Hartford is the capital of Connecticut and center of the state's leading metropolitan area. It is located halfway between New York and Boston on the Connecticut River. Long famed as the "Insurance City," Hartford's many financial institutions give it a striking skyline.
European settlement began in early 1633 with a Dutch trading post. English settlers arrived in 1635 with a group from Cambridge, MA. Their leaders, Thomas Hooker and Samuel Stone, arrived in 1636. They named the settlement for Stone's birthplace of Hertford, England. In 1639 they wrote a charter for government known as the Fundamental Orders, thought to be the first written constitution to create a government by the consent of the governed. Hartford became the capital of the Connecticut colony in 1662.
In 1835 the Hartford Fire Insurance Company was one of the few companies able to pay claims after a fire in New York City, assuring the city's reputation for reliable insurance companies. Manufacturing also contributed to the city's growth. Population peaked at 177,397 in 1950.
Hartford was home to authors Mark Twain and Harriett Beecher Stowe. The Wadsworth Atheneum, established in 1842, is one of the oldest public art museums in the United States.
Massive redevelopment of the downtown area began in the late 1950s with Constitution Plaza along the riverfront. Numerous skyscrapers followed until the economy faltered in the late 1980s. Several ambitious projects from the 1980s boom were never realized. As of 2004, new construction is centered on the $1 billion Adrian's Landing project, including the Connecticut Convention Center and the Marriott Hotel.