HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Despite a multimillion-dollar tourism campaign touting Connecticut’s role in the Revolutionary War, an 18th century landmark in downtown Hartford remains closed on Sundays.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy wants to change that.
In an interview on WFSB-TV on Sunday, the Democratic governor said he will ask legislative leaders to open the Old State House on Sundays to bring more tourists. The Old State House, built in 1796, is operated by a nonprofit organization and overseen by the legislature.
“That’s a battle well worth having,” he said.
The governor may not have to fight hard. Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney said “it would make sense” to explore whether the Old State House should be opened on Sundays. The earliest it would open is next year.
“I would think it’s something we could do … for next summer,” he said.
The building overlooking the Connecticut River had about 12,500 visitors in the past state budget year. Of that, 8,400 were members of school groups.
It’s open Tuesday to Saturday in the summer and Monday to Friday during the winter.
A state audit recommended last month that the Old State House reduce its schedule of days it’s open to reduce staffing costs. It posted revenue last year of $110,424, down 14 percent from 2010. Expenses in 2011 were $871,129.
Even collecting admission is costly, according to the audit. The state paid about $41,500 to collect $36,018 in fees.
Malloy made tourism a key part of his 2010 campaign for governor. He began his push for Connecticut tourism soon after taking office, making money available so the state could pay $100,000 in dues and renew its membership with Discover New England. The regional tourism group left Connecticut off a website map after the state slashed its tourism marketing budget and failed to pay the dues.
The Sunday closing of the Old State House is particularly galling to Malloy, who launched a new state brand with Connecticut tourism officials in May highlighting its place in U.S. history. The new “Still Revolutionary” motto is at the center of a two-year, $27 million state marketing initiative.
Connecticut is not only trying to draw attention to its role in the Revolutionary War, but also its contributions to the Industrial Revolution a century later. Connecticut is competing for tourists who spend their money at historic sites in other former U.S. colonies.
“We’ve failed to do a few things and that is to do what a place like Philadelphia or Boston (does) extraordinarily well and that’s to celebrate their history,” Malloy said. “We’ve stopped reminding people of the greatness and the revolutionary spirit that is Connecticut.”
Looney said opening the Old State House on Sundays will draw tourists to downtown Hartford, which includes the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and nearby Connecticut Science Center, both of which open on Sundays.
Susan Talbott, director and chief executive of the Wadsworth Atheneum, said the museum and Old State House could generate visitors to each attraction if the Old State House were open on Sundays. Museum attendance on Sundays is “quite steady,” despite a major renovation, she said.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)