To close the Old State House in downtown Hartford for lack of funding would be unthinkable. The state must quickly take ownership of one of Connecticut's most important landmarks.
It is, after all, the site of what is arguably the first written constitution in the world. On its green, Gen. George Washington first met with the Count de Rochambeau to plot the strategy that won the Revolutionary War. It's where Lafayette was made an honorary citizen, where the celebrated trial of the Amistad African captives began - and much more.
The Federal-style building adds a memorable note of grace and beauty as well as historical significance to the heart of the capital city.
The Connecticut Historical Society took over the operations of the 1796 building four years ago. The society says it cannot afford to run the city-owned building beyond June 30. Cuts in federal grants have forced the city to cut its annual $150,000 stipend to the Old State House by two-thirds. Gov. M. Jodi Rell should have provided for this National Historic landmark in her executive budget proposal for the new fiscal year, but did not.
The Old State House is one of only three historic state capitols that are not supported by their states. Connecticut's original capitol should be in state hands. The Constitution State owes this sacred site its protection and care.
Security and maintenance costs to the state would amount to only $600,000 yearly. That is a small price for a great building, the first public work of Charles Bulfinch, who went on to design the Boston State House. Among many other firsts, it's where the oldest school for the deaf in the nation was chartered, in 1816.
The historical society, which wants to continue programming and fundraising for the Old State House, has done much to help the building: It raised $1.3 million in private funds for renovation and preservation, and it has added terrific educational exhibits. But it's just not enough. The state cannot let this exquisite building be shuttered.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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