21 years ago this week preservationists lost a battle to save this building, Hartford’s first skyscraper. The Hartford Aetna National Bank building stood for nearly 80 years at the corner of Main and Asylum. Its owners, the Society of Savings, wanted to demolish the building to build a 45 story tower that would become the tallest in Connecticut. They also torn down four other historic buildings as part of their plan. The tower was never built, and a once vibrant corner became a parking lot. Sound familiar?
For a brief period in the 1990s, the lot was used as an open air market, that featured live music. The wooden structures covering the market were torn down when a developer proposed another skyscraper for the plot, Renaissance Place. At the time, then Mayor Mike Peters said the market could only be dismantled if construction on Renaissance Place began within a year. He did not want to see this prime piece of real estate become another parking lot, like the site of the former Statler Parkview Hilton. Renaissance Place, featuring a Westin Hotel, was scrapped.
Now might be time for the city to take a good look at this site. Is a surface parking lot really the best use for this property? Can the city talk to the owners about their deal with Mayor Peters so many years ago?
This Sunday at 11AM on our Face the State flashback we will air some archival footage of the Aetna demolition. It is both spectacular and sad.