It happens every four years, and while 2008 was of epic historic proportion, the inauguration of Barack Obama for a second term is still quite an historic and celebrated event. On January 20, the official swearing-in ceremony will occur at the White House, but January 21 will have all the pomp and circumstance we expect of an American passage. While experiencing this event at a watch party with friends is certainly a good idea, here are a few things you can do in Connecticut to get into the spirit of the American presidency.
**Hartford’s Presidential Footsteps**
Hartford’s downtown provides a walk through time and several Presidential-related stops along the way. Several US presidents have walked, either literally or figuratively, within Connecticut’s capitol city, Hartford, home of the first constitution written in the United States. The walk begins and ends with Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the US, who led the country during the tumultuous times of the Civil War.
One Union Place
Hartford, CT 06103
Begin at Union Station. While the current Union Station wasn’t built until 1889, President Lincoln arrived at Hartford’s Union Depot, a street-level station in roughly the same location, late Monday, March 5, 1860. The current station, listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, is a visually heavy depot constructed from Connecticut brownstone from nearby Portland, CT. Built in 1889, the station had to be rebuilt in 1914 due to a fire that gutted the building and consumed the roof.
From there, proceed to Asylum Street in the footsteps of Lincoln who, according to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, “walked up Asylum Street to the bookstore of Brown & Gross” (located at 77-79 Asylum Street, west of Main Street). As you walk down Asylum Street towards the former bookstore, pause for a moment and look to the south where the grandeur of the state capitol building, built in 1874 (a mere 14 years after Lincoln’s visit), and its golden dome tower over Bushnell Park. Its presence is quite stately and visually speaks to the importance and presence of government within our society and country. If time permits, plan a visit to and learn more about this national historical landmark.
Connecticut State Capitol
210 Capitol Ave.
Hartford, CT 06106
At the corner of Asylum and Trumbull, take a brief detour and turn left after crossing the intersection. Less than one block in, located about 10 feet above the sidewalk, you can find a plaque marking the historic event of 1902 when Theodore Roosevelt became the first president to be seen riding in an automobile in public. The car was a Columbia Electric Victoria Phaeton, manufactured in Hartford.
Backtracking to Asylum Street, turn left and head east once more, passing the former location of Brown & Gross. While there are no markers there, it was at the Brown & Gross bookstore where Lincoln ran into Gideon Welles for the first time. This meeting is said to have historic significance as eight months later, Welles was named as Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy. Approaching the corner of Main and Asylum, the Old State House (OSH) comes into view.
Connecticut’s Old State House
800 Main St.
Hartford, CT 06103
Built in 1796, OSH is the oldest state house in the nation and was once the center of government for Connecticut from 1796 until 1878, when the previously mentioned new capitol building was opened. OSH is the site of the beginning of the famous Amistad trial in 1839, before concluding in New Haven, and many US presidents have visited including Jackson, Monroe, Johnson, Carter, Ford and George H. Bush.
Lincoln Financial Sculpture Walk at Riverfront
Mortensen Plaza area
300 Columbus Blvd.
Hartford, CT 06103
The final stop of this historic walk is just a block west of OSH, along the banks of the Connecticut River, where Mortensen Plaza stands. It is here, and the surrounding area along the Connecticut River, where 15 award-winning sculptures stand, reflecting the life and values of Abraham Lincoln. One of the works of art located in the plaza itself is Bruno Lucchesi’s “Lincoln Meets Stowe” depicting the time when Harriett Beecher Stowe met Lincoln on November 25, 1862 in Washington DC.
**Yale’s Presidential Footsteps**
Now that you’ve made the stroll through Harford, see what presidential greats have made their way through the doors of Yale. It seems a few presidents were rubbing elbows long before the White House.
Department of Economics/Yale University
37 Hillhouse Ave.
New Haven, CT 06511
From 1945 to 1948, George Herbert Walker Bush attended Yale University in New Haven, CT. While there, he lived at Graves-Gilman House (now 37 Hillhouse), a 1866 Victorian Italian villa that was modified into apartments for married Yale students at the time of his college years. On July 6, 1946, he and his wife Barbara had a son, George W. Bush, at Grace-New Haven Community Hospital. The family lived there until George W. was two, then they moved to Texas. The house is currently used by the Yale Department of Economics.
252 Derby Ave.
West Haven, CT 06516
While at Yale, George H. Bush was a member (and even captain) of the Yale Bulldogs baseball team, playing home games at Yale Field. Bush even played in two College World Series (1947 and 1948). In addition, his son George W. Bush also played baseball there years later.
Skull & Bones Society
64 High St.
New Haven, CT 06511
In addition to the Bushes, William Taft also attended Yale from 1874 to 1878 and was a Professor of Constitutional Law from 1912 to 1921. Taft, George H. Bush, George W. Bush and 2004 democratic presidential candidate John Kerry were all members of Skull and Bones, a prominent, seniors-only secret society that swirls with world power domination controversy.
Edward Main is a freelance writer covering all things Connecticut. His work can be found on Examiner.com.