Coltsville Historic District on Path to Landmark Status

Posted on Thursday, December 6 2007 by Heather Brandon

Coltsville Historic DistrictFormer Colt factory turned mixed use facilityA press release yesterday from Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez‘s office dramatically announced that the blue onion-domed Coltsville Historic District “cleared a major hurdle on the road to its rightful place in American history.” Governor Jodi Rell and presidential candidate Senator Chris Dodd also chimed in with releases yesterday.

“In a quick, decisive, and unanimous decision,” Perez added, “the advisory committee of the National Park Service said, ‘Yes.’ This is the critical step that had eluded us in the past. Now Coltsville is on the path to receive recognition as a National Historic Landmark.”

Decisive decisions are always the best.

Congressman Larson testifiesCongressman John Larson (pictured), who testified yesterday in Washington, DC about the significance of the old Colt factory, wrote a piece for Sunday’s Courant describing why he thinks its status so important. Previous work on Congressman Larson’s part regarding Coltsville can be found here. From the article:

Beyond the company’s key contributions to the military, Coltsville has great historical significance as the seed of the Industrial Revolution in this country and the birthplace of a great advance in women’s rights.

Samuel ColtUnder the leadership of Sam and Elizabeth Colt, the Colt Factory changed the way we produced weapons. Sam’s ideas and innovations spread quickly throughout the industrial world. The skills the company gained in producing high-quality weapons efficiently were applied by many manufacturers, including the makers of automobiles, jet engines and clocks.

Some of our nation’s best-known businessmen such as Henry Ford, Francis Pratt and Amos Whitney apprenticed in the Colt Factory. They took what they learned about the assembly line and precision manufacturing to their own companies, building them into some of this country’s greatest industrial success stories.

Former Colt factory turned mixed use facility“Colt Firearms helped make Hartford a thriving industrial center in the late 19th Century,” Mayor Perez stated in a release, “revolutionizing military tactics and combat procedures.”

Larson speaks on Coltsville in 2002, alongside Sen. Chris Dodd and Mayor PerezIn Washington yesterday, Mayor Perez (pictured, right, in 2002 with Senator Dodd and Congressman Larson) also advocated for the historic district, speaking in favor of national recognition, which in the past had been denied.

Earlier this year, a release noted, Perez sent a letter to the National Park Service stating his gratitude for its support, and for understanding the significance and the symbolism of this landmark and its role for the future of Hartford. After yesterday’s unanimous vote in favor of landmark status, Perez said, “This is a huge victory for the Coltsville Historic District and for the City of Hartford as a whole. History will be preserved and the spirit of innovation, economic development, and entrepreneurism will live on by forging ahead with future plans while maintaining the integrity of this national treasure.”

Dirk Kempthorne, US Secretary of the InteriorNow the matter will come under review by the National Historic Landmark advisory committee, followed by Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne (pictured), according to Sarah Barr, the mayor’s director of communications.

Mayor Perez continued, “Hartford is one step closer to preserving its place in history. The significance and symbolism of the Colt landmark is well-documented and celebrated. The Colt manufacturing facility, through its cutting edge technology, helped preserve the union and helped preserve America’s liberties in two World Wars. I think it is only fitting that it be preserved as a National Historic Landmark.”

Mayor Perez also said in a release that he believes the famous dome atop the Colt facility has “transcended the ages” and will “continue to help define Hartford’s skyline and its vision for the future.”

That may be well and good and such sweeping statements may even turn out to be true. Still, nearby resident and blogger Kerri Provost of Real Hartford muses on all this reverence toward guns.

Design plans for Coltsville Heritage Park by TO Design LLCColt Gateway LLCIn an article in today’s Courant, Rebekah MacFarlane of Colt Gateway LLC, which has been struggling to transform the brick firearms complex into a mixed-use facility including residences and commercial areas, noted the landmark status “could possibly bring money” in, “but financial considerations weren’t what brought her company to push for the recognition.”

An article in the New York Times this fall painted a picture of what it can be like to live in an apartment in a place of such historic significance as Coltsville.

“It’s more about marketability,” MacFarlane told Courant reporter Jeffrey Cohen. “You get the signs from the highway. It’s an honor, a distinction, and it’s really the stepping stone to becoming a National Historic Park.”

One Response to “Coltsville Historic District on Path to Landmark Status”

  1. Heather Brandon

    An editorial in today’s Courant takes credit on behalf of the newspaper for initiating a campaign five years ago to save the former Colt factory.

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