Disgraceful. That was the reaction most of us had today upon hearing that the Old State House may close. It is running out of money.
Built in the 18th century, the Old State House is a national treasure. It opened when George Washington was President. It once served as Hartford City Hall. In typical Connecticut fashion, it was proposed for demolition years ago…for a parking lot!
I’ll let the pundits debate why the Old State House is in the mess it is in, but I believe there are some changes that should be made right away that could help.
1. Open on Sundays. This is a no-brainer. Go to the OSH on a Sunday and you will see tourists posing for pictures in front of a closed building. I’m not kidding. They have their maps and their cameras and they read the plaques about Adriaen Block and George Washington and peer beyond the locked gates in wonder. Many are conventioneers, in our capital city to see the sights. If you are around the block from the Connecticut Convention Center, and there are thousands of people at a convention, you need to be open. If it means closing on a Wednesday, then so be it. Go to Boston on a Sunday and their Old State House is swarming with people. Kara and I are amazed and disappointed when the malls around here are packed on Sundays. Many are there because there is nothing else to do. The Old State House would be a nice family destination on Sundays.
2. Bring back a real gift shop. The current one sells mere trinkets compared to the collectibles, artwork and fine souvenirs sold in the old gift shop. Kara and I still treasure a gorgeous piece of Hartford art that was a house warming gift from Denise in 2000. In fact, Denise loved to shop there for meaningful gifts celebrating Hartford’s and Connecticut’s rich history. I also have a print of the Old State House that I purchased at the old shop. Another co-worker bought a giant print of the Colt Building. The new store didn’t sell those items. There is not a place downtown where you can buy a UConn shirt or a Connecticut license plate key chain. This could be the place. It used to be.
3. Ask Morton’s to add outdoor dining. This should be pretty easy. If you see the empty patio overlooking the Old State House, you”ll agree. It is a spectacular location, and other Morton’s around the country are proof they do outdoor dining well. A businessman from Terre Haute will be awe of this 212 year old masterpiece as she scarfs down a filet mignon.
4. Bring back the cannon. Until 9/11, men dressed in revolutionary garb used to fire a cannon twice a day to the delight of tourists. The cannon fire was featured in national magazines, and television shows. The tradition was discontinued after the terrorist attacks, because the sound understandably startled some people. But by not resuming the rich tradition, is it allowing the terrorists to win? If we can rebuild the World Trade Center, shouldn’t one of the original thirteen colonies be able to celebrate a cherished tradition?
5. More events. Kara and I brought Helena to the State House to pose for a picture with Santa Claus in December. I tell you….the setting was like a postcard. It beat the mall, and the crowds were much smaller. I look forward to assisting the Old State House with the Santa Claus event this year.
6. Required Field Trips. The state should require that school districts bring students on a field trip to the Old State House and the State Capitol. Several years ago, I was shocked when one our associate producers didn’t know where the Capitol was because she had never been there. She was a lifelong Connecticut resident, and a graduate of a high school in one of the Windsors and Central Connecticut State University.
I’d love to hear your suggestions.
Watch our report on the State House