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The USS Hartford

Background (cont'd from page 4)
The USS Hartford's final port, in 1945, was the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Here she was shuttled from pier to pier and finally moved across the Elizabeth River to the Helena Annex. By 1948 her decks were rotten and her hull was leaking.

In 1954 the city of Mobile would have accepted her as a national monument. But the estimated cost of putting her in condition was two million dollars. Although this passed the House of Representatives, Congress adjourned before the Senate acted. After that, Congress procrastinated on spending anything on her restoration. She had lost her masts, spars, and rigging. Her guns had been melted down for scrap metal. The Navy Department requested permission to scrap the ship.

In June 1956, the House Armed Services Committee introduced a bill providing one and a quarter million dollars to restore the USS Hartford. On November 20, 1956, while this bill was waiting consideration, the pumps on the Hartford failed. She sank into twenty-seven feet of water and mud.

The Hartford was towed out to an abandoned wharf and ripped to pieces. By November, 1957, only her lower holds and keel remained. They were soaked with inflammables and burned. On that day, November 6, 1957, the USS Hartford, a proud, beautiful ship, met her shameful death.

In the same year the University was established. On February 21, 1957, Governor Ribicoff signed the charter creating the University of Hartford. Its three founding schools are the Hartford Art School, Hillyer College, and the Hartt College of Music. The Hartford Art School first held classes in 1877. Hillyer College traces its history back to 1879 when the YMCA was holding classes in various locations in Hartford. In 1888 Charles Tudor Hillyer, a Civil War general, purchased land in Hartford and gave it to the YMCA for a building of their own. When General Hillyer died, his children gave the YMCA a $50,000 endowment to establish Hillyer Institute, which became Hillyer Junior College in 1937 and Hillyer College in 1947. The Hartt College of Music dates back to 1920.

Also in 1957, a Civil War buff from West Hartford, Robert L. McGovern, was visiting the Navy Shipyard in Portsmouth, VA. The USS Hartford had been classified as a relic, with various items from the ship distributed to museums. On behalf of Hartford's Historical Landmarks Committee, Mr. McGovern requested the ship's bell and a bow anchor. They were both secured with the help of Senator William A. Purtell and Representative Edwin H. May. The bell went to the city of Hartford. The anchor, to the University of Hartford, approved for the gift because alumni had found in World Wars I and II. Its arrival was assured after communications between Naval personnel and Alan S. Wilson, the University's Vice-president of Academic Affairs.

Bell from USS Hartford The three-ton anchor arrived at the University's new campus in March, 1958. At a dedication ceremony Representative Ed May said "Many historians now claim that the USS Hartford was the salvation of the nation during the Civil War." The anchor, thirteen feet tall with ten-foot-wide flukes, has become an artistic outlet for students who delight in painting it, marking special events or just making a statement of their own.

The bell from the USS Hartford is pictured above. The memory of this old warship has been preserved. An attack submarine, built by Connecticut workers and stationed in Groton, was christened the USS Hartford in 1993. U.S. Navy Commander George Kasten's wish is that his sub become a symbol of Hartford, and that the Greater Hartford Chamber of Commerce adopt as the city's slogan, "Full speed ahead!"

Using the Collection
Contact the archives at 860.768.4143 for more information about the U.S.S. Hartford's anchor.

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