Turning the old Colt building in Hartford into a national park had been U.S. Rep. John B. Larson’s dream for more than a decade. On Friday, that dream came true when the U.S. Senate gave final passage to the National Defense Authorization Act, which included a provision to turn Coltsville into a national park.
The Coltsville National Historical Park will be dedicated to the accomplishments of Samuel and Elizabeth Colt and the role they played in the Industrial Revolution.
“Connecticut is the cradle of our industrial revolution,” Larson said Friday in a press release. “The designation made possible by this Act would not only honor the groundbreaking work of Samuel and Elizabeth Colt, but provides Connecticut greater and much-deserved representation in our National Park system.”
The site is about 260 acres and includes several armories where the manufacturing of the iconic revolver took place, worker housing, and the home of Samuel and Elizabeth Colt.
Coltsville was active as a site for manufacturing from 1855 until 1994. Most of the structures — including the iconic blue dome of the East Armory — remain intact. The site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2008.
Plans for Coltsville National Park include a 10,000 square-foot visitor center in the east armory, which has remained mostly untouched for decades. It is estimated that the park will attract 200,000 visitors a year.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated it would cost about $9 million over a five-year period to build the park and the use of private donations would be allowed. Budget analysts also estimated that annual operating funds of less than $1 million would be needed after the fifth year.
Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra applauded passage of the legislation.
“This monumental decision will help shape an ongoing renaissance in the City of Hartford, lead to long-term job growth in the region, and increase focus on heritage tourism in our state,” he said.
The National Park designation is estimated to generate $150 million for the regional economy and to create 1,000 jobs over the next five years, according to Segarra.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said he’s proud to have voted for the bill, but it wouldn’t have been possible without Larson’s determination.
“His crusade of over a decade to get this done will be taught in classrooms as an example of persistence, persistence, and more persistence, paying off in the end,” Murphy said.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal described passage of the National Defense Authorization Act as “a victory for our nation and for Connecticut — for Coltsville, for our state’s proud defense industry, for our men and women in uniform who serve and sacrifice for our country, and for our national security.”