Fifty years. Connecticut has seen and been through a lot over that time. Championships have been won, countless lives have been lost in both infamous and anonymous tragedies, battles over housing and beach access have been fought, media empires have been born, pizza has been perfected, politicians have taken corruption to new heights, and transformative figures have come and gone.
This is the story of us, from A to Z.
That thin, crisp crust with a kiss of coal. The tangy crushed tomato sauce. A scattering of sharp, salty Romano, a blanket of “mootz.” Freshly shucked clams, the sweetness of the bivalves melding with garlic, olive oil and herbs.
New Haven is a pizza city, and Connecticut is a pizza state. In fact, many believe Connecticut has the best pizza in the country. Some say that honor goes to New Jersey. (Jersey? The state that idolizes pork roll? Or is it Taylor Ham?)
Almost a century after Frank Pepe launched his Wooster Street pizzeria, the Elm City is considered one of the country’s best destinations for a pie. That’s thanks to national media mentions, celebrity visits and the proliferation of social media. Pepe’s pizza is now available in four states, and Sally’s is expanding to Stamford and Wethersfield. Just more evidence that we’re No. 1, and we’ll have words with anyone who says otherwise. — Leeanne Griffin
Ordinarily Lime Rock is a small solitary village on the way to someplace else in the northwest corner of Connecticut. But for a few fleeting days during the spring and summer months the racetrack there becomes a mecca for speeding machines and an open cult of people who can’t stay away. […]
Memorial Day weekend at Lime Rock is a happening. The people, whether wearing Guccis or sneakers, shell out $20 to hear the sinister whistle of the Porsche Turbos or to see such indomitable cars challenged, perhaps by a brawling Corvette.
The weekend is more than one race, one day, one night, one party. It’s a weekend filled with practice sessions, four different races for four different types of cars, a thousand lifestyles all sharing a common moment, a common attraction. It’s people celebrating life in a sport where death and destruction all too frequently capture the limelight.
By the 1960s Connecticut had 54 beach associations, as well as 184 private clubs and residential non-stock corporations. The result was a shoreline increasingly accessible only to the chosen few. Activist Ned Coll tried to change that, taking busloads of children from Hartford’s North End and other places to the beaches to raise awareness and effect change. As founder of the Revitalization Corps, he believed that children of all backgrounds playing together was one step toward an integrated society. The restrictions that many towns practiced did not truly end until 2001 when then-law student Brenden Leydon sued the town of Greenwich over its beach access ordinance, which limited access to residents only. The state Supreme Court ruled in his favor and it was at that point that many of the restrictions that towns practiced finally ended. — Janet Reynolds
For much of the past 50 years, brewing was a difficult business in Connecticut. Old names: Cremo, Lagray (brewers of the contemporaneously famous Red Fox Ale) and Wehle were all long gone, largely replaced by Midwestern macro-swill, with only Hull’s of New Haven hanging on into 1977, the year home brewing was re-legalized in the U.S.
The West Coast IPA would change the way America — and later the world — experienced beer, and by 1990 the New England Brewing Co., then located in South Norwalk, was noticed by The New York Times. Brewpubs were an early hit, with BAR in New Haven, Willimantic Brewing Company, and Hartford’s City Steam open by 1997. Olde Burnside and Thomas Hooker remained significant players in bottled beer through the 2000s, when new legislation — allowing taprooms and takeaway sales — was passed thanks in large part to Stratford’s Two Roads in 2012. Six state breweries at that time ballooned to over 100 by 2021 to local, state and national acclaim. — James Gribbon
The Blizzard of ’78
Neighbors helped neighbors. Cross-country skiers and snowmobile riders assisted stranded drivers. Employees stuck at work aided colleagues while sheltering in place out of necessity.
The sun and the moon worked together, too — though not in a good way. They were aligned in such a manner as to cause very high tides that created record-breaking floods.
It started on Feb. 6 as flurries, and ended a day-and-a-half later after dumping more than 2 feet of snow. Weather forecasters were taken by surprise. An estimated 100 people were killed, and injuries exceeded 4,500. The National Guard was dispatched to help. Thousands of cars were abandoned.
Even Gov. Ella Grasso had to abandon her car on the highway and hike to the Hartford Armory. She had also seen “ELLA HELP” carved into the snow, and publicly urged people to get together to help anyone they could. — JS
“We’ve built this monster; now we have to feed it,” Jim Calhoun is fond of saying about his program. No longer is a winning season the goal; that’s taken for granted. Now when he speaks of achievement, it’s in terms of postseason tournaments and national rankings. […]
National recognition couldn’t come at a better time in Jim Calhoun’s life. This past May he turned 50, and though he cavalierly dismisses the event as just another day, those close to him say his success has given him the security to relax and enjoy a personal life for the first time in six years since he left a comfortable coaching job at Northeastern University in Boston to rebuild the Huskies.
In that time, he has led the team to the 1988 NIT title, a Big East Tournament championship, and three straight NCAA postseason invitations. Since the 1989-90 dream season, when Tate George’s last-second shot vaulted UConn to the Final Eight (and ultimately a point away from the Final Four), the devotion to the Huskies has soared. U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s declaration in the Congressional Record, thanking the Huskies for pulling the state together, is as fresh today as it was when he brought it to the floor of the Senate on March 28, 1990.
The mastermind behind all of this frenzy is a fast-talking, quick-thinking Braintree, Mass., native whose face is second in recognition only to that of Gov. Lowell P. Weicker. Like Weicker, a dominant, forceful leader, Calhoun is particularly successful at imposing his will on others and has emerged as one of the most highly respected coaches in the land.
They’re driving through Ohio on a recruiting trip when the young assistant coach asks the wise older head coach a question about a play. The assistant is new to the team, though not to basketball. Shea Ralph was a star in high school and college, and is now in her first season as an assistant with the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team.
The pair stops for lunch. Ralph picks up her salad and a mozzarella-and-tomato sandwich for her boss and returns to their table. There she finds the 54-year-old coach, Geno Auriemma, furiously diagramming plays on napkins.
“That was the coolest thing,” Ralph says later. “No one has such passion for the game.” […]
Ralph and those who have played for Auriemma are nearly unanimous in their praise for the man who taught them so much about life and the meaning of success both inside and outside the sidelines of the Gampel Pavilion basketball court. […]
His profession has awarded him its highest honors. In 2006, he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., and five times he has been named national women’s basketball Coach of the Year. Even so, the doubts linger, a quality that keeps him on edge and drives him to seek a national championship year after year.
“Every game, every practice, every possession, I need to get it right. I need to make it perfect,” he says. “And, of course, I never do.”
In 1986, the Mashantucket Pequot tribe opened a high-stakes bingo parlor on their small reservation in rural Ledyard. Thus began the dramatic transformation of southeastern Connecticut from sleepy, rural backwater to gaming industry colossus. Only six years later, the tribe opened Foxwoods Resort Casino. With its nearest competition more than 250 miles away in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Foxwoods boomed, growing exponentially for years and becoming one of the region’s biggest employers. The state got in on the gold rush by negotiating an agreement granting the tribe the right to operate slot machines — only table games were allowed under the casino night law — for a cut of the take, earning taxpayers billions of dollars over the years. In 1996, the Mohegan tribe opened Mohegan Sun in nearby Montville, giving the state two of the largest casinos in the world.
The casinos’ huge success led various gaming moguls, including Donald Trump and Steve Wynn, to try to open more in the state. In addition, numerous Native American groups sought federal tribal recognition so they too could open casinos. In the end, none of them succeeded.
As casino gambling expanded in the new century, Foxwoods and Mohegan saw their business drop off. Foxwoods in particular has struggled at times, but both casinos remain huge operations and major employers. — Christopher Hoffman
RELATED: "Will Connecticut Get Casino Gambling?" (November 1981) looks at it not as a question of if, but when ... "Poker Faces" (November 1992) visits the card tables at Foxwoods .... "Casino II" (August 1996) looks at the imminent opening of Mohegan Sun.
Catholic Church abuse scandal
Early next month, Bridgeport Superior Court Judge David Skolnick is scheduled to begin trying the first of a mass of civil lawsuits against six Fairfield County priests and the Diocese of Bridgeport for the sexual molestation of minors from the early 1960s to the mid-1980s. Aside from the viciousness of a number of the alleged attacks, the cases aren’t all that unusual. Since the early 1980s, when the first claims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy surfaced, some 1,000 lawsuits have been filed against priests and dioceses across the nation.
What is unusual is the number of cases headed to trial in Bridgeport. Twenty-three plaintiffs currently have lawsuits pending in Bridgeport Superior Court against diocesan priests or the diocese itself. The Diocese of Norwich and the Archdiocese of Hartford, the other two Catholic fiefdoms in the state, have both been sued over claims of clergy sexual misconduct, but neither has come close to the number of charges filed against the Diocese of Bridgeport. […]
According to evidence that has come to light during legal proceedings, it appears that the Bridgeport diocese not only knew its priests were abusing children, but further, that it ignored the victims and protected the abusers, “recycling” the priests time and again without telling the new parishes who they were getting or what they’d been accused of.
The archdioceses of Bridgeport, Hartford and Norwich, combined, have paid well over $100 million to settle hundreds of priest sexual abuse claims dating back to the 1950s. Each diocese has posted a list of credibly accused clergy members on its website. This summer, the Diocese of Norwich filed for federal bankruptcy protection amid more pending abuse lawsuits.
Civil unions & same-sex marriage
Connecticut was a civil unions pioneer, adopting a 2005 law allowing same-sex couples to enter into these unions, second behind Vermont and the only state to do so without being compelled by a court. The law, however, passed with an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, so things got complicated. Before adoption of the civil unions law, a lawsuit had been filed in 2004 by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) seeking the right for same-sex couples to marry. A Superior Court judge ruled against GLAD in 2006, affirming the state’s civil unions law as sufficient, but in October 2008 the state Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry (with the entire country catching up in 2015). In 2008, Barbara and Robin Levine-Ritterman had the honor of getting the first Connecticut same-sex marriage license, in New Haven, and Beth Bye and Tracey Wilson were the first to get married, in West Hartford. Since then, estimates place the number of same-sex marriages in Connecticut at more than 13,000. — Douglas P. Clement
Promoters of voluntary integration, who include Gov. Lowell Weicker Jr., the State Department of Education, the State Board of Education, and the recently disbanded 28-member Governor’s Commission on Quality and Integrated Education, have expressed enthusiasm for the new busing, extolling it as the salvation of Connecticut’s profoundly segregated public school system, which even Education Commissioner Gerald Tirozzi has called unequal.
Not everyone is sold on the new busing, however. Critics on one side are distrustful of busing of any kind. On the other side, some say it will take too long to implement, that it reaches too few students, and that it doesn’t get at the heart of the problem — which is that, like it or not, we live in a segregated society.
Debates about the new busing will take center stage in Connecticut in the coming months. As the state budget is pounded into shape, Weicker and the Legislature will decide which aspects of the governor’s commission report to implement. At the same time, attorneys involved in Sheff vs. O’Neill, a landmark case calling for the immediate non-voluntary desegregation of Hartford’s public schools, will present their case in Hartford Superior Court. One way or another, through voluntary or mandatory approaches, changes are coming to Connecticut public schools.
In January 2020, civil rights lawyers and the state agreed to add more than 1,000 seats to the magnet school program in the Hartford area as part of the decades-long Sheff v. O’Neill court case over racially segregated schools. However, demand exceeds the number of seats in the program.
ESPN, alias “The Total Sports Network,” offered 56 million homes in all 50 states a host of games on Opening Day, including an unprecedented triple-header, beginning at 2:30 p.m. and continuing past midnight. And this was only the appetizer for a season-long binge that will include more than 150 baseball games along with a steady stream of updates, replays of notable circus catches and bloopers, and, of course, scores from all across this score-crazed land. Indeed, thanks largely to ESPN, our world has become one of games without end: football, basketball, beach volleyball, auto racing, team arm wrestling, hot-air ballooning, monster truck challenges — cheek by jowl, each in its season, ad infinitum. And now, Major League Baseball, the final piece of the puzzle — miracle may be a better word — has fallen into place.
“ESPN is a great story — I mean, we pinch ourselves,” says Emmy Award-winner Chris Berman, who has risen to national stardom and a multimillion-dollar contract this past decade without ever leaving his home base in Bristol. “Major League Baseball — I’m doing it on ESPN. That’s preposterous.”
Call it a restaurant renaissance. From the shore to the hills, from urban centers to country hamlets, everywhere you look around Connecticut, there’s a budding or expanding culinary scene. With options as varied as top-notch pizza, the finest of fine dining, and even a coastal row of food trucks that’s become something of a destination, New Haven’s foodie field is now legendary. But other spots, such as West Hartford, Greenwich, Mystic and tiny Bantam, have ascended to regional dining fame. Even oft-overlooked Hartford and Bridgeport have announced themselves.
As diners’ expectations have risen — fresh, local and fantastic is the standard these days — chefs have raised their games, with names like Tyler Anderson, Bun Lai, Arturo Franco-Camacho, Jeff Taibe, Brian Lewis and James Wayman gaining notice. Add it all up, and there’s never been a better time to eat your way around the state. — Albie Yuravich
Their investigations have dealt with human and inhuman spirits — crisis ghosts, malign forces, demons and witches. Artists by profession, the Warrens, who have 27 years’ experience investigating psychic phenomena, warn of the dangers of fooling with the spirit world.
Locally the Warrens have checked numerous reports of supernatural activity, such as the demons that drove an 18-year-old girl to practice human vampirism, the spirits which haunt a Willimantic theatre, and the ghost with mixed emotions that helped an East Haddam family renovate its home.
While many persons scoff at such work, the Warrens believe they have sufficient proof of an afterlife and the evil forces — sometimes uncontrollable — waiting both in the darkness and in the full light of day.
“It’s not a bunch of fairy tales. These things are happening right here,” Edward Warren said. “Everyone,” he claims, “has experienced one form of supernatural activity or another.”
Even though Edward Warren died in 2006 and Lorraine followed in 2019, their popularity has never been greater, as their tales of hauntings live on in movies such as The Conjuring and Annabelle series.
For decades, Connecticut has been a destination for major companies. But in 2016, its reputation as a local corporate hub took a big hit. That year, General Electric relocated its headquarters from Fairfield to Boston. The exit of the then-No. 11 firm in the Fortune 500 provoked lengthy debate among elected officials and business leaders in the state about the reasons for the departure. Some blamed what they saw as excessive taxation and regulation. Others concluded that GE wanted access to a larger talent pool by moving from a suburban town to the largest city in New England.
GE’s relocation also sparked fears of a corporate exodus from the state, but that hasn’t happened. Connecticut has as many Fortune 500 companies today as it did in 2012. The list includes Stamford-based Synchrony — which was spun off from GE in 2014. “The state has had a really tough 10 years since that 2008–10 recession and really lagged the country in a lot of economic indicators,” Chris DiPentima, CEO and president of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, recently told Hearst Connecticut Media. “Yet we were fortunate enough to hold on to most of our bigger companies.” — Paul Schott
Governor Ella Grasso is relaxed; there is no reason she shouldn’t be. She takes leave of her daily press conferences without a glove laid on her, glides around the state and capital corridors mothering subjects — supplicants and opponents alike. In her first four months as governor of Connecticut, she has successfully charmed and tamed the press, the legislature, and the public. […]
The simple truth is that Connecticut loves Ella — so far — and that love affair has allowed her to transcend labels, personalities, and ideology. There is in Connecticut that ingrained Yankee sense that government can’t touch anything without screwing it up. So if government isn’t going to do very much then why not at least have someone as governor you like, someone whose instincts are decent and good.
“I would love to be like her,” says Gloria Schaffer of her friend. “I consider her to be a complete person … Ella has always had an amazing ability to have a one-to-one relationship with a crowd of a thousand … one of her strengths is that liberals love her because they feel she is one of their stripe and conservatives love her because they think she’s cautious.”
Bridgewater Associates, Point72, AQR Capital and Viking Global Investors are all household names in the financial services industry. And they are all headquartered in Connecticut.
Many public officials see those firms, which specialize in alternative investments known as hedge funds, as indispensable to the state’s economy. The support is reflected in the tens of millions of dollars in state subsidies that Bridgewater and AQR have received for creating and retaining jobs. In contrast, critics see hedge fund managers’ wealth as an ominous sign of the glaring income inequality that pervades the country, arguably nowhere more starkly than in Connecticut.
Hedge fund leaders, however, remain bullish about the state and their homes within it. “There’s a reason it’s the center of hedge funds; there’s a reason it’s such a great community,” Bridgewater founder and Greenwich resident Ray Dalio said at a conference in his hometown in 2018. — PS
Fourteen years later, the Cheshire home invasion and the murder of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Michaela and Hayley, on July 23, 2007, still haunts Connecticut. The incident, in which two career criminals held the three women, as well as husband and father Dr. William Petit Jr., hostage overnight in their own home, attracted international attention. The crime struck a nerve with the public because of its random nature, the brutality of the murders and how it shattered the illusion of the safety of the suburbs. Both of the men who committed the crime, Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, were sentenced to death in separate trials, but now are serving life in prison after Connecticut lawmakers abolished the death penalty in 2009.
Petit entered state politics in 2016, winning a seat in the Connecticut legislature representing the 22nd District, which includes New Britain and part of his hometown of Plainville. He is completing his second term in the legislature this year. — Luther Turmelle
Wedged between Boston and the Bronx, Connecticut’s sports fandom has forever been splintered. There were the two decades of the NHL’s Whalers grasping for attention, but the state always lacked a true, unifying sports identity.
But it all changed just as the Whalers were bolting for North Carolina in 1997. Geno Auriemma’s team won the NCAA women’s basketball title in 1995. Four years later, Jim Calhoun’s team won the NCAA men’s title. The women would win four titles in five years in the early 2000s. The men would win their second title in 2004, when UConn became the first school in history to win men’s and women’s championships in the same year. And the school did it again in 2014. As the 2021–22 season dawns, the women are 11-time champs, the men four-time winners.
Over the course of 30-plus years — dating back to the arrival of Auriemma and Calhoun in the mid-1980s — UConn became a basketball powerhouse. Storrs, it was said, was the Basketball Capital of the World. Kids in Connecticut donned UConn jerseys — from Ray Allen’s 34 and Rebecca Lobo’s 50 through Diana Taurasi’s 3, Maya Moore’s 23, Breanna Stewart’s 30, Emeka Okafor’s 50 and Kemba Walker’s 15. UConn basketball players became Connecticut celebrities. Even after leaving for NBA, WNBA and Olympic stardom, they remain Huskies.
And the wheels keep turning. James Bouknight, who along with coach Dan Hurley, helped revive the men’s program, is off to the NBA. Paige Bueckers, the latest in the long line of elite players, is a national star and the lead in Auriemma’s show.
Connecticut, once the sports suburb, is very much a basketball metropolis. — PD
This month Connecticut marks the 19th anniversary of a watershed event in state political history, and one that reverberates through the budget debate each time the state is strapped for revenue. On July 1, 1971, weary lawmakers meeting in special session gasped reluctant approval of a personal income tax that would be withheld from paychecks across the state. The swiftness and rancor of voter reaction were to become legendary. “By five o’clock in the morning, my phone was ringing off the hook,” recalls Sen. George L. “Doc” Gunther, a Stratford Republican who was then in his third term of office. “We had a genuine tax revolt on our hands.”
The citizenry was aroused in a way few had seen before. In a campaign spurred on by the state’s major newspapers, voters rained opprobrium on the heads of Democrats and Republicans alike. Francis J. Collins of Brookfield, who was House minority leader at the time, recalls one colleague opening his morning mail to find a lumpy, aromatic specimen that properly should have gone into the sewage system. “This is what I think of you,” read the note inside. Within six weeks, legislators were feeling like whipped dogs. They slunk back to the Statehouse, repealed the fledgling income tax, and passed a hodgepodge of other tax measures to balance the budget.
Thus was fashioned the prototype for revenue raising, Connecticut style.
Call it what you will — and it has been called many things — this patchwork, jury-rigged, nickel-and-dime, ad hoc, anything-but-an-income-tax approach has been standard procedure in the Land of Steady Habits for nearly two decades. But now, many observers see a convergence of forces likely to place the income tax — and the overall recasting of Connecticut’s tax structure that it makes possible — at the center of debate in 1991.
In 1991, Gov. Lowell Weicker signed the state’s income tax into law, making Connecticut the 41st state to do so. No other state has followed.
A few weeks in March and April of this year demonstrated the importance of Connecticut being the “insurance capital of the world.”
After insurance multinational corporation Chubb made several offers to acquire The Hartford, many state legislators voiced their concerns about a deal possibly sparking layoffs there, since it employs more than 6,000 people in Connecticut. Legislators even prepared to hold hearings to scrutinize a prospective acquisition.
In the end, no such hearings were held because in late April, Chubb gave up its pursuit of The Hartford. In turn, elected officials are sounding more confident about Connecticut’s insurance industry, which sustained fewer job losses in the past year than most other sectors.
“This is the best place on the planet to be in the insurance business,” state Rep. Kerry Wood, D-Rocky Hill, co-chairwoman of the state legislature’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee, recently told Hearst Connecticut Media. — PS
Long before millions yanked on slot machine levers and told the blackjack dealer to “Hit me” at Connecticut’s two casinos, the greatest gambling game in town was this handball-like sport played by men wielding wood-weave baskets hurling a ball at nearly 150 mph. With roots in northern Spain’s Basque region, jai alai (“merry festival” in Basque) came to Connecticut in 1976, with frontons (stadiums) opening in Hartford and Bridgeport, followed the next year by Milford. The “world’s fastest ball game” attracted a fast following, with Milford accumulating 1 million customers by 1978. In its quarter-century run, the state collected more than $75 million from the Milford fronton.
But Connecticut’s love affair with jai alai would wane amid rumor and confirmation of corruption and match-fixing, as well as the coming of the casinos in the ’90s and their myriad gaming options. The Bridgeport and Hartford locations closed in 1995, and Milford hung on until December 2001, when the “merry festival” came to an end. — AY
Kelo v. City of New London
You can begin to grasp the high stakes from a spit of land, a mere 90 acres of mostly bulldozed property and a few remaining houses — the remnants of a neighborhood that, once under siege, developed an Alamo mind-set. You can use this vantage point to examine evidence, historical and otherwise, of New London’s role at the center of a national legal drama. […]
In a sense, these houses have been bought already. Or, more precisely, the New London Development Corp. (NLDC), a private organization acting on behalf of the city, deposited the money for them in a bank account. The NLDC long ago delivered cash payments to the homeowners who’ve left, and their houses have since been razed.
The payments and the land clearing were deemed necessary to lure developers to a city of only about seven square miles, more than half of which is not taxable because it is owned by nonprofit institutions. NLDC lawyers point out (and any objective study would show) that the city suffers from “staggering economic woes.” The idea is to use this area near Pfizer’s new world research headquarters for office buildings, condos and a hotel — contributing revenue for the vital and costly missions unique to cities.
But the remaining homeowners in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood (a small part of the redevelopment area) are not sympathetic to the plan. They won’t take the money. They have stood up against the age-old practice of eminent domain.
On June 23, 2005, in a 5–4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the city of New London, arguing that the benefits of economic growth to the community outweigh private ownership. Even so, development plans were abandoned and the site remains undeveloped. This July, the Supreme Court declined to take up a challenge to the decision, one of the most reviled rulings in the history of the highest court in the land.
Geno Auriemma’s fledgling dynasty found its identity when Rebecca Lobo came to Storrs from Southwick, Massachusetts, in 1991. Lobo was UConn’s first star — All-American, unanimous national player of the year, leader of the unbeaten 1995 national champion Huskies. That was the first of 11 titles, and Lobo, the future Hall of Famer, was the undisputed face of the franchise. She became an Olympian, a WNBA star, an ESPN analyst, yet she remains a UConn icon. — PD
As an alternative to winning the lottery, most businessmen would be grateful to own an operation like the lottery: taking a 40 percent profit on each sale, attracting roughly 50 percent of the state’s adults as customers in an average week, and — final sweet dream — paying no taxes. […]
Lottery officials, keenly aware that critics view the game as an implicit taxation of the poor, argue that a cross section of winners shows that people from all income brackets play. They also point out that lottery profits benefit the public at large, with lottery money going into general revenues and funding about 3 percent of the state’s budget. That’s not enough to stand between Connecticut and a state income tax, but it does equal about 1 percent that might otherwise be added to a state sales tax. It’s probably a fair comparison: the lottery could be seen as a regressive tax, like a sales tax, that hits the poor harder than the rich. But no one, rich or poor, derives pleasure from paying a sales tax.
From July 2020 to June 2021, with $1.5 billion in total sales, the Connecticut Lottery Corp. contributed a record $418 million to the Connecticut General Fund. Critics continue to scream “regressive tax,” arguing that the majority of ticket sales occur in economically disadvantaged and minority communities.
Lyme disease has divided the medical community in recent years. On one side are academically oriented physicians, who believe the disease to be something of a medical success story, a threat quickly brought under control. On the other side are doctors, advocacy groups and individuals who believe we are facing a public health threat of unknowable scope. The number of doctors who characterize Lyme disease as an easily identified, usually benign seasonal health problem are in the majority at present, but the others, who believe Lyme potentially to be the scourge of our time, are very vocal and growing in number.
It’s hard to know who, or what, to believe. Even here in Connecticut, where Lyme disease was first diagnosed and named in 1976, and which is widely considered to be the epicenter of the disease today, with by far the highest rate of infection (62 documented cases per 100,000 residents in 1994). Even here in Connecticut, a state which is home to and neighbor of some of the finest medical institutions in the world. Even here in Connecticut, the state that headquarters the Lyme Disease Foundation, an organization extolled by some, repudiated by others, but generally recognized to be the group responsible for bringing Lyme disease into the national consciousness.
Mianus River Bridge collapse
There wasn’t much fanfare in Cos Cob as a summer day in 1983 came to an end. The weather was fairly mild, and traffic was normal for midnight. But at the Mianus River Bridge on Interstate 95, there was a loud, devastating wakeup call as Monday turned into Tuesday, and Cos Cob, a small, pretty section of suburban Greenwich, suddenly found itself in the national news. On June 28, an hour-and-a-half after midnight, a 100-foot section of the bridge collapsed, sending two cars and two trucks 75 feet into the river below. Three people died, and three were injured.
Built in 1958, the Mianus River Bridge was a girder-span bridge suspended on what are called pins and hangers. Its storm drains had been paved over 10 years earlier, which hastened the structure’s erosion. The National Transportation Safety Board attributed the collapse to “deficiencies in the State of Connecticut’s bridge safety inspection and bridge maintenance program.”
It happened 38 years ago, but because of the national dialogue on infrastructure, remembering the tragedy is even more relevant today. — Joel Samberg
The Martha Moxley murder
On Halloween morning in 1975, a grisly scene was discovered in the Belle Haven neighborhood of Greenwich. The body of 15-year-old Martha Moxley, who had been bludgeoned and stabbed the night before, was found beside her family’s home. The murder of the popular high school sophomore, from an affluent Greenwich family, sent shock waves through the community and the region.
There were many suspects in the murder, but after a police investigation that was later found to have been flawed, the case went cold. A new investigation in the 1990s eventually led to the arrest of Michael Skakel, a neighbor of Martha’s at the time of her death. He was convicted on a murder charge in 2002. Skakel, who came from a wealthy background and was a cousin of the Kennedy family, was also 15 at the time of the murder. But a court vacated his conviction in 2013, finding that Skakel was deprived of a fair trial due to an ineffective legal defense. A long legal drama ensued while he was out on bail. His defense lawyers made the case that Skakel was denied a fair trial due to the deficiencies of his attorney, and the nullification of his conviction stood.
The Office of the Chief State’s Attorney decided in late 2020 that it would not make any further efforts to prosecute Skakel, and he was a free man. There has been no official resolution to the murder. — Robert Marchant
Connecticut is thousands of miles from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, but over the decades the state has basked in its own brand of movie magic. Stars like Katharine Hepburn and Robert Mitchum were born here; many others have made the state their adopted home, including Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken, Daniel Day-Lewis, late greats Paul Newman and Gene Wilder, and many more.
Beyond these stars, the state has served as the location, setting or inspiration for a variety of films and scenes. In the past half-century, the cameras have rolled here for The Stepford Wives (1975, and again in 2004), Mystic Pizza (1988), Steven Spielberg’s Amistad and Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm (1997), and Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and the Leonardo DiCaprio-starring Revolutionary Road (2008).
Despite these brushes with fame, Connecticut hasn’t achieved the title of “Hollywood East.” The state’s current close-ups can most often be seen on the small screen — Christmas movies for the Hallmark Channel. — AY
Consumer advocate Ralph Nader may be the reason Americans everywhere learned the words “hanging chad,” affording him persona non grata status with virtually all Democrats, most independents, and even a few moderate Republicans after those Florida chads and his run for president in 2000 arguably cost Al Gore the election. But to dismiss the Winsted native and longtime resident because of the folly of his 2000 presidential run is to do the man a disservice. Arguably no other non-politician has done as much to improve the lives of Americans.
He founded many organizations designed to keep government and corporations in check. He also helped shape the formation of the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Consumer Product Safety Act (cars did not always have seat belts, people), the Freedom of Information Act, the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Environmental Protection Agency. That list touches most people’s lives daily.
Nor is he done. In 2019, his great-niece was among the 157 killed in the 737 Max crash in Ethiopia. It was the second crash by one of those planes in five months. Nader — who once won a breach-of-contract case before the Supreme Court after he was booted from an overbooked flight, forcing the industry to provide vouchers for such flights — has called for a recall of the plane and criticized the Congressional report that came out as inadequate. No wonder The Atlantic listed him in 2006 as one of the 100 most influential people in history. — JR
The Hollywood legend and his wife, fellow actor Joanne Woodward, established roots in Westport, where they were patrons of the arts and charitable givers for years. Briefly attending the Yale School of Drama before being whisked to Broadway, Newman had ties all over Connecticut, including his Newman’s Own food brand in Westport, the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for ill children in Ashford, and his frequent turns around the Lime Rock racetrack in Lakeville. Newman remained charming and charitable until his death from cancer in 2008. — JS
There once was a dream our lives would be powered by the very elements of our universe. The Atomic Age was well underway when Connecticut Yankee Atomic Power Co. became the largest nuclear power facility in America the moment its first neutrons fired in 1966. Waterford’s Millstone plant followed in 1970, and is still operating, providing energy to over 7 million New England homes and businesses.
The split atom is a story of potential: abundant energy security forever tied to destructive power. The 1979 incident at Three Mile Island and the 1986 Soviet disaster at Chernobyl all but erased public trust. Connecticut Yankee closed in 1996, the Haddam Neck facility having produced over 110 billion kilowatt hours of power over its lifespan, without incident. In 2010 a Connecticut Office of Legislative Research paper noted over half of the state’s power was produced by Millstone, and, “No nuclear power plant accident in this country has harmed a member of the public in the history of U.S. commercial nuclear power.”
Damage caused by ongoing decades of burning fossil fuels have forced a re-examination of atomic energy as a carbon-free arm (along with wind, solar and hydro-power) to achieve global climate goals. Time, like energy, remains a precious commodity to waste. — JG
Stamford-based OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma pushed the narrative that victims of chronic pain were suffering needlessly without access to opioids, and in the years after the drug was first released continuously stated that less than 1 percent of patients became addicted to opioids. It proved an inaccurate claim for which there was little legitimate scientific support. […]
Since OxyContin’s release, Purdue has generated sales of more than $35 billion. The drug’s success and its marketing helped turn the U.S. into the world’s largest consumer of opioid medications — with less than 5 percent of the global population, it consumes an estimated 80 percent of prescription opioid painkillers. In 2015, the Sackler family, which owns the private company, was named to Forbes’ list of the 20 richest U.S. families. The magazine dubbed them the “OxyContin Clan” and estimated their net worth at $14 billion. […]
As the Sackler family fortune grew, an addiction epidemic wreaked havoc across the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, as have sales.
In the face of thousands of lawsuits alleging that the firm fueled the opioid crisis with deceptive OxyContin marketing, Purdue Pharma has been working through the bankruptcy process. A settlement plan would open the door to the release of more than $4.5 billion, and the Sacklers would hand control of Purdue over to an independent board. Profits from OxyContin and addiction-reversal drugs would go to creditors’ trusts to fund addiction prevention and treatment programs. The Sacklers deny any wrongdoing.
Of all the factors that make Connecticut a high-cost state, the $2 billion-plus in annual payments to the underfunded pension funds for teachers and state employees is perhaps the most contentious. Republicans blame what they call a cabal of Democrats and unions for larding up benefits over the years, and say the long-term costs could bankrupt the state. But governors and legislatures of both parties failed to make payments from the early 1980s until former Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, started to halt the bleeding in 2011. Malloy negotiated two new tiers of lower state benefits for new employees, and in exchange, extended the benefits package for current employees until 2027 — a highly controversial tradeoff. — Dan Haar
Things got so bad, wags began calling the state “Corrupt-icut.” The face of Connecticut’s political corruption has to be that of three-term Gov. John G. Rowland, long one of the state’s most popular and successful politicians. Facing almost certain impeachment, Rowland resigned in 2003 after revelations he had accepted gifts from a state contractor. He later pleaded guilty to federal crimes and spent a year in prison. In 2014, Rowland was convicted again, this time for concealing his work for two congressional campaigns, and served a second federal prison term.
Other prominent political figures to run afoul of the law included state Treasurer Paul Silvester (bribery and a kickback scandal), Waterbury Mayor Philip Giordano (sexual abuse of underage girls), longtime Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim (extortion), state Sen. Ernie Newton (bribery, fraud and tax evasion), and Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez (bribery and attempted extortion). After serving their prison terms, Ganim and Newton returned to politics, with Ganim retaking the mayor’s chair in 2015, and Newton winning a seat on Bridgeport’s City Council.
Why all the corruption? One theory is that Connecticut’s decentralized criminal justice system, in which the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office has limited authority over 12 largely independent regional prosecutors, is ill suited to investigating and prosecuting complicated and time-consuming public corruption cases. — CH
From 1932 to the late ’70s, General Electric released PCBs into the Housatonic River from its plant in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, causing contamination in the river all the way through Connecticut and into Long Island Sound. The Connecticut and Naugatuck rivers were dangerously polluted after decades of industrial and municipal dumping, and the deteriorating condition of Long Island Sound led to an entire movement, Save the Sound.
Thanks to a constellation of federal, state, regional and local prevention and cleanup efforts, Connecticut’s waterways are generally considered cleaner than ever — and even the elusive Housatonic River PCBs are being cleaned up based on a $15 million settlement with GE. — DPC
On Sept. 3, 1971, Hartford Police arrested at least 10 members of the Kalos Society, Connecticut’s first gay rights organization, for protesting a restaurant that was harassing and ejecting lesbians for not dressing “properly.” Night after night, Kalos members returned to picket, until the harassment stopped. It’s been a whirlwind of change since.
A month later, Connecticut repealed its sodomy law and decriminalized private sexual relations between consenting adults. It took 20 more years for a gay rights bill to pass; Gov. Lowell Weicker Jr. signed it into law in 1991.
Unmarried couples across Connecticut started flocking to Hartford to register as domestic partners in 1993, when the capital city became the first municipality in the state to make it possible, part of a long march to same-sex marriages in the state starting in 2008.
In the last decade, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed legislation to protect transgender people from discrimination, the opportunity to change the gender marker on their birth certificate and banning conversion therapy. Malloy also signed an executive order on behalf of trans students and trans student-athletes. Gov. Ned Lamont outlawed the gay and transgender “panic defense” tactic in criminal cases, and last year announced the DMV now offers Connecticut drivers a nonbinary option on their licenses. — Dawn Ennis
If the Nutmeg State needed a new epithet, plenty of armchair arbiters would find the Traffic Congestion State suitable. Tiny Connecticut, the portal between Eastern Seaboard states and New England, simply can’t handle the volume of traffic clogging major thoroughfares like interstates 95, 91 and 84. In fact, according to a 2021 American Transportation Research Institute report, Connecticut has seven of the nation’s top 100 bottlenecks for trucks (which really means everyone). Four of our seven trouble spots even make the top 50.
Gov. Ned Lamont has wanted to do something about Connecticut’s major highways — bring back tolls. In fairness, the tolls plan that couldn’t gain traction in recent years was meant to raise funds to fix the roads and other infrastructure. Many remember the toll plazas on I-95 and the Merritt and Wilbur Cross parkways — and the horrific January 1983 crash at the Stratford toll booth that left seven dead when a tractor-trailer plowed into a line of cars. It added momentum to an already active campaign to get rid of the tolls, which the state did in a multi-step process in the mid-1980s. In the end (or at least for now) the new state budget imposes a new highway usage fee on trucks starting in 2023 — just don’t call them tolls or taxes. — DPC
“I’m hoping the whole world learns a lesson. If these 26 people died in vain, then shame on us,” says Monsignor Robert Weiss, or Father Bob as he’s known to the Newtown community. Of the 20 students and six educators killed by a gunman on Dec. 14, eight of the funerals were held at Weiss’ St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church. “If 20 innocent children had their lives taken at 6 and 7 years old and we don’t change — not just in legislation, if we just don’t change as people — then shame on us.”
Love her or hate her, most of us can agree that Martha Stewart, the Doyenne of Domesticity, changed the landscape of how Americans feel about their homes and, to some extent, themselves. Founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, the former Westport resident is a best-selling author, publisher of Martha Stewart Living magazine, and creator of two eponymous TV shows. In recent years, she’s hosted a TV show with — cough — Snoop Dogg, and the 80-year-old just joined the burgeoning cannabis business by launching a CBD wellness line.
Not bad for a woman who was found guilty in March 2004 of felony charges of conspiracy, making false statements to federal investigators, and obstruction of an agency proceeding. In July 2004, she was sentenced to serve five months in a federal prison, followed by a two-year period of supervised release. What did Stewart do with her time? She learned to crochet, creating a poncho that immediately became a favorite pattern for knitters and crocheters alike when she wore it on the day she was released. — JR
One of the WNBA’s most successful franchises has been the Connecticut Sun, consistently a competitive team with a handful of former UConn stars, a wealthy supportive owner in the Mohegan Tribe and a loyal, knowledgeable fan base comprised largely of supporters who learned to understand the sport through their allegiance to the highly successful UConn women’s team.
“Connecticut is a fertile market for women’s basketball,” says Mitchell Etess, Chief Executive Officer for the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority. “Clearly, UConn made it easier for us to build our own brand, but sooner or later we did have our own team.”
It’s hard to believe this droll, diminutive, intellectually curious Mohegan Indian woman is 93 years old. It’s even harder to believe that, despite a lifetime spent as cultural guardian and spiritual guide to her tribe, she has yet to be officially recognized. But the waiting is over. On Aug. 22, in a public ceremony at Fort Shantok State Park in Montville, Gladys Tantaquidgeon will finally be installed as the Mohegan Nation’s de facto medicine woman.
What took so long? Well, according to Gladys’ grand-niece and Mohegan tribal historian Melissa Fawcett-Sayet, who lives in Norwich, in recent decades it hasn’t been socially acceptable — particularly in the eyes of the non-Indian world — to be designated as “medicine woman.” But the cultural tide is turning, and Native American traditions are better respected nowadays.
Gladys Tantaquidgeon’s life’s work helped preserve not only Mohegan culture, but that of other Native tribes around the U.S. Two years after this article was published, the Mohegan nation finally received federal recognition, an effort aided in large part by genealogical records preserved by Gladys. (That recognition allowed the establishment of the Mohegan Sun casino in 1996.) She passed away in 2005 at the age of 106.
Yale, one of the oldest universities in the U.S., was already a big brand 50 years ago. But in recent decades, the New Haven institution has grown its resources, student body and global reach. From 2000 to 2020 alone, Yale’s endowment tripled from $10 billion to $31.2 billion.
With recent state investments, degree expansions and success in sports, UConn has reached new levels of prestige. In 1985, UConn earned the designation of Research I institution to reflect the quantity and quality of the research being done. U.S. News & World Report has ranked UConn among the top 20 public universities.
Originally a commuter college, Quinnipiac has gained national recognition over the past several decades for its programs and nationally known poll. The 1970s was Quinnipiac’s first full decade on its main campus in the Mount Carmel neighborhood of Hamden. It also began to offer master’s degrees, and acquired the University of Bridgeport’s law school in 1995. At the turn of the century, Quinnipiac College changed its name to Quinnipiac University to reflect its growing academic program. — Cayla Bamberger
Since the passage of legislation in 1978 allowing Connecticut farm winery owners to sell wine and conduct tastings, a burgeoning production and tourism industry has grown up around grapes. Today, there are more than 40 wineries serving up locally crafted wines — many nationally and even internationally recognized, including Sharpe Hill Vineyard in Pomfret, Chamard Vineyards in Clinton and Hopkins Vineyard in Warren — as well as offering scenic destinations for weddings and a multitude of activities, from fine dining and live concerts to yoga and birdwatching. — Renée Allen
During the epic 1991 battle over the state income tax, then-Gov. Lowell P. Weicker told backers of one budget proposal to “pour it back into the horse.” It was classic Weicker: brutally blunt, contemptuous of those who in his view lacked the courage or conviction to do the right thing and more than a little sanctimonious. That, combined with fierce independence, was Weicker’s trademark during a three-decade political career that included 18 years as a U.S. senator and four as governor.
A liberal Republican elected to the Senate in 1970, Weicker angered his own party first by becoming a leading critic of President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal and then blasting President Ronald Reagan’s domestic policies. Left for dead politically after Democrat Joe Lieberman beat him in 1988, Weicker staged a stunning comeback, winning the governorship as a third-party candidate two years later.
Weicker’s enacting of the income tax won him the Harvard Kennedy School’s Profiles in Courage Award, but left him among the most reviled figures in recent Connecticut history. Weicker retired at the end of his term. Now 90, he has emerged occasionally over the years to defend his record, once saying of an income tax repeal proposal, “When pigs fly!” — CH
The Hartford Civic Center is half-full for the tilt between the hometown Whalers and the nefarious New Jersey Devils. […]
So who would be surprised if the greatly diminished Whale migrates south to Miami? Or even west to Milwaukee or north to some desolate Canadian tundra town? By November, not even a month into the season, owner Richard Gordon was threatening as much. To the comment that his recent remarks in the press seemed gloomy, he replied, “Well, it is gloomy — it doesn’t have to seem it. It is gloomy. Do you own season tickets? Does your magazine? [The answers were no and no.] That’s why it’s gloomy. You publish all over Connecticut and if you don’t support it, and you’re a goddamned magazine, why should anyone else? Got that?”
Whoa. Things must be getting tense at the top.
Peter Karmanos bought the Whalers in 1994, and on May 6, 1997, he announced that the franchise would move to Raleigh, North Carolina, and become the Carolina Hurricanes. They won the Stanley Cup in 2006. The Whalers won one playoff series in their 18-year NHL history.
Washington state has its Bigfoot. New Jersey has its Pine Barrens Devil. Connecticut has its mountain lions. In other words, reports of mountain lion sightings in the Nutmeg State may be as earnest as they are dubious. One was indeed hit and killed by a car on the Wilbur Cross Parkway in Milford in 2011. But genetic testing proved that it had traveled more than 1,500 miles from South Dakota to get here. No other sightings over the years have been decisively proven, and there is still no evidence that they’re here permanently or in any great numbers.
Bears, however, as most viewers of local Facebook pages and YouTube videos already know, are plentiful and expanding. There have also been moose sightings (and some related car accidents), though it is unlikely they were ever native to the state or will ever become permanent residents. But there’s no shortage of dozens upon dozens of other creatures, including bobcats, fisher cats, red foxes, bald eagles, American kestrels, snowshoe hares, falcons, wild turkeys, moles, voles and more. It’s a pretty long list for a pretty short state. — JS
The company formerly known as the WWF has come a long way since Hulk Hogan and Mr. T triumphed in the first WrestleMania in 1985, with a fanbase today that spans the globe. But the Vince McMahon-led organization remains committed to Connecticut — highlighted by plans to open a new headquarters in Stamford. — PS
The XL Center
An arena which would play host and setting to athletic glory, ring with the cheers of spectators and music fans, and hear the roars of bulls and monster trucks alike opened as the Hartford Civic Center in 1974. The early days of the arena and Civic Center Mall went well when, quite literally, the roof caved in. A flawed design stressed from the beginning was silently dusted with the snow which finally broke overstrained support members and closed the Civic Center between the Januaries of 1978 and 1980. The beloved Hartford Whalers would be forced to find a new home for a time, a move the team would later make permanent.
Renamed the XL Center in 2007, the 16,000-person arena has acted as home-away-from-home for the UConn men’s and women’s basketball teams, and permanent home for the NHL minor league Hartford Wolf Pack, UConn hockey, indoor soccer league Hartford Hellions, and Connecticut Coyotes and New England Sea Wolves of arena football. Thousands of concerts have drawn fans downtown for decades, with Oct. 14 and 15 shows in 1983 being deemed so exemplary they were released as “Dick’s Picks, volume 6” by The Grateful Dead.
Continuous, and occasionally contentious, upgrades to the Center have kept the arena a thriving part of Hartford’s culture, where it continues its history as a place where memories are made. — JG
The Eastern League franchise that came from Rhode Island to Bristol in 1973 and spent 33 seasons in New Britain was rebranded and rebooted as the Hartford Yard Goats. Ridiculed for its name and logo, the team moved into what some called a $70 million boondoggle in the capital city. But the Goats turned out to be a hit, leading the league in attendance twice while the stadium was named best Double-A ballpark in America. — PD
The land of single-family housing. A suburban sanctuary. The McMansion capital of the U.S. Call it what you will, but Connecticut is filled with detached single-family homes sitting on large lots with green lawns. It’s a current reality that has been built up over countless years of local law-making and development, with municipalities across the state tightly regulating multi-family homes, land use, lot size and density.
But for about as long, restrictive zoning laws governing housing have been hotly debated, as proponents of change have argued that longstanding regulations limiting denser housing drive up prices to astronomical levels, keep out only the most affluent, and lead to community stagnation. Proposed reforms have taken on many faces through the years — an article in the March 1981 issue of this magazine was titled, “The Mobile Alternative: Long plagued by restrictive zoning laws, mobile homes could ease the housing shortage” — yet little has changed.
But the past year has seen a renewed focus on the issue. Ground zero has been leafy Woodbridge, where a persistent push by activists to force the town to allow more multi-family housing pitted reformers against residents and officials who maintained that zoning decisions should stay in local hands. The battle ascended to the state Capitol and culminated in the signing of a zoning reform bill earlier this year that allows, among other things, single-family homeowners to add accessory units to their properties. Reform advocates say it falls far short of what’s needed — towns can opt out — so the debate is sure to rage on. — AY