When visiting Hartford, the capital of Connecticut, one will be amazed at the architecture that the city of 123,000 inhabitants has to offer. Apart from the Wadsworth Athenium, Hartford has several historic buildings that date back to the 1700s, such as historic public library, the Old State House, the Travelers Tower and the campus of the University of Connecticut, which is the powerhouse of women’s college basketball. Apart from the history centers that are devoted to Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain, one of the places that is worth visiting is the historic State Capitol Building. Located Bushnell Park, the Capitol is accompanied with various historic sites, including this one in the picture above, the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch. Located on Trinity Street in the park, the arch was built by George Keller in 1886 and was the first memorial arch of its kind in the United States. It was dedicated to honor over 4000 soldiers who died in the Civil War.
Little do the people realize, there was once a bridge that was attached to the arch. The bridge was brought to the attention of the pontist community recently because of its unique design. The bridge features a five-span stone arch bridge with a total length of between 160 and 200 feet. When looking at the photos and postcards of the bridge in bridgehunter.com, the first two historic bridges in Europe came to mind: The Alte Brücke in Heidelberg, Germany and the Charles Bridge in Prague in Czechia. Unlike the two, this bridge in Hartford was dated back to the 1700s, but we don’t know when it was built exactly. One postcard pinpointed the build date to 1757, but it is unknown whether this date is accurate. The other is we don’t know who built the stone arch bridge. If the memorial arch was constructed in 1886, it could be that Keller may have built the stone arch bridge itself, which means the bridge is younger than what was on the postcard. In other words, the question we have about the stone arch bridge is when exactly was it built and by whom?
Sadly though, as part of the modernization of the city in the face of increasing population and traffic, the stone arch bridge and the Park River itself were both buried with the river now running underground enroute to the Connecticut River. The memorial arch itself still stands, and cars can travel through it going one way towards the Capitol. An additional street was built that goes past the arch, carrying traffic to the City Center and XL Arena. Hartford itself has been dealing with poverty issues and population loss itself. Once touted as the richest city in the USA, in the past three decades, Hartford has been one of the poorest cities in the country with 30% of the population living below the poverty line and the city being beset by social inequalities and crime.
Hartford however has a lot to offer and it’s a question of civic leaders and city officials to find ways of making the city attractive again. It doesn’t necessarily mean trying to bring in professional teams as they did in the past for hockey, basketball and football. The last professional hockey team, the Hartford Whalers, moved to Raleigh, North Carolina to become the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997. Hartford is loaded with a lot of history and architecture it should pride itself on and should build off on. The Memorial Arch is one of them, as with the now buried Mystery Bridge. It’s a question of how to turn the city around and exploit the city’s strength. From there, it’s all uphill from there.
If you have any information on the Mystery Bridge, feel free to use the Contact Details or comment in the section below. Happy Bridgehunting, folks. 🙂