The e-mails from state and congressional press offices began churning out minutes after the news Tuesday morning from Washington, D.C., that Coltsville had moved a step closer to National Historic Landmark status.
While press releases from Gov. M. Jodi Rell and Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez mistakenly proclaimed that the longed-for designation had been attained — that won't come until Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne gives final approval — the vote by the National Park Service Advisory Board gave cause for celebration.
"Today's vote is a major victory for Coltsville and a major victory for Hartford," said U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District. "This important site is on its way to getting the recognition, protection and funding that it deserves in order to protect its historic integrity."
The path to landmark status for the Coltsville Historic District, the area anchored by the historic blue onion dome atop the Colt firearms complex, has taken years of effort by advocates and officials at Colt Gateway, LLC — the developers who are looking to convert the area into apartments and commercial space.
Tuesday's advisory board action followed a positive recommendation last December by an advisory committee of the National Park Service.
Rell — "The blue Colt Dome is shining brighter today" — and Perez rushed to hail the board's approval in breathless releases claiming that landmark status was finally achieved.
The governor's press office subsequently corrected the original release, saying that another step remains in the approval process. Sarah Barr, spokeswoman for Perez, sent one e-mail saying that "Coltsville is a National Landmark," recalled that e-mail, then sent another, subject line: "Coltsville almost a National Landmark."
The good news doesn't change the fact that the $120 million Colt Gateway conversion project remains stalled. Mired in a financial tangle with a bankrupt lender, rising construction costs, and a slumping economy, the project's developers say they are still looking for the money to restart the construction that stopped more than a year ago.
"We are working with many stakeholders at the state and local level and we are in active financial negotiations and we are still providing information to potential investors," said Rebekah MacFarlane of Colt Gateway on Tuesday. "We are optimistic that we will successfully complete these negotiations and build out the entire project."
Under the blue onion dome occurred a revolution in firearms manufacturing that won the West and helped the Union triumph in the Civil War. It was where Sam Colt and legions of workers flexed the nation's industrial muscle, and where Colt and his wife, Elizabeth, left a lasting imprint.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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