Hartford is the capital of the U.S. state of Connecticut and the historic seat of Hartford County until Connecticut disbanded county government in 1960. As of the 2010 Census, Hartford’s population was 124,775, making it Connecticut’s fourth-largest city after the coastal cities of Bridgeport,New Haven, and Stamford.
Nicknamed the “Insurance Capital of the World”, Hartford houses many insurance company headquarters, and insurance remains the region’s major industry. Almost 400 years old, Hartford is among the oldest cities in the United States. Following the American Civil War, Hartford was the wealthiest city in the United States for several decades. In 1868, Mark Twain wrote before he died, “Of all the beautiful towns it has been my fortune to see this is the chief.” Today, Hartford is one of the poorest cities in the nation with 3 out of every 10 families living below the poverty line.
In 2004, the Hartford metropolitan area ranked second nationally in per capita economic activity, behind only San Francisco. Hartford is ranked 32nd of 318 metropolitan areas in total economic production. Hartford is home to the nation’s oldest public art museum, the Wadsworth Atheneum; the oldest public park, Bushnell Park; the oldest continuously published newspaper, The Hartford Courant; the second-oldest secondary school, Hartford Public, and the Mark Twain House where the author wrote his most famous works and raised his family, among other historically significant attractions.
After Dutch explorer Adriaen Block visited the area in 1614, fur traders from the New Netherland colony set up trade at Fort Goede Hoop (Good Hope) at the confluence of the Connecticut and Park Rivers as early as 1623, but abandoned their post by 1654. Today, the neighborhood near the site is still known as Dutch Point. The first English settlers arrived in 1635 and their settlement was originally called Newtown, but was renamed Hartford in 1637. The name “Hartford” was chosen to honor the English town of Hertford (pronounced “Hartford”) in Hertfordshire, home ofSamuel Stone, one of the settlers.
The leader of Hartford’s original settlers from what is now Cambridge, Massachusetts, Pastor Thomas Hooker, delivered a sermon which inspired the writing of the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, a document (ratified January 14, 1639) investing the people with the authority to govern, rather than ceding such authority to a higher power. Hooker’s conception of self-rule embodied in the Fundamental Orders went on to inspire theConnecticut Constitution, and ultimately the U.S. Constitution. Today, one of the Connecticut’s nicknames is the ‘Constitution State’.
On December 15, 1814, delegations from throughout New England gathered at the Hartford Convention to discuss possible secession from the United States. Later in the century, Hartford was a center of abolitionist activity. Harriet Beecher Stowe, daughter of Lyman Beecher and author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, lived in Nook Farm, part of the Asylum Hill section of the city. In 1950, the Census Bureau reported Hartford’s population as 7.1% black and 92.8% white. In 1987, Carrie Saxon Perry was elected mayor of Hartford, the first female African-American mayor of a major American city.
On July 6, 1944, the Hartford Circus Fire destroyed the big top at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the deadliest circus fire in the history of the United States. Starting in the late 1950s the suburbs of Hartford grew while the capital city began a long decline. This decline may have been accelerated by construction of highways (including I-84 & I-91 which intersect in downtown Hartford). Many residents moved out of the city and into the suburbs, and this trend continues. During the 1980s, Hartford experienced an economic boom of sorts and by the late 1980s, almost a dozen new skyscrapers were proposed to be built in the city’s downtown. For various reasons, including the economic recession that followed in the early 1990s, many of these buildings were never built. By the beginning of the 21st century, many workers in Hartford lived more than 20 minutes drive from the city—though according to the Census Bureau, the city’s average commute time of 22 minutes is a full three minutes less than the US average.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.0 square miles (47 km2), of which 17.3 square miles (45 km2) is land and 0.7 square miles (1.8 km2) (3.67%) is water.
The Connecticut River forms the boundary between Hartford and East Hartford.
The Park River originally divided Hartford into northern and southern sections and was a major part of Bushnell Park, but the river was nearly completely enclosed and buried by flood control projects in the 1940s. The former course of the river can still be seen in some of the roadways that were built in the river’s place, such as Jewell Street and the Conlin-Whitehead Highway.
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Hartford lies in the humid continental climate zone (Köppen Dfa). Summers are typically hot and muggy, while winters are cold with frequent snowfall. The average annual precipitation is approximately 46.3 inches (1,180 mm), which is distributed fairly evenly throughout the year. Hartford typically receives about 49 inches (124 cm) of snow in an average winter; the record seasonal snowfall was 115.2 inches (293 cm) during the winter of 1995–1996. The first snowfall typically occurs in mid to late November and the last snow of the season usually occurs in late March, although accumulating snow has occurred as early as mid-October and as late as mid-May in extreme events. During the summer, temperatures often exceed90 °F (32 °C), and do so on an average of 17 days per year, though the record number of occurrences was 38 in 1983. Conversely, temperatures dip to 0 °F (−18 °C) or below on an average of 4 nights per year. Thunderstorms are common during the summer months since the frontal boundary that separates the tropical air mass from colder air to the north moves back and forth over the city. While these thunderstorms may be severe with damaging winds and hail, tornadoes are rare. Tropical storms and hurricanes have also struck Hartford, although the occurrence of such systems is rare and is usually confined to the remnants of such storms. Hartford saw extensive damage from the 1938 New England Hurricane, as well as with Hurricane Irenein 2011. The highest temperature recorded in Hartford is 103 °F (39 °C) on July 22, 2011 and the lowest is −26 °F (−32 °C) on January 22, 1961.
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Founded in 1872, the Ados Israel Synagogue closed in the mid-1980s, as the Jewish community migrated to suburbs such as West Hartford.
As of the census of 2010, there were 124,775 people, 44,986 households, and 27,171 families residing in the city. The population density was 7,025.5 people per square mile (2,711.8/km²). There were 50,644 housing units at an average density of 2,926.5 per square mile (1,129.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 29.8% white, 38.7% African American or black, 0.6% Native American, 2.8% Asian, 0% Pacific Islander, 23.9 from other races, and 4.2% from two or more races. 43.4% of the population were Hispanic or Latino, chiefly of Puerto Rican origin. Non-Hispanic Whites were 15.8% of the population in 2010, down from 63.9% in 1970.
There were 44,986 households out of which 34.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 25.2% were married couples living together, 29.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.6% were non-families. 33.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.58 and the average family size was 3.33.
In the city, the population distribution skews young: 30.1% under the age of 18, 12.6% from 18 to 24, 29.8% from 25 to 44, 18.0% from 45 to 64, and 9.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $20,820, and the median income for a family was $22,051. Males had a median income of $28,444 versus $26,131 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,428. After World War II, and continuing through the latter half of the 20th century, many Puerto Ricans moved to the city. As of 2010, 33.7% of Hartford residents claimed Puerto Rican heritage. This was the second-largest concentration of Puerto Ricans in the Northeast, behind only Holyoke, Massachusetts (source: 2010 census).
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Hartford’s neighborhoods are diverse and historic. The central business district, as well as the State Capitol, Old State House and a number of museums and shops are located Downtown. Parkville, home to Real Art Ways, is named for the confluence of the north and the south branches of the Park River. Frog Hollow, in close proximity to Downtown, is home to Pope Park and Trinity College which is one of the nation’s oldest institutions of higher learning. Asylum Hill, a mixed residential and commercial area, houses the headquarters of several insurance companies as well as the historic homes of Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe. The West End, home to the Governor’s residence, Elizabeth Park, and the University of Connecticut School of Law, abuts the Hartford Golf Club. Sheldon Charter Oak is renowned as the location of the Charter Oak and its successor monument as well as the former Colt headquarters including Samuel Colt’s family estate – Armsmear. The North East neighborhood is home to Keney Park and a number of the city’s oldest and ornate homes. The South End features “Little Italy” and was the home of Hartford’s sizeable Italian community. South Green hosts Hartford Hospital. The South Meadows is the site ofHartford-Brainard Airport and Hartford’s industrial community. The North Meadows has retail strips, car dealerships, and Comcast Theatre. Blue Hills is home of the University of Hartford and also houses the largest per capita of residents claiming Jamaican-American heritage in the United States. Other neighborhoods in Hartford include Barry Square, Behind the Rocks, Clay Arsenal, South West, and Upper Albany- which is dotted by many Caribbean restaurants and specialty stores.
In 2010, Hartford ranked 19th in the United States’ annual national crime rankings, (below the 200.00 rating.) It had the second highest crime rate in Connecticut, behind New Haven. Statistically Hartford’s Northern districts (North East, Asylum Hill, Upper Albany) had the highest murder rate, while the South districts (Downtown, Sheldon, South Green) had a slightly lower murder rate, but had the most crime overall. Overall, the South Meadows neighborhood had the lowest crime rate, respectively.
Hartford is the historic international center of the insurance industry, with companies such as Travelers, Aetna, The Hartford, The Phoenix Companies, Unipriseand Hartford Steam Boiler based in the city, and companies such as Lincoln National Corporation having major operations in the city. The city is also home to the corporate headquarters of U.S. Fire Arms and United Technologies.
From the 19th century until the mid-20th century, Hartford was a major manufacturing city. During the Industrial Revolution into the mid-20th century, theConnecticut River Valley cities produced many major precision manufacturing innovations. Among these was Hartford’s pioneer bicycle (and later) automobile maker Pope. As in nearly all former Northern manufacturing cities, many factories have been closed, relocated, or reduced operations.
Despite the city’s lengthy history with the insurance industry, various insurers have recently left Hartford and moved their operations to other locations, including to some of Hartford’s suburbs. Citing the tax structure in the city and parking shortages, MetLife recently vacated several floors in CityPlace, Connecticut’s largest office building, and joined CIGNA in a large suburban campus in Bloomfield, Connecticut. Lincoln Financial has recently cut its Hartford workforce, whileTravelers elected to construct a sprawling training complex in Windsor, Connecticut, just north of the city. Originating from the acquisition of the travel protection division of Travelers, Travel Insured International operates out of East Hartford, Connecticut. Additionally, the Fortune 100 MassMutual Company recently relocated its Hartford operations 16 miles north to Enfield, Connecticut. The Hartford‘s life insurance division is primarily located in nearby Simsbury, Connecticut.
At the same time, many companies have moved to or expanded in the central business district and surrounding neighborhoods. Aetna announced mid-decade that by 2010 it would move nearly 3,500 employees from its Middletown, Connecticut offices to its corporate headquarters in the Asylum Hill section of the city. Travelers recently expanded its operations at several downtown locations. In 2008, Sovereign Bank consolidated two bank branches as well as its regional headquarters in a nineteenth-century palazzo on Asylum Street. In 2009, Northeast Utilities, a Fortune 500 company and New England’s largest energy utility, announced it would establish its corporate headquarters downtown. In the same year, work began at the southeastern corner of Constitution Plaza on the AI Technology Center, the future headquarters of the eponymous engineering firm. AI’s chief executive helped finance the building, the first commercially leasable structure in Connecticut to be certified at the platinum level under the US Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program. Other recent entrants into the downtown market include GlobeOp Financial Services and specialty insurance broker S.H. Smith. CareCentrix, a patient home healthcare management company, is moving into downtown from East Hartford, where it will add over 200 jobs within the next few years.
Hartford is a center for medical care, research, and education. Within Hartford itself the city includes Hartford Hospital, The Institute of Living, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, and Saint Francis Hospital & Medical Center (which merged in 1990 with Mount Sinai Hospital).
Following the housing market decline, Hartford renters are finding cheap and declining rent averages in relation to national trends. “Declining rents are affecting not only Hartford but also other markets in Connecticut and across the country as employers remain restrained about hiring. Connecticut’s unemployment now stands at 9.1 percent, below the nation’s 9.7 percent.”
According to a 2011 study from Brookings Institute Global Metro Monitor, Hartford has the highest GDP per capita of the cities listed, with $75,086.