Happy Anniversary Parking Lot!

hiltonhotel.jpg

23 years ago today, on a cold Sunday morning, a spectacular demolition was witnessed by thousands of people. A hotel that hosted weddings, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, other politicians and celebrities was reduced to rubble in seconds. The site is now in its third decade of serving as a parking lot. The drivers who ditch their cars there are treated to postcard views of the State Capitol, the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch, Bushnell Park, and the skyline.

The Parkview Hilton, formerly known as the Statler Hilton , was a classic example of 1950s architecture.   The picture  above shows the hotel in its glory. By the end of the 1970s it was tired, and despite renovations and a more modern facade in 1981, it was closed by the end of the decade.   On October 28, 1990, it was imploded.

statler

The Hilton lot, with the views and proximity to the park, attractions, highways and train station was considered so desirable, it was called the “Mona Lisa of the Hartford real estate world,” by a real estate expert interviewed by the New York Times.

A World Trade Center for Connecticut was proposed for the site, along with a new world headquarters for United Technologies, but the projects never took off.   In 2010 I spoke with Cheryl Chase, whose Chase Enterprises owns the property.   She told me she never imagined the Hilton lot would still be empty 20 years later.  

Chase would very much  like to develop the property, but there has been little interest in building something in keeping with the caliber of the location.    “It is the first thing you see when drive into downtown,” Chase said.  She  envisions a landmark skyscraper with condominiums at the top, commercial in the middle and retail on the ground level.    

Chase blamed the economy for the fact that a prime chunk of real estate is nothing more than a sea of asphalt, but also complained “Hartford is tough.”       Like many in 2010, she was hopeful new Mayor Pedro Segarra will help bring new business to the city, but also believes it starts at the top.  “Connecticut needs to be more business-friendly,” Chase said.  

The Chase family tends to be community-minded  big thinkers and very creative, so when the property is developed, I have no doubt it will be a head turner.   Who can forget Arnold Chase’s “Winter Wonderland” and “Haunted Happenings” at the old G. Fox Building?     

Everyone is in agreement that it is a collosal waste and shame that such land is used for parking.   Can you even imagine such a lot bordering Central Park or the Boston Common?

The Hilton demolition was the second in the city that year. In April, Hartford’s first skyscraper was imploded. The Aetna building was the subject of a major battle between preservationists and the Society Bank for Savings, which wanted to build a 45 story skyscraper on the site. It was never built, and that parcel remains a parking lot.

aetnaimplosion

By the way, the beautiful Victorian building next to the Hilton in the postcard?  That’s the old Hartford YMCA, torn down for…you guessed it, a parking lot. 

You can watch the Hilton implosion from October 28, 1990 courtesy WFSB photojournalist Mike Fisher right here: 

http://www.wfsb.com/global/category.asp?c=208507&autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=9454205

Here is some old video of other implosions in Hartford: http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/face-the-state-flashback-the-implosions-of-2001/

Also check out these cool images of what Hartford could have looked like: http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/what-hartford-might-have-bee/

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14 Responses

  1. Space needle!!! I’ve been preaching that for Hartford for years…

  2. I’ve been saying that Hartford needs a Space Needle for years!!

  3. Interesting Article.

  4. Thanks for the post and the kind words.

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  7. Why on earth would you do that to such an amazing building???

  8. Having worked in the Statler Hilton, then Hartford Hilton, in the florist shop for Basil and Jeannie McManus from 1967 to 1971, I can just say that it was the best first job a girl could get. Not only were my bosses fabulous but at my seat in the lower lobby, next to the door for the “secret” parking garage out back, I saw everyone from Bob Hope to Gerald Ford, Frank Sinatra to Elvis Presley and everyone in between. My favorite chore was to walk Estée, the Russian wolfhound gifted to my bosses from Estée Lauder, in Bushnell Park. I’ll never forget delivering flowers to the honeymoon suite where the future Mr. and Mrs. we’re. having a little afternoon delight before the ceremony. Good times….I’ll never forget those years.

    • I also worked at the Hilton (Hartford Hilton) from 1966 to 1970 on the switchboard and it was really the best job I had except doing the morning wake ups that was a bit hectic all pf the bosses from Per Hellman down to my b boss were just great to work for.

      • Sounds like a great place to have worked!

    • I’ve heard only good things about the Statler.

  9. why would anyone want to build anything in the city that sleeps from friday at 6pm till 7 am monday. Not even dunkin doughnuts is open in downtown. Hartford needs a lot more than a mayor to get anyone interested.

    • Thanks for your comment Edward. Things have changed. Hartford is hopping on the weekends.

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