Business New Haven
By: Priscilla Searles
For the better part of two centuries, New Haven was co-capital of Connecticut.
New Haven became co-capital, with Hartford, in 1701, with the General Assembly meeting twice a year in Hartford. In 1719, the first State House in New Haven was built on the northwest corner of the Green, adjoining the County House.
In addition to being used by the legislature, the building housed the courts and was sometimes referred to as the Court House. A room in this State House was used for the session of the County and Superior Courts until 1763, when a new brick building was erected for the State House.
Located between the present sites of Trinity and Center churches on the upper Green, the entrance faced Temple Street. This building was used during the American Revolution and into the first part of the 19th century.
In 1827, the General Assembly voted to construct a new State House, the building also to house accommodations for the various courts for the city, town and county of New Haven. New Haven was to pay one-third of the cost of the new building. The money was to be raised by charging one cent on the dollar on the list of polls and ratable estate of the inhabitants of the county and no more.
In 1828 construction was begun on a new State and Court House on the Green near College Street, behind Center Church. The old State House was dismantled and some of the materials were used in the new construction. While the building was under construction the courts met in the basement of the Methodist Church.
Designed by Ithiel Town, the new State House was built in the Greek Revival style and designed after the Temple of Theseus. It was ready for occupancy in 1831. The court was located on the first floor, and it was in this room that the Amistad case was tried by Judge Andrew Judson of U.S. District Court in 1840. The building continued to function as a courthouse until 1861, and as a State House by the Legislature until 1873, when New Haven ceased to be co-capital of Connecticut. New Haven had put up a good fight, hoping to be named the sole permanent capital of Connecticut.
The battle between Hartford and New Haven raged from 1867 to 1873. New Haven and Hartford had been sharing the honor as co-capitals of the colony, and then the state, for more than a century and a half - but the legislature wanted a single seat of government, and it wanted it in Hartford. New Haven tried to battle back, offering to build a new State House and give it to the people of Connecticut. When the proposed amendment came before the people, Hartford triumphed by a narrow margin.
Despite protests, in 1885 the Court of Common Council voted to remove the old State House from the Green which, by then, was in an advanced state of disrepair. Four years later the building was demolished in sensational fashion as 3,000 people looked on. Iron cables were passed through the east and west columns. Seven men then turned a windlass connected to the cables and the six massive columns of the north portico came crashing down. The last physical remnant of New Haven, co-capital of Connecticut, had come to dramatic end.