Archive for the ‘Hartford’ Category

Happy Belated Birthday, Channel 3!
September 21, 2012

This past weekend Channel 3 turned 56.    On September 21, 1957, your favorite television station went on the air for the first time.     Our call letters then were WTIC, and became WFSB in 1974.

From all of us here at Eyewitness News, thanks to all of our loyal viewers.     We have viewers my children’s ages who have just started watching Channel 3, others who grew up watching us, and those who have been with us every step of the way.   Our first viewers contacted us through the U.S. Mail and rotary telephones, and now we also communicate through e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.




Every Sunday, look for our Face the State flashback, when we rebroadcast one of the stories from the past 56 years. 

Here are some that you may have missed: 

2013: Bob Steele

2011:  Charlie Bagley obituary

2011   Denise’s anniversary

2012:    Dennis’ anniversary



























Marking 20 Years at WFSB
May 22, 2012

For much of May, my good friend and longtime co-anchor Denise D’Ascenzo worked tirelessly  on a special report:  a celebration of my 20th anniversary here at WFSB.   At times, I can’t even believe 2012 will mark  two decades since my first report as a 20-something at Channel 3 after leaving WWMT, the CBS station in Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo, Michigan.     Even though I’ve covered countless stories and anchored hundreds, perhaps thousands of newscasts since 1992, I was impressed by how Denise managed to pull so many classic clips, including from a period when it appears I had a mullet!

Truth be told, my actual anniversary falls on August 31st, but with summer vacations, primaries, etc.,   we figured it was best to mark the milestone now.    I should note, we’d be lying if we said it was just a coincidence the flashback aired during May sweeps!   

It has been a great twenty years here at WFSB and I truly feel blessed to have been in a job this long, and still love what I do:  broadcast journalism.      I’ve have the fortune of being assigned to cover national political conventions, the O.J. Simpson trial in 1995,  UConn’s historic Final Four win in 1999,  a visit of a Pope, and the Pope’s funeral.   I immediately went to lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001 and stayed there for a few weeks.   Eight and half years earlier I stood in front of the Twin Towers after a truck bomb exploded in a garage.    I’ve been on the field at a World Series,  sat across from Oprah, and been in inner city neighborhoods as gunfire went off.     I once even ran through a snake infested field while covering wildfires in Florida with a young field producer named Dana Luby, who is now my boss!

Most importantly, I met my wife Kara here at Channel 3, and became a father two times.     Both of my children began their entrance into this world after the 6PM news.  When I wasn’t on the air at 11 those nights, viewers knew something was up.      It truly has been quite a ride. 

To our devoted and loyal viewers, thank you for watching and commenting over the years.  Without your support,  my bosses wouldn’t have kept me this long!    I should also thank my many co-workers and co-anchors, who always made me look good.   

 I first anchored with Denise in 1994, and then off and on over the next five years.   We became permanent co-anchors in 1999, and have been together ever since, making us the longest current anchor team in Connecticut.       Gayle King and I co-anchored Eyewitness News at 5:30 for four years before she left for O Magazine.    I also shared the desk with Virginia Cha, Mika Brzezinski and Janet Peckinpaugh, and with Kara numerous times in the past decade.     

You can watch Denise’s well-researched, and heartfelt report here:

  Also read:

Here are some other pictures from the past 20! 

Baldwin: New Arena not Necessary for NHL Return to Hartford
November 26, 2010

          Howard Baldwin in front of the Hartford Civic Center (now the XL Center)  in the 1970s

There is a new era dawning at the State Capitol with a new Governor taking over in 6 weeks.  Ditto at  Hartford City Hall where a new mayor is making some big changes.  The same story across town at the XL Center, where former Hartford Whalers owner Howard Baldwin is back, marketing the state’s newly renamed minor league hockey team, the Connecticut Whale.

It is no secret Baldwin’s ultimate goal is to resurrect the NHL in Hartford.     Make no bones about it, that is one uphill battle, but Baldwin believes it can be done.  During  a taping of Face the State, Baldwin talks about what it will take to restore a Hartford Whalers team here.   He surprised me by saying a new arena isn’t an essential part of the equation, and during the taping he explained why.   His argument  is fascinating, and that should sit well with lawmakers who might be hesitant to help fund a new arena.

You can watch the entire interview with Howard Baldwin this Sunday morning at 11 on Face the State.

Also, Real Hartford has the story of a new Whalers store that just opened on Pratt Street.

Happy Anniversary Parking Lot!
October 27, 2010


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.


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.


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:

Here is some old video of other implosions in Hartford:

Also check out these cool images of what Hartford could have looked like:

One Lousy Day for Connecticut Democrats
May 18, 2010


Eddie Perez, Susan Bysiewicz and Richard Blumenthal in happier days, 2007                         Photo courtesy: Ken Krayeske

This was a really, really bad day for Connecticut Democrats. 

Within a two hour period and a four mile radius, the Democrats were the focus of three embarrassing stories as they head into the convention.   

First, the Democrat with the highest approval ratings of any politician in the state faced allegations he lied about his military record.     In a news conference broadcast all across the country,  Richard Blumenthal told reporters he regretted that he “misspoke” about having served in Vietnam.    Democrats could almost hear the poll numbers tumbling.

Later,  across from the State Capitol at the State Supreme Court, the Democrats’ one time frontrunner in the race for governor and Blumenthal’s fellow constitutional officer was dealt a devastating blow.   The high court ruled Susan Bysiewicz is not qualified to succeed Blumenthal.   

On New Year’s Day she was the odds-on favorite to be our next governor, an office her party hasn’t been able to capture since 1986.    Now, for the first time in more than a generation, this once rising star in the Democratic party probably won’t even be on a ballot come November.

 Meanwhile, around the corner from the Supreme Court, the three term Democratic mayor of the capital city was away from his city hall office again,  in court as a defendant in his corruption trial.   Eddie Perez, the host mayor of the Democratic convention this weekend faces prison time if convicted.   

To be fair, Connecticut Republicans have had their bad days, too, but  this was certainly one of the worst days to be  a “D,” unless your name is George Jepsen.

Howard Baldwin on “Face the State with Dennis House”
April 12, 2010

In case you missed it, here is former Hartford Whalers owner Howard Baldwin talking about bringing the NHL and the Whalers back to your capital city.

part 1

part 2

Also, as we mentioned on Face the State,  Whalers gear is a hot seller these days.  I noticed this store in Newport , RI (aka Hartford by the sea) selling Whalers merchandise.  The folks there told me they cannot keep with the demand.   Newport is a big destination for people from the Hartford area and in fact all of Connecticut, so it is no surprise.

Bringing Back Your Hartford Whalers
April 8, 2010

This week marks a tough anniversary in Connecticut history.     Thirteen years ago the Hartford Whalers left the capital city, breaking the hearts of fans all across the land of steady habits and beyond.    The loss of the Whalers is still being felt to this day:  no longer does your capital city get a daily mention on ESPN during the hockey season, and stores surrounding the Coliseum are all empty.   Hockey fans from all over the country are no longer coming to hotels in the city to cheer on their home teams from Montreal and Chicago playing road games against our Whalers. 

Since 1997, we’ve heard of various efforts to restore major league sports in our state, and now there is a new plan from a familiar face who knows a little something about bringing a team here.   His name is Howard Baldwin, one of the original owners of the Whalers who moved them from Boston to Hartford 36 years ago.

Baldwin has moved back here with his wife and they have opened an office right near the XL Center.   His plan is to beef up minor league hockey here and they pursue the NHL, all the while using the Whalers name.    It is essential a team be called the Whalers, according to Baldwin.

The man who produced  the movie “Ray” lays out an interesting case for major league hockey in Hartford.   I asked him whether rumors that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is anti-Hartford are true.  Baldwin says “no,” that Bettman wants what is good for the NHL, and Baldwin’s mission is to show his friend that Hartford is good for the NHL.

Baldwin is our guest this Sunday on Face the State.  Tune in at 11AM.

Incidentally, Whalers gear is all the rage right now.  I wore a new Whalers T-shirt to Wrigley Field last year and it got plenty of  “hey, where did you get that” types of questions.

My entourage and me at Wrigley, 2009

Merchants Impeding Hartford’s Progress
December 14, 2009

If I told you Moe’s Southwest Grill opened a handful of restaurants in Metro Hartford you might say, “yes, there is one in West Hartford and one in South Windsor.”  You’d be right.  They are in highly visible locations in Blue Back Square and in Evergreen Walk.   But did you know there is also one in Downtown Hartford?  However,  if you walk around the streets of downtown you will never ever see it.

Yes, it is true.  I noticed it the other day when we brought our daughter to  Santa Claus  at State House Square.    There it was,  inside down a hallway from the street, mere steps from the line of families waiting to see Santa.  Guess what, Moe’s was closed.  Insert amazed look here.

Years ago, I believe it was  Hartford Courant columnist Tom Condon who wrote something along the lines  of “it is hard to feel badly for a city with two left feet.”    This is a perfect example. 

State House Square has several excellent eateries, all of which have very limited hours,  about 10-2,  only Monday through Friday.    According to some of the tenants, management of the Square does a terrible job of promoting these places.  There is no list of restaurants sign on Main Street beckoning pedestrians to come inside to what many people believe is merely an office building.   What is really strange about State House Square is that the prime location on Main Street has been empty since Bagel Boyz moved out a decade ago.    It would be a great spot for Moe’s.  

I also can’t figure out why the Square doesn’t open for special events.  45,000 people came to Hartford for the Connecticut Veterans Day Parade some were parked in their lawn chairs right in front of State House Square.  It was closed!!!  Can you even believe it?    One of the biggest complaints from parade goers:  no place to eat.   The Old State House needs to open on Sundays, too, but that is a story for a other day.

Merchants will argue that “we don’t open because no one comes downtown on the weekends.”    That is false.    From the new residents to games to concerts, to churches, to Festival of Light, to parades, to the museums:  people are here.  Hundreds every Sunday.  If you open, more will come. 

Think about it, if the stores in Blue Back Square decided to close on Sundays, word would spread and no one would go there.   If Downtown Hartford had a concerted effort to open on Sundays, word would spread and more people would show up.

The state has spent millions on Connecticut Convention Center, the Science Center and other projects.   Developers have poured in millions of their own money.  The Hartford Arts Council and Business for Downtown Hartford are also working very hard to bring more events to the city, and businesses should support their efforts by opening up.  How a multi million dollar corporation like Starbucks can remain closed with a throng of parade goers outside their window is mindboggling.   The company says it cares about the economic impact on the places where it has stores.  Guess the coffee giant doesn’t care about Hartford.

Some people get this.  Larry Gottesdiener of Northland has been criticized for his requirement that his new tenants open on Sundays, but I support his philosophy 100 percent.  His goal is to make a thriving downtown.   His residential tenants don’t move out on Sundays, why should his commercial tenants shut down on those days?  One of his restaurant tenants closed after griping about a lack of business.    This is the same eatery that Kara and I noticed was closed the night of a concert that had Pratt Street packed.  People were actually sitting on the steps of that apathetic  restaurant eating takeout from another restaurant.  Yep. .”lack of business” was the REAL reason they later went out of business.   

Gottesdiener should hold his ground.    Hartford 21 could use something like a Vaughan’s, a JoJo’s, a Dish, a Hot Tomato’s, or any one of the other businesses that is open 7 days a week.    Maybe a Moe’s like the ones in the suburbs. 

I blogged about this Sunday problem last month.  Something needs to change.

The Final Piece of Adriaen’s Landing
November 4, 2008


Ten years ago, a retail, residential, civic and entertainment district was proposed for a series of vacant parking lots in downtown Hartford called Adriaen’s Landing.   Now, as 2009 approaches, the final piece is finally getting underway.  It’s called Front Street.

Adriaen’s Landing consists of the Downtown Marriott Hotel, the Connecticut Convention Center, the Science Center of Connecticut, parking garages, and now Front Street.   Sadly, the Front Street we are getting isn’t what he had hoped for, at least not yet.

Front Street, named after the now defunct street that ran through the now defunct Italian American neighborhood torn down for Constitution Plaza, will feature 68,000 square feet of retail and restaurants (see the rendering above.)  It was supposed to include apartments.  The downturn in the economy killed that housing, but apartments/condominiums are planned for the second phase of Front Street.

Everybody is disappointed there is no retail in this first phase, but there will be some in the next phase.   There is talk of even a high rise near the Hartford Times building.   My own evidence suggests there is a market for downtown housing, even if they banks are cautious right now because of the economy.  First, the new downtown apartments that have been built are filling up.   Second, when Kara and I rented our brownstone in the SoDo section of downtown, the most popular question was “can I walk to work?”    Our tenants didn’t want to commute from the suburbs to downtown.  They are saving gas money and as 20 somethings, they like being able to walk to restaurants and clubs.   Our place rented right away.  

There is also need for larger housing units downtown.  I know of a few empty nesters who think a 2 bedroom condo is too small.  They want a third or even fourth bedroom for grandchildren when they visit.

There is no argument downtown Hartford needs more retail.   The state has invested millions in the convention center which is bringing thousands of visitors to your capital city.   Problem is, when they want to leave their convention to go shopping, they cab it out to Westfarms Mall and the Shoppes at Buckland Hills.  Great places to shop, but visitors want to be able to walk to places.

Visitors marvel at the attractions in walking distance:  the Wadsworth, Bushnell Park, the Capitol and Old State House.  There is also no shortage of restaurants, but the shopping is limited.  Let’s hope Front Street changes that.

It opens in 2010.

The rendering is courtesy the HB NItkin Group

Celebrating the Stegosaurus
October 15, 2008

Today I had the honor of being master of ceremonies at the re-dedication of the re-dedication of the Burr Mall in downtown Hartford.     The mall is the legacy of Ella Burr McManus, who left behind money in her will to create and maintain the plaza. 

The “Stegosaurus” sculpture by Alexander Calder was added in 1973.   The mall and the sculpture even the fountain were recently rehabbed and it is worth a trip to check it out.


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