The Hartford Financial Services Group is known to be a good corporate citizen. It enhanced that reputation Friday when it promised to save an eminent 1926 building in the heart of the city's insurance cluster.
The Hartford is buying the former MassMutual complex across the street from its corporate campus on Asylum Hill. At first, The Hartford had planned on demolishing the empty buildings for parking and other uses.
But the company met with groups, particularly the Hartford Preservation Alliance, eager to save the original portion of the old headquarters — a Georgian Revival-style building that fronts on Garden Street — and, to its great credit, The Hartford listened. The alliance was "pivotal" in helping The Hartford understand the building's historic value, a spokesman said.
The handsome structure is a testament to the city's vibrant business history. It was the home office for what was then the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Co., designed by respected New York architect Benjamin Wistar Morris. MassMutual acquired the company in 1996 and moved out of the city after tearing down a half-dozen old brick homes on nearby Fraser Street for parking.
Like the Modernist gem the Wilde Building in Bloomfield, which seemed doomed until owner CIGNA changed its mind, the MassMutual building now stands as a tribute to its savior's good sense and responsible citizenship. In addition to preserving history, The Hartford may donate some of the MassMutual property to the city for use as a magnet school. The Hartford makes its namesake city proud.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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