The Burr Mall, home of Alexander Calder’s large, red stabile ‘Stegosauraus’ next door to City Hall, will be the site of a free lunchtime event on Wednesday, October 15th. From 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. that day, the Ella Burr McManus Trust that administers the Mall will host a “Re-Opening Celebration.” The celebration will include a 7-piece Latin jazz band ‘Esteban’, an African stiltwalker, light fare from several Hartford restaurants, and ice cream. Dennis House of WFSB/Channel 3 will emcee a brief ceremony at 12:30 p.m. and Tom Condon of The Hartford Courant will speak about the Mall’s history.
Over the past several months, the Trust has completed a refurbishment of the Alfred E. Burr Memorial (the formal name of the Mall). This has included repainting ‘Stegosaurus’ in its original Calder red, replacing all the pavers, trimming trees to allow views in from the street, and repairing the fountain. The Trustees invite all city residents, workers and visitors to come and see these improvements and enjoy their lunch hour on the Mall.
The Alfred E. Burr Memorial, known simply as the ‘Burr Mall’ to pedestrians strolling through the one-block-wide walking mall between Main and Prospect Streets in downtown Hartford, was completed in the early 1970’s and has a complicated history. Alfred Burr launched the Hartford Times in 1840 and was its editor and publisher until he died in 1900. His daughter, Ella Burr McManus, died six years later and left monies in trust to the City of Hartford with instructions to create a memorial to honor her father. She further stipulated that it ‘must be artistic in design and humane in purpose, preferably a drinking fountain for both human beings and animals’. The monies became available in 1923 when automobiles were replacing horses on the roads
First, the idea of building a public library failed to gain approval from the probate judge who ruled that it did not meet the provision of the will. Finally, in the early 1960’s, the trustees proposed the present concept and the probate judge approved. The City of Hartford, the Wadsworth Atheneum and the trustees entered into an agreement in 1966 to create a walking mall on the one-block section of street between the Atheneum and City Hall. The Mall was finished by 1973.
‘Stego’, as the sculpture is affectionately known, elicited a wide range of reactions and was controversial among some City leaders when it was installed. Glenn Weaver in Hartford: An Illustrated History of Connecticut’s Capital (1982) quotes then-Mayor George Athanson: “One day I see this THING going up. I don’t mind being Calderized, but I don’t want to be Stegosaurized! Why was a two-ton dinosaur known for its miniscule brain chosen?” According to Weaver, the Wadsworth’s director at the time said: “’In spite of its lumbering, primordial quality, it is beautifully realized in semiabstract form [and] . . . a spectacular addition to the downtown cityscape.’”
The Mall’s upkeep, use and financial resources are managed by a group of trustees overseen by the Judge of the Probate Court. The Burr Mall has become a favored spot of many downtown residents, workers and visitors, and is also available for events.