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.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Unseen Pictures of the Hartford Civic Center Roof Collapse

A massive event in Hartford history was the collapse of the Hartford Civic Center on January 18, 1978. That night the roof of what is now known as the XL Center  collapsed at about 4:15 AM. Amazingly no one was injured in the disaster. Only hours before about 5,000 people had attended a UConn basketball game at the Civic Center.

Built in 1975, the Civic Center's collapse has been attributed to a faulty, cost-cutting design in the roof. As seen in the pictures here, the snow that night wasn't particularly heavy, most reports have it at six inches.

The Civic Center was reopened in 1980 and continues to be in use today. These long buried photos were recovered by Sad City reader Paula Jean and were taken by fellow reader Jeff The Shot.

The photos are dated January 1978 and are believed to have been taken from the Gold Building. One can see lots of structures that are still standing and a good deal that are gone. Notable in the second photo is the familiar The Hartford building.

We are  intrigued by the bright mural in the lower left hand corner. It's hard to make out what exactly it is but it looks very kewl. These photos show us a glimpse at what Hartford looked like in the Jimmy Carter era and is another perspective on one of Hartford's greatest disasters.


  1. Isham-Terry House, holding it down.

  2. Any chance of getting some posts like, "Hartford, The way it used to be"

  3. It was a combo of ice and snow that night....that made it extra heavy

  4. I wouldn't think those pictures are from the Gold Building, probably the Bank of America Buidling (or whatever it is called)

  5. The mural at the lower left was by artist Michael Borders and was called "Genesis of the Capital City." Here's to a link to a good photo of it on his website: http://www.michaelborders.org/mu3.htm.
    The building it was on the side of, which housed the original downtown McDonalds, was later razed for one of the City Place towers.
    Also, for what it's worth, the white granite building almost directly above the caved in part of the roof and just in front of I-84, was the main Hartford post office on High Street.
    Another building you can kind of see is at the west end of the beloved Church St. parking garage, filling the still empty space between the garage and Ann St. That was the Hartford Hotel, a place hated by image-conscious city officials, because it was essentially a flophouse, a place where the otherwise homeless, people who didn't always dress for success, could live. I don't remember the details, but eventually there was some kind of repair project that damaged the building's structural integrity, so that it was considered vulnerable to collapse. It was condemned and torn down.

  6. I don't understand any of this.. Hartford CT is listed as my "hometown" on facebook, I guess I clicked on the side thingy by mistake, but - if it were a sad place to be ashamed about I guess I could put Manchester instead (which would be accurate).
    I grew up crossing over and pointing out buildings with my family - "the boat building! Travelers 'tower'! I Dream of Jeannie! (Colt Factory LOL)
    What's sad is - Hartford is rich with history, just a very nice little city - but somewhat of a ghost-town I'm afraid.
    I remember clearly when the Civic Center collapsed - the above description is accurate as far as what we heard, and we heard it over & over.. A fault in design/budget, come on - if it can't hold a whole lot of snow then it's not gonna work! And it wasn't a whole lot of snow.
    I've lived 1,000 miles away for decades now, and I still and will always wish for Hartford to succeed as a city. My heart is there, I am so sorry to see "sad" as a title to the place nowadays :(

  7. I was going to the game that night but because the weather was so bad....went to a bar instead! I remember the precip as a mixture of snow and ice...nasty night.

  8. Great photo and stories. There is a great line drawing by Hartford's own Richard Welling at the Hartford History Center @ Hartford Public Library. If you think the photos impressive, you should see Richard's drawings. Info at: http://www.hplct.org/hhc

    Anybody have some BEFORE shots of the HCC? Amazing how different it looked without the modern facade.

  9. My old man worked on both iterations of the roof. He said they knew it was likely to fail, but to make the changes would've put it behind schedule even further, and cost too much. By waiting for it to fail, most of the repair cost was covered by insurance.

  10. The mural was on the Resolute building. The Civic Center lower left corner was the former site of the "pigeonhole parking" garage that used a vertical and horizontal lift to pick and place cars in a garage built like giant PO boxes. The amount of snow that night was not all that bad - it was poor design that was forced into place. The resulting structure could hold, in some key places, 10% of what it was supposed to hold.

  11. I saw this from the top floor of the Sheraton though I believe it was called the Sonesta Hotel (?) back then.

  12. I took several pictures from different viewpoints soon after the civic center disaster and just re-discovered a similar view to the above, also taken from the gold building, which I just sent to Michael Borders.

  13. I still have my ticket stub from the UCONN vs. UMASS basketball game. We were sitting very close to the floor - great seats! Glad I'm here to talk about the game!!!

  14. Hi,
    I'm writing The Encyclopedia Of Jerry Garcia Music Venues. I'm interested in using the photo Hartford Civic Center photo. I'd need it at least 1mb or larger. Please email me at slipnut01@gmail.com.

    Thank you
    Harry Angus