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Flatiron Flourish

April 3, 2005

Strawberry daiquiris are a far cry from strawberries, but who cares? When Nicola Motto, a successful fruit merchant, built his block-long "flatiron" building at One Congress Street in 1891, he couldn't have foreseen it would one day house the trendy Club Bar Celona.

Like so many structures in Hartford, the Motto Building has endured a maddening cycle of prosperity and decline. In its 100 years, this Renaissance Revival gem has housed delis, dentists' offices, a boarding house and the once-popular Congress Rotisserie. In the 1980s, the Motto Building's investors became victims of Colonial Realty's greed and in the ensuing debacle, the building was tossed aside.

But thanks to some teamwork between the city of Hartford and the law firm of Noble, Young & O'Connor, the flatiron is looking strong and fresh, and houses an array of businesses from the nonprofit Gathering Place to a biotech incubator company.

Drawn by the Motto's architecture and proximity to the courthouse, the law firm moved there from West Hartford in 2000.

"We're thrilled to be here, but we never could have done it without the foresight and creative thinking of the city of Hartford," says Dennis O'Connor, who serves as property manager.

In addition to working out a graduated tax schedule, city officials agreed to split the cost of repairing the façade, which has 150 windows (many of them curved) and detailed moldings.

Visitors to the Motto Building these days are likely to hear jazz, salsa and Cuban son emanating from Bar Celona's seductively appointed rooms; the very building is doing the boogaloo.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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