/ -

Hartford and New Haven: A Tale of Two Capitals

Hartford and New Haven: A Tale of Two Capitals

Can you name the Connecticut state capital city? If you said Hartford, you’d be right — well, half right. At one point in time, the state of Connecticut was home to not one, but two state capitals, one of which was none other than New Haven. New Haven and Hartford shared the plate as co-capitals for the Connecticut General Assembly until 1878. Connecticut state legislators would travel back and forth between the two cities to attend alternating bi-yearly legislative sessions – talk about a commute.

Why Have One When You Can Have Two?

In case you snoozed during American History class, the colonial era was one marked by rivalries and land disputes. The Hartford and New Haven settlements began just two years apart – the former in 1636 by Rev. Thomas Hooker, and the latter in 1638 by Rev. John Davenport. In 1665, like any good love story, the settlements were brought together by royal charter. In 1701, New Haven and Hartford were named co-capitals, sharing the responsibility of hosting the rotating meetings of the General Assembly. In a year that saw two meetings, the cities would each get one – like in-laws at the holidays. During these years, spring General Assembly meetings took place in Hartford, and fall meetings in New Haven. In the years that called for just one meeting, the two cities took turns hosting – again, like in-laws at the holidays.

Hartford Becomes the Sole State Capital

After years of co-capitaling, the conditions of each city’s respective State Houses began to crumble, in need of reconstruction, repairs, and expansions. The maintenance of not one, but two state houses was a financial burden the state simply could not take on. Furthermore, the storage of books and files across two cities was (shockingly) not working out. Two state capitals was not the solution, but how do we pick just one? The decision was laid at the feet of the public, whose responsibility it became to decide which city would stand as the sole capital of Connecticut.

New Haven residents lobbied for our city, arguing that the city’s booming industry and growing population made it the ideal capital. Ultimately, the city of Hartford offered up a plot of land and a $500,000 check to construct a new capitol building, an offer the residents could not turn down. The public took it to a vote, and in 1875, Hartford was named the sole capital city of Connecticut.

What Now for New Haven?

In 1874, the last General Assembly meeting was held in the New Haven State House. The city’s plan? Demolish the building, which once stood as the focal point of our beloved New Haven Town Green. 3,000 locals gathered to watch the ceremonial demolition, a decision the community would later regret.


Without the physical memory of this piece of New Haven history, we’re left with this – the story and the knowledge that, once upon a time, New Haven was a capital of Connecticut.