officials have recently signed a 99-year lease placing Connecticut's Old State House under new management. The lease puts the city-owned historic building under the control of the state Office of Legislative Management.

It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960.
Exhibits focus on the history of Hartford and important events in Connecticut history. Visitors can also tour the original legislative rooms.
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Old State House reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
73 reviews
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4.4
TripAdvisor
  • We went to see the Old State House and found an excellent museum in the basement. We learned about the Amistad trial being held in this building. We saw the different areas of the building where...  more »
  • This visit has allowed me to know a little more the history of Hartford, as well as its main attractions and exponents.  more »
Google
  • I've walked by The Old State House hundreds of times, but never thought to go in. When I finally did, the staff was so friendly and willing to give any information when asked. And they offered guided tours as well. If you're a AAA member it's only $3 to get in. I spent about an hour here, about 15 minutes on each of the top floors and the rest on the bottom, which has a small museum set up about the History of Connecticut. If you have a little time to spend, I recommend stopping in and giving them your support. And you can see a gorgeous painting of George Washington, one of the only originally located portraits by Gilbert Stewart in the country.
  • This is a very wonderful historical site showing the early history of Conn. The guide was knowledgeable and friendly and he understood what we were interested in and really made the trip for us. If you like early history of the state and government, this is the place for you. Will take at least one hour.
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