With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Seven Visible-From-the-Highway Wonders of Hartford

Most people who have not spent any significant amount of time in Hartford will often will comment that they have, “driven through a couple of times on the highway.” And they always seem to notice the Seven Visible-From-the-Highway Wonders of Hartford. As much as anything else in our fair city, the Seven Visible-From-the-Highway Wonders are icons that ground us all, giving us a sense of place and, for better or worse, making Hartford feel like home.

Have you ever wondered what monuments actually make up the Seven Visible-From-the-Highway Wonders of Hartford? Let Sad City Hartford’s handy guide show you the way.
The Colt Building
Built in 1855, the blue onion domed building is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Hartford. In the nineteenth century, America’s Wild West was tamed by the firearms that were manufactured in this building. In the twenty-first century, the Colt Building has some comically over-priced loft apartments.

Mount Trashmore
While the Colt Building welcomes visitors approaching Hartford from the south, Mount Trashmore welcomes visitors from the north. Nestled alongside I-91, Mount Trashmore was the home of the city dump. As far as we can tell, the site is currently closed and no longer accepting garbage. When we were children, we remember driving by the dump on the highway and all you could see was a much smaller pile of garbage. Today, Mount Trashmore is covered in green grass and black tarps and is roughly three times the size. It stands as a sobering reminder that the garbage that mysteriously disappears from our curbside every Wednesday, eventually winds up somewhere.

In the name of economic development, we suggest that the city reopens the landfill and we fill it even higher. After a few years, once it has reached an acceptable altitude, we should get some snow machines and cover it with snow. Then, KA-POW! You’ve got yourself a man-made ski resort.

Connecticut River
We’re not really sure why we included it on the list, but isn’t really weird that the Connecticut River not only runs through Connecticut, but it’s also in New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts. Weird, right? Other than that, we have no idea why it would be significant, but you can see it from the highways.

Elf Storage
Every December, some “hysterical” person always dims the “S” bulb on the self-storage building located that’s visible from I-84. We can’t stress how funny that joke is. It’s right up there with Ziggy comic strips and “Hoof Arted” t-shirts.

The Cupcake Building
Most people drive by the Cupcake Building on I-84 and wonder some very logical questions. Why does the building look like four orange Hostess Cupcakes? Why would they stick something like that right next to the highway? Why do they belch mysterious smoke? Is that building a pollution factory, and if so, why would anyone manufacture pollution in the first place?

While we don’t have all of the answers to some of these burning questions, Sad City Hartford did do a bit of digging and came up with the following:
  • According to Google Maps, the building is officially known as the Capital District Energy Center.
  • It’s apparently a power plant that generates roughly 56 MW (???). The plant runs primarily on natural gas.
  • The smoke you see belching out of the cupcakes is actually steam.
  • Odds are that this blog post was written using electricity that was produced at the Cupcake Building.
  • Sadly, no cupcakes are produced at the Cupcake Building. But if they did, Hartford would smell like a bakery. And that would be awesome.
Connecticut Science Center
The newest entry on our list (it bumped the Convention Center off), the Science Center has a cool, wavy roof. We are not sure if the roof serves any functional purpose, but we like it. Plus, the science stuff they have inside is also cool, albeit overrun with obnoxious children.

Infinite Pulaski Circle
Visible from the Whitehead Highway, the Infinite Pulaski Circle serves an important purpose for those heading downtown from I-91. Its rotary design allows them to quickly determine if they have made a mistake and allows them to get back on the highway without dealing with any traffic lights. If only other things in life allowed you to change your mind as easily as the City of Hartford.


  1. You forgot the two sided building (whatever the heck its called)

  2. Lets also mention all the grafetti that is posted on the retaining walls and overpass columns on the I-91 across from the Hartford Steam Boiler building and the Science Center just as you pass under the I-84. This is a great look for the city. Sprawling grafetti at least 20 feet high on the East Hartford Side. How is it that a group of individuals (I will be nice here) can work through the night and never be noticed or recorded doing this dirty deed. The city accepts no responsiblity for it. DOT does not have anything to do with it either and will not clean it up. This is an area where you are entering the city and surely get an eyefull of who is in control of this city. But the answer is the Railroad, as I was told by DOT. Not sure which railroad though, but the railroad will periodically make a pass there to do a cleanup or paint over. The wall is a retaining wall that benefits the city and should be considered a joint effort by all the agencies involved to be maintained. But if you are driving in the area enjoy the eyesore.

  3. I agree with Gabriel. The graffiti adds life and color to the city...especially those boring cement walls. There should be more of it.

  4. C'mon, ELF Storage is funny!

  5. I'd include the twin towers across from pope park too, or the christmas wreath on the top of city place in december, do they still do that?

  6. What's the building/tower that looks like Batman that you see as you approach Sad City on 84 from the west?