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President Taft Drew A Crowd Of 10,000 The Day It Opened


By Courant

October 03, 2007

Q: What can you tell me about the State Arsenal and Armory on Broad Street in Hartford?

A: In 1813, the state purchased land on Windsor Avenue for an arsenal and rented buildings in Hartford as armories for military units. In 1880, it converted a roller skating rink on Elm Street into an armory. But by 1901, the buildings on the two sites were in terrible shape.

The state appropriations committee rejected a request by adjutant general George M. Cole for money to repair the old armory. Instead, the legislature appointed a series of committees to find a new site. In 1905 the legislature was considering property on Main Street, but in August, City Engineer F.L. Ford suggested the state buy 12.5 acres on Broad Street known as the Old Round House site. The property would tie in well with the state Capitol and proposed State Library. Public sentiment favored the Broad Street site, and the General Assembly authorized its purchase. The Hartford, New Haven and New York Railroad sold it to the state for $185,000.

Architect Benjamin W. Morris of New York designed the armory, and the Whitney-Steen Co. of New York built it. Because the state didn't carry fire insurance on its buildings, it would be made of granite, which also coordinated with the Capitol and library.

The armory cost $869,000 to build. The design featured narrow, barred windows and a five-story drill shed fronted by a three-story, U-shaped office section. At the time it was the largest building in Connecticut and the fourth-largest armory in the U.S. Newspapers reported that the 55,000 square feet of uninterrupted floor space in the drill shed was larger than Madison Square Garden.

The new armory was dedicated Nov. 12, 1909. A day of parades, ceremonies and music culminated with President William Howard Taft, standing on a table, dedicating the building before a throng of 10,000 citizens.

The State Arsenal and Armory has hosted expositions, inaugural balls, circuses and sporting events. In 1944, it served as a makeshift morgue for victims of the Hartford Circus Fire. It is now the headquarters of the Connecticut National Guard and the State Emergency Command Center.

In 1996, the armory underwent a $10 million renovation.

Information also is available at http://www.ctofficersclub.com/ history .asp and www.ct.gov/mil.

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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