Constitution Plaza in Hartford – A History of its Development

November 4, 2014 · Collections ·

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.

Constitution Plaza and Nearby Buildings, Hartford, drawn by Richard Welling, 1984-1987, gift of the Richard Welling Family

Constitution Plaza and Nearby Buildings, Hartford, drawn by Richard Welling, 1984-1987, gift of the Richard Welling Family

Constitution Plaza in Hartford is a 3.8-acre area covering three blocks in downtown Hartford. Constructed from 1958-1962, originally had six buildings connected by a public plaza roof garden.

Constitution Plaza from Travelers Insurance Company Tower, photographed by Theodore Newcomb, 1962, gift of Richard C. Back

Constitution Plaza from Travelers Insurance Company Tower, photographed by Theodore Newcomb, 1962, gift of Richard C. Back

The plaza was considered a model for urban renewal in the 1960s, replacing the Front Street neighborhood, which consisted of 18th- and 19th-century buildings, housing mostly Italian immigrants. Damage from major floods in the 1930s and lack of upkeep by landlords led the neighborhood to be designated as “slums,” which made the project eligible for federal subsidies.

Christmas Lights, Constitution Plaza, drawn by Richard Welling, before 1974, gift of the Richard Welling Family

Christmas Lights, Constitution Plaza, drawn by Richard Welling, before 1974, gift of the Richard Welling Family

City planners saw the Front Street neighborhood as prime real estate for urban renewal. Demolition of the Front Street neighborhood began in 1958 and Constitution Plaza was completed 4 years later.

Constitution Plaza, drawn by Richard Welling, 1973, gift of the Richard Welling Family

Constitution Plaza, drawn by Richard Welling, 1973, gift of the Richard Welling Family

Today, Constitution Plaza is criticized by some for displacing residents and removing the vitality from the city. Defenders argue that it kept businesses in a central downtown district in Hartford. The project originally included shops, office buildings, a research center, parking garages, a hotel, and WTIC’s Broadcast House.

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

Constitution Plaza, photographed by Richard Welling, after 1972, gift of the Richard Welling Family

Constitution Plaza, photographed by Richard Welling, after 1972, gift of the Richard Welling Family

Tags: , ,