Highways in Hartford

October 21, 2014 · Exhibits ·

Connecticut artist Richard Welling chronicled the ever-changing Hartford cityscape through detailed ink drawings. Acting as both works of art and documentary snapshots, these drawings reveal the additions and subtractions to and from the city’s architectural skyline in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Our newest exhibit, (Re)Building Hartford: A City Captured by Richard Welling, showcases his drawings and explores how how and why Hartford changed and how it affects us today.

Highway Overpasses Converging, Hartford, drawn by Richard Welling, 1976, gift of the Richard Welling Family

Highway Overpasses Converging, Hartford, drawn by Richard Welling, 1976, gift of the Richard Welling Family

The Federal Aid Highway Acts of the 1950s provided funding to improve a national highway system for defense. The Connecticut Department of Transportation began constructing highways Interstate 84 and Interstate 91 in 1958.

Elevated Highway, drawn by Richard Welling, 1966, gift of the Richard Welling Family

Elevated Highway, drawn by Richard Welling, 1966, gift of the Richard Welling Family

I-84 cut through downtown Hartford, demolishing historic neighborhoods. I-91 traveled along the riverfront, blocking downtown from the Connecticut River.

Highway Construction, drawn by Richard Welling, about 1970, gift of the Richard Welling Family

Highway Construction, drawn by Richard Welling, about 1970, gift of the Richard Welling Family

In the 1950s, automobiles clogged the city streets and created a demand for parking spaces. Highways in Hartford helped reduce congestion by diverted traffic around the perimeter of the city, with entry points near parking areas.

Highway Overpass, Hartford, drawn by Richard Welling, 1988, gift of the Richard Welling Family

Highway Overpass, Hartford, drawn by Richard Welling, 1988, gift of the Richard Welling Family

The highways in Hartford also allowed people living in the suburbs quick and easy access to their jobs in the downtown area.

Highway, Hartford, unknown photographer, 1970, The Newman S. Hungerford Museum Fund

Highway, Hartford, unknown photographer, 1970, The Newman S. Hungerford Museum Fund

Convenience came at a cost. The I-84 cut the downtown off from the river and the North End, and contributed to turning Hartford into a “9 to 5 city”—a complaint by many today.

Interested in learning more about Hartford or Richard Welling? Visits chs.org/Hartford for more information about programs, exhibits, and events.

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