A National Historic Landmark, Connecticut's Old State House was once a state capitol building where citizens and all three branches of government debated matters of national importance for over 80 years. Now serving as one of the Constitution State's most historically-significant museums, the tradition of civil discourse is carries on through programming, events, tours and exhibits.


  • The Senate Chamber at Connecticut's Old State House. Directly adjacent to the Senate, across the hall, is the House of Representatives.
    The Senate Chamber at Connecticut's Old State House. Directly adjacent to the Senate, across the hall, is the House of Representatives.
  • Connecticut's Old State House offers engaging programs year-round, including "Conversations at Noon," a free lunchtime lecture series.
    Connecticut's Old State House offers engaging programs year-round, including "Conversations at Noon," a free lunchtime lecture series.
  • Connecticut's Old State House is located in Hartford, Connecticut at 800 Main Street.  Walk-ins are always welcome, guided & self-guided tours of the building our included with admission.
    Connecticut's Old State House is located in Hartford, Connecticut at 800 Main Street. Walk-ins are always welcome, guided & self-guided tours of the building our included with admission.
  • Gilbert Stuart's portrait of George Washington, exactly as we see him on the dollar bill. This portrait hangs in the Old State House, as it has done since its completion in 1796 (the same year the State House itself was completed).
    Gilbert Stuart's portrait of George Washington, exactly as we see him on the dollar bill. This portrait hangs in the Old State House, as it has done since its completion in 1796 (the same year the State House itself was completed).
  • The famous bicephalic calf, which has resided in the Old State House's Museum of Natural and Other Curiosities since 1996, 200 years after the State House (and the original MONAOC) opened.
    The famous bicephalic calf, which has resided in the Old State House's Museum of Natural and Other Curiosities since 1996, 200 years after the State House (and the original MONAOC) opened.
  • The cupola with Lady Justice that was draped in black by activists to mourn the death of John Brown in December, 1859.
    The cupola with Lady Justice that was draped in black by activists to mourn the death of John Brown in December, 1859.

The Old State House held its first meeting on May 11, 1796 and was the first public building designed by Boston architect Charles Bullfinch, who later worked on the Massachusetts State House and the Capitol Building in Washington, DC. The state house is similar to Liverpool's town hall which was constructed in 1754.  In 1960 the building was designated as a National Historic Landmark, and in 1966 added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The building has changed from its original 18th century appearance, as the balustrade was constructed in the early 1800s to protect firemen who might need access to the roof. The cupola with bell and statue of Lady Justice was added in 1827.At the grand old age of 200, the Old State House underwent an extensive, four-year renovation, and re-opened on its bicentennial in 1996.

Perhaps the most significant event to occur within these walls was the Amistad Trial. In 1839, attorney Roger Sherman Baldwin represent enslaved persons who had fought for their freedom during an on-board mutiny on the high seas. Proving that they had been illegally transported across the Atlantic after the United States and other nations banned the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the court sided with the rebels in a case that would lay the grounds for the Supreme Court's hearing of the Amistad case.

Another event that occurred at this building also demonstrates the importance of Hartford's small but active community of anti-slavery men and women. Three days after the execution of Connecticut-born John Brown for his part in the failed raid on the Harper's Ferry arsenal,  two men, one black and one white, climbed up to the state house roof and draped Lady Justice in a mourning veil. The Old State House has commemorated both events with special exhibits and tours to demonstrate the connection between this building and the larger history of freedom and slavery within antebellum America.

The building also houses many intriguing artifacts, including a bicycle belonging to Hartford's most famous former resident Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain). There is also a museum of curiosities that dates back to the late 18th century and includes such items as a two-headed calf that was born in Michigan. The calf is on display in the Museum of Natural and Other Curiosities which has occupied the top floor of the state house on and off since it opened it 1796. In June of 2016, budget cuts forced the building to close its doors to the public and for several months the museum could only offer pop-up exhibits in a small space loaned out by neighboring retail complex State House Square. The museum was able to reopen in November, 2016.  

Today, the Old State House is back to operating on a full schedule, open five days a week. It also offers a range of programs for school groups on topics such as Connecticut in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the Amistad Trial, and the Charter Oak. The building is often rented out (during non-museum hours) for weddings and other special events. Seasonal happenings include a summer farmers market and concert series and a wintertime holiday market.

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