The year 2020 has been a time of reckoning for many historical figures, symbols and practices that represent, at least to some, inequality, injustice and oppression. In Connecticut, that figure has been Christopher Columbus.
New Haven removed a statue of the Italian navigator from Wooster Square Park on June 24, hours after skirmishes broke out among a crowd of opposing protesters. A group of Italian Americans who tried to stop the action filed a motion asking where the statue and base are being stored and seeking assurances they are preserved. But it goes even deeper. The statue was given to the city in 1892 on the 400th anniversary of Columbus arriving in the New World. In the Oct. 12, 1892, edition of the New Haven Register, an article unearthed by Laura Macaluso tells of a time capsule entombed in the concrete of the base containing a variety of coins and writings.
In Hartford, a crew took down the Columbus statue in Columbus Green near the State Capitol on June 29. In Norwalk, the Columbus statue in Thomas C. O’Connor Park was removed after nightfall on June 25, two days before a scheduled protest. A statue at Bank and Blinman streets in New London was vandalized with red paint multiple times before the city took it down on June 14. The statue that stood in Middletown’s Harbor Park was removed on June 13 for planned maintenance work in the park, but it will not return. The statue overlooking Seaside Park in Bridgeport was quietly removed July 6. And the Columbus statue in front of Waterbury City Hall was discovered decapitated on July 4. A local Italian-American organization pledged to repair it, even as others called for its removal. — MW
Since 2013, Dave Portnoy, the founder and president of sports and pop culture blog Barstool Sports, has been rating pizza on a scale of 1 to 10 — starting in Boston, then Manhattan and now wherever his business trips and vacations happen to take him. He also listens to loyal fans’ beck and call. Naturally, they had more than a few recommendations in Connecticut. Portnoy visited Zuppardi’s in West Haven in April 2019, giving it a strong 8.2; as he made his way through the area, he tasted enough to declare New Haven the pizza capital of the world. (“I don’t know if West Haven counts; the Havens area.”)
When the pandemic swept through and forced Portnoy to quarantine in his NYC apartment, he transitioned to frozen pizza reviews to keep the Barstool content hot and fresh. As of early July, and after sampling 62 different varieties of frozen pies, Zuppardi’s was No. 1 on the board with an 8.8. (Detroit Style Pizza was second with an 8.5; Chicago legend Lou Malnati’s took the bronze with an 8.4.)
Prior to the review, Portnoy said when it comes to pizza from “the Havens” he expects the best. He was impressed immediately by the crunch of the crust, uncommon in frozen pies. After one bite, Portnoy says, “This is next level. This is the Havens. … This is great frozen pizza. I don’t know how else to say it.” — MW
All’s well that ends well
A man helping a friend move into a Guilford home on June 28 fell through the wooden floor and dropped about 20 feet into an uncapped, hidden well. Dr. Christopher Town put his feet against the sides of the well, which was about 5 feet in diameter, to keep his head above the cold water while his wife Angela dialed 911.
The Guilford Fire Department arrived and dropped a line for Town to hold onto as they attached rigging gear to the roof rafters and a nearby oak tree. A firefighter rappelled into the well to rescue Town, who was hypothermic after spending 45 minutes in the water. He spent a few hours at Yale New Haven Hospital before being discharged.
The well is beneath a room that was part of an addition to the circa-1842 house. — MW
Being Black at Connecticut’s elite schools
Countless people of color have been telling their stories of discrimination and abuse in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. In June and July, many such messages flooded Instagram with the creation of many new accounts dedicated to sharing the experiences of people of color at schools.
The accounts are not affiliated with the schools themselves, but were formed as a way for students and alumni to have a voice. Most posts are anonymous. They’re also powerful and disturbing, such as this one from a Trinity College student. (In early July, Trinity College president Joanne Berger-Sweeny pledged to address issues of racial inequality on campus).
“I decided to go to a [Halloween] party in one of the quads. I dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood, but when I got to the party nobody knew who I was dressed as. I am a proud, big, Black woman, and while I thought my costume was pretty good, everyone else guessed I was dressed as Aunt Jemima. … By the end of the night, I had won the costume contest for my ‘Aunt Jemima’ costume. After that I ran back to my dorm room crying.”
At least 15 Instagram accounts deal with colleges and private schools in Connecticut, including:
A year-plus saga to identify two unknown victims of the Hartford circus fire on July 6, 1944, has ended, at least for now. Five victims of the fire remain unidentified. Last year the Hartford Courant’s inquiries led Chief State Medical Examiner James Gill to exhume the bodies of two female victims and try to match them to a descendant of Grace Fifield, who went missing at the fire. In October, Gill announced that neither victim’s DNA matched Fifield’s descendant. In early July, the Courant reported, Gill said that further DNA extraction could not be done due to deterioration of the remains, thwarting any wider ancestry searches. Gill’s office will keep DNA samples in case there are DNA-analysis advancements in the future. — EO
Brewing for #BLM
Nine Connecticut breweries have shown solidarity with brewers and protesters across the country by brewing Black is Beautiful, a 10 percent-ABV stout. The recipe for the beer was shared online by Weathered Souls Brewing Co. in Texas, which is co-owned by Marcus Baskerville, who is African American. If they want to brew the beer, participating breweries across the country are asked to donate proceeds to “local foundations that support police brutality reform and legal defenses for those who have been wronged.” Participating Connecticut breweries are Rhythm, Kent Falls, Labyrinth, Little House, Lock City, Luppoleto, Half Full, New England and Tox Brewing. — EO
Testing, testing, 1-2-3
The University of Connecticut has dropped SAT and ACT test scores from its application requirements on a three-year trial basis. UConn had already been considering “whether to pilot a test-optional process,” the university announced, but “the COVID-19 pandemic added impetus by exacerbating the underlying issues, since high school students currently have varying access to e-learning, preparation for the SAT and ACT, and conducive testing environments.” UConn has studied the issue over the past few years and found that while high standardized test scores were good predictors of college success, “many low-scoring applicants also had successful academic careers, though judging them only on their standardized test scores wouldn’t have predicted it.” Other colleges that do not require the tests include Eastern Connecticut State University, Connecticut College and Fairfield University, as well as Ivy league institutions such as Harvard and Cornell. Many universities are making the change for 2021 and beyond including Boston University, Northeastern, Tufts and the University of California system. — EO