Coltsville's Inspiring History Deserves Recognition
By JOE LIEBERMAN and JOHN LARSON
July 24, 2011
The Colt Dome in Hartford represents an important part of Connecticut's rich history.
Around it rose the true spirit of American entrepreneurialism manifested by a company that led the Industrial Revolution, the first American firm to expand overseas, a female-run Fortune 500 company, the telegraph, firearms, the jet engine and the birthplace of Connecticut's innovation and success in precision manufacturing.
The list could go on — Coltsville is part of our industrial DNA — yet in that dome we see even more. We see a historic opportunity to create a prosperous future.
Coltsville is an important part of not only Connecticut's history, but of the American story. It's a history worth remembering, and this month we moved to honor its legacy, preserve its past and secure its future by introducing a bill to establish Coltsville as part of the National Park System.
The Coltsville National Historical Park Act of 2011 is designed to preserve the important story of Samuel Colt and boost our economy by revitalizing downtown Hartford. A recent National Parks Conservation Association study found every federal dollar invested in national parks generates at least $4 in benefits to state and local economies. Connecticut deserves this boost.
For more than a decade we have worked to designate Coltsville as a National Historical Park with help from former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, former Courant publisher Jack Davis, Oz Griebel of the MetroHartford Alliance and countless others. We are hopeful that this year the project will finally come to fruition.
The lynchpin of Coltsville's history is its namesake Samuel Colt, his wife, Elizabeth, and the community they created. The name Colt became synonymous with the revolver, just as Colt's legacy is closely linked with the American Industrial Revolution. Besides changing the way our country produced weapons, the Colts' business gave birth to other American industrial titans such as Henry Ford, Francis Pratt and Amos Whitney, all of whom served as apprentices at the Colt factory.
After Sam Colt's death in 1862, Elizabeth took over one of the most prosperous companies on Earth and — at a time when women were denied the right to vote — led Colt to unprecedented levels of success.
The effort to preserve Coltsville has been decades in the making. In 1976, Coltsville was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and, in 2008, designated as a National Historic Landmark. Most recently, a National Park study found Coltsville to be a nationally significant site that merits recognition.
We have momentum. Hartford has a record of success with such efforts; for instance, with the help of a caring community, and federal, state and local support, Hartford's riverfront has been recaptured. Now to make the park a reality, we need strong commitments from state, city and local business leaders and more members of Congress convinced that Coltsville matters.
Leaders and lawmakers should recognize that although the bill has been years in the making, the need for economic recovery and jobs only adds urgency to its passage.
Innovative projects such as Coltsville and the iQuilt — which will connect our cultural assets and create a walkable community that weaves together downtown Hartford — can play an important role in driving our economic recovery. Establishing our state's next National Park at Coltsville would not only boost a tourism industry already buoyed by the Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe houses and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, but also contribute to Hartford's greater economic health.
In addition to the tourism boost, the transformation of Coltsville will cause an expansion of downtown Hartford , attracting local businesses and encouraging mixed use of our old and new buildings — thereby creating a livable and workable community.
History is in our hands — and now is the time to boost our economy and preserve our shared legacy by making Coltsville a national historical park.
Joe Lieberman of Stamford is a U.S. senator who won election as an independent. John Larson, D-East Hartford, represents the 1st Congressional District.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at