Live from Hartford's State House Square: 1800s Connecticut

As the Emancipation Proclamation turns 150, a look back at a century of change.

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Pop-up radio broadcast from State House Square.
Back in the early 1800s, the square was pretty empty of buildings. Today, it's bustling with people, and we revisit a century filled with transformation. Photo:Chion Wolf
Our pop-up radio broadcast is in a former bank storefront.
Photo:Chion Wolf
Art installation by Hartford artist David Borawski.
Photographic prints are also on display by Adam Niklewicz. Photo:Chion Wolf
Jennifer Matos of the Old State House.
Photo:Chion Wolf
Diana McCain of the Connecticut Historical Society.
Photo:Chion Wolf
Elizabeth Rose of the Fairfield Museum and History Center.
Photo:Chion Wolf
Olivia White of the Amistad Center for Art & Culture.
Photo:Chion Wolf
Live from Hartford's State House Square: 1800s Connecticut [nid:22112]
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Live from Hartford's State House Square: 1800s Connecticut [nid:22112]

We’ve been talking a lot about “pop up” storefronts on the show - the attempt by cities to fill vacant spaces on their streets, temporarily, just to get a sense of possibility. So, with help from the city of Hartford, and 90 State House Square, we’re trying something new the next few days - “pop up radio.”

Where We Live and The Colin McEnroe Show are broadcasting from a former bank space right on one of the city’s most bustling corners. We’re right across the street from Constitution Plaza. We can see the gleaming Pheonix building and the stunning new science center. People are walking by, waiting for buses, and heading to meetings. 

It was a bustling corner back in the 1800s, too, and the centerpiece, of course, is the Old State House, the site of some of Connecticut’s most historic moments. It was home to some of the most important moments in Connecticut and US history - from Prudence Crandall to the Amistad to the Emancipation Proclamation. 

Listen this hour as we visit back in time a little bit, back to an era when slavery was legal, and only white men had the right to vote. It was a century of civil war and two capitals in Connecticut - Hartford and New Haven. A lot has changed since then.

Our streets were filled with horse carriages, and then trolleys. Our state manufactured bicycles, sewing machines, firearms, axes, ships, typewriters, textiles, and clocks, benefiting from independent, resourceful entrepreneurs. And toward the end of the century, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, ending slavery in the US. This year is the 150th anniversary of the preliminary signing, and you can see an original signed copy at an exhibit in Fairfield this fall. What do you know about Connecticut history from the 1800s?