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Downtown Hartford’s Travelers Tower Getting $30 Million Exterior Makeover

By Kenneth R. Gosselin

July 02, 2012

The landmark Travelers Tower in downtown Hartford — once the tallest building between New York and Boston — is getting its first major exterior renovation since construction on the tower was completed more than 90 years ago.

Offices inside the building won’t be affected, but one sitting area will: the nesting box for the tower’s famous peregrine falcons has been relocated for the $30 million, 2-year project.

The work will repair cracks in the granite surface and mortar joints, caused by water leaks that have developed over the decades, Travelers spokeswoman Jennifer Wislocki said. In addition, the 527-foot tall tower will be fitted with all new, more energy-efficient windows and an updated drainage system, she said.

While the renovation won’t change the appearance of the structure, the removal of dirt and grime from the building’s exterior will make it look cleaner.

“It may look a little lighter,” Wislocki said.

Some cast-iron decorations which are showing wear also will be replaced. Consigli Construction Co., which recently completed work at the Wadsworth and has an office in Hartford, will be in charge of the rehabilitation project.

The falcon nest — a rectangular box filled with soft, round gravel — was moved to the top of another Travelers building nearby, the plaza building, in March, just before the nesting season.

Even though the falcons have often perched atop the plaza building and ate there since they began nesting in the tower in 1997, it apparently wasn’t a suitable location for starting a family this year.

“Clearly it was a building they liked, but not enough to nest there,” Jenny Dickson, a wildlife biologist at the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “It might not have been high enough.”

Travelers consulted with DEEP and The Children’s Museum, which have worked together to encourage the proliferation of peregrine falcons in Connecticut, still a threatened species in the state. A webcam has broadcast the nesting and falcons rearing of their young.

Falcons have been nesting atop the tower since 1997, fond of it because it resembles the ledges they prefer. In that time, there were just three years when falcons did not nest in the tower, the most recent in 2006. Through the years, there have been different pairings of males and females, Dickson said.

It’s clear there won’t be falcons at Travelers this year because by this time young birds have hatched and are learning to survive on their own. By the end of August, they begin migrating south for winter, often to South America.

Dickson said the nesting box had to be moved because it would be difficult for the birds to navigate scaffolding, but also to protect the safety of workers on the rehabilitation project.

“Peregrines will aggressively defend their territory,” Dickson said. “Workers could get dive bombed.”

The Travelers Tower, built of Rhode Island granite, was the tallest building between Boston and New York until the 1983 construction of CityPlace I, also in downtown Hartford. The oldest section of the building is the portion facing Main Street, according to the book “Structures and Styles” by Gregory Andrews and David Ransom.

The tower’s front entrance on Main Street was the main entrance until 1963 when the demolition of buildings next door made way for a new entrance on a plaza facing the Wadsworth Atheneum, according to Andrews and Ransom.

The building was designed by Donn Barber, also the architect of other distinctive Hartford buildings such as the Connecticut State Library, the Supreme Court building and the Hartford Times building. Though an early 20th century building, the tower incorporates classical columns and pediments.

Travelers employs about 7,000 in Connecticut, the majority in downtown Hartford, divided between the tower and the plaza building.

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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