Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Strong Constitution

Magnet # 436:  Map of Connecticut

Material:  Acrylic

Purchased By:  Me

Connecticut joined the Union on this day in 1788, making it the fifth state.  Europeans had been in the area as early as 1614, when Dutch explorer Adriaen Block sailed up the Connecticut River, making it as far as the present day sit of Hartford.  He claimed the land as part of the New Netherlands territory, but the Dutch wouldn't build a settlement there for almost twenty years.  That was when they established a small fort dubbed the "House of Hope" where Hartford would one day stand.  However, it wasn't a permanent settlement and the British continually encroached on it until they finally able to drive the Dutch out with the 1650 Treaty of Hartford.  The first British to arrive in the territory came from nearby Massachusetts, and they created the first three permanent settlements there - Windsor, Wethersfield, and Hartford.  In 1636, the three towns united to form the Connecticut Colony.  New Haven actually developed as a separate Puritan colony two years later.  The Connecticut Colony made history by forming the Fundamental Orders, a system of government that allowed the voters to elect government officials, and are often regarded to be the first written constitution.  It wasn't long before the Connecticut and New Haven colonies united, despite some misgivings from the latter.  Between then and the onset of the American Revolution, Connecticut had a couple of interesting moments.  One occurred in 1686, when Sir Edmund Andros, who had been commissioned Royal Governor of the Dominion of New England, attempted to take the charter which had served as the colony's constitution.  But it was smuggled away and legend holds it was hidden in the historic Charter Oak in Hartford.  And another was brought on when Connecticut laid claim to pretty much all of the lands between it and the Pacific.  This didn't go over very well and even led to open warfare with Pennsylvania before the matter could be resolved.  Later, on June 14 of 1776, Connecticut passed a resolution in favor of gaining independence from Britain, paving the way for it to join in the American Revolution and eventually gain statehood.  In the days since then, it's gone on to become one of the most prosperous states in the Union.

I've been to Connecticut twice in my life.  I admit, my first trip through the state didn't make much of an impression on me - I went through it with my family when we were on the way to Maine.  If we made any significant stops, I don't remember them.  So when I traveled there to visit my friend Catherine last year, I wanted to really get a feel for the place.  I must say, Connecticut has some of the nicest homes I saw in all of New England.  In fact, it boasts the second largest amount of multi-million dollar homes in the nation, coming in only after California.  Not only were they impressive, they were also very charming, even picturesque.  The state also had a very small town feeling, with more locally owned businesses than major chains, at least where Catherine lives and in Mystic, which is about an hour away. I was also really appreciative of the fact that I wasn't behind the wheel, so I could better take in the scenic views.  I really did find Connecticut to be a lovely place.  And I enjoyed the food there, too.  We ate at a few local establishments, one that served seafood and two breakfast places, and all of the meals were very good.  The one kind of food I wanted to try, but didn't get the chance, was pizza.  Connecticut is known for having some of the best pizza in the nation.  Of course, there's Mystic Pizza, made famous by a movie named after it, but other parts of the state, particularly New Haven, are known for their delicious offerings.  New Haven's Wooster Square neighborhood is home to the Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana and Sally's Apizza, which were opened by members of the same family and both feature thin-crust pies baked in coal-fired brick ovens.  They're two of the oldest and best known pizzerias in the country and customers will wait for hours in line to get a taste of their incredible creations.  I'd certainly like a chance to try out at least one of these establishments.  I think I'll probably get a chance sometime, because I plan on making my way to the Constitution State again.  Not only is it a great place to visit, it's an excuse to meet up with Catherine again.  And while my second trip to the state made a much firmer impression on me, I realize that there's plenty more in Connecticut that I have yet to experience.

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