|Thursday we woke to a torrential downpour which had been coming down most of the night. So bad were the storms that our electricity had gone out while we were sleeping. We were supposed to take our camper to an RV repair place to get our water heater fixed this morning, but the rain had slowed us down until the RV repair guy actually called us to find out if we were still coming. Thankfully the rain slowed enough for us to get the camper hooked up without getting too soaked. An hour later and we learned that the cause of our hot water heater failure was a spider who had decided to make his home in our appliance. The spider was removed, the part that failed replaced and we were on our way home within an hour.
After a quick shower we drove to Hartford and arrived at the State Capitol just in time to take the final tour for the day. The Connecticut State Capitol building was completed in 1878 and constructed in the High Victorian Gothic style. Prior to settling in Hartford, the capitol of CT rotated between Hartford and New Haven. The Old State House used in Hartford prior to the construction of this building is now a museum and the capitol building used in New Haven was torn down.
This capitol building is very beautiful. Its interior feels like a castle with its various staircases, triangular archways, marble floors and stained glass ceiling panels. We were shown several historical items which are proudly displayed by the state, including a statue of native son and state Hero Nathan Hale, a statue of Prudence Crandall, the state heroine who opened the first school to educate black girls, the figurehead from the U.S.S. Connecticut which was one of the ships that sailed around the world in Teddy Roosevelt’s “Great White Fleet” (the figurehead is an eagle with his face turned towards the olive branches which are grasped in one of his claws, while arrows are grasped in the other; since this tour of the world was a peaceful one, the eagle is facing the olive branches. However, the claws were removable so that if the mission of the ship changed the eagle could be facing the arrows.), the figurehead from the ship the Hartford from which Admiral Farragut gave the famous order “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” during the Civil War, a restored plaster model of the Genius of Connecticut from which the original bronze statue which crowned the Capitol dome was cast (she is the symbolic protector of CT), and the military camp bed used by the Marquis de Lafayette (an efficient bed that folded into a trunk for easy transport).
The Senate Chamber houses 36 senators who sit in a circle with seating from left to right by district number. The House Chamber seats 151 representatives, the vast majority of which are democrats. The senators and representatives each serve 2 year terms and the election for both occur during the same year. The governor serves a 4 year term and there are no term limits for either the governor or the legislative branch. The legislative branch meets for 6 months each year and was not in session at the time of our visit.
The Charter Oak Chair graces the Senate Chamber and is used by the Lieutenant Governor when he provides over the sessions. This special chair, which is said to grant the wishes of those that sit in it, was carved from the wood of the fallen oak tree that hid the self-governing charter given to the colony by King Charles in 1662. In 1687, the new king of England, James II, wanted to revoke the charter given to the colony so he sent his representative to retrieve it. During a heated discussion between the King’s representative and Connecticut leaders, the candles in the room were extinguished, plunging the room into darkness. When the candles were relit the charter had disappeared, having been hidden safely inside a white oak tree on the Wyllys estate in Hartford by Captain Joseph Wadsworth, earning the tree the name the Charter Oak Tree. When the tree fell during a storm in 1856, a number of items were carved and preserved from its wood, including the chair that is used in the Senate chamber.
Some interesting facts about Connecticut: it is called the Constitution State because its Fundamental Orders that were adopted in 1638 are considered (by some) to be the first written constitution in history (these Fundamental Orders provided for the consent of the governed and for representative government); it is called the Provision State because it provided needed provisions to the troops during the Revolutionary War; the first public library is in New Haven; the first submarine was launched in Saybrook by David Bushnell; the country’s first traitor, Benedict Arnold, is from Norwich, CT; the first law school was founded by Tapping Reeve in Litchfield; the first cotton gin was invented by New Haven’s Eli Whitney; the first dictionary was created by Noah Webster in Hartford; the first football game was played by Yale (the Yale Bowl is actually on the National Historic Register); the first three ring circus was staged by PT Barnum; the first nuclear submarine was built in CT; and CT elected the first woman governor. It is an impressive display of “firsts” for this tiny state of 5,545 square miles and 3.5 million people.