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Disaster


Lithograph depicting two steamboats crashing into each other with people jumping over the sides into the water. There is text at the bottom.

Disaster on the Sound: The Collision of the Steamboats Stonington and Narragansett

The crash involving the S.S. Stonington and the S.S. Narragansett resulted in the death of dozens, massive destruction, and a media frenzy.

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Fuller Brush building following collapse of tower

Fuller Brush Tower Collapses – Today in History: March 31

On March 31, 1923, a 56,000-gallon water tank dropped through 4 concrete floors of the Fuller Brush Company Tower.

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Bursting of the Staffordville Reservoir

Bursting of the Staffordville Reservoir – Today in History: March 27

On March 27, 1877, the Staffordville Reservoir Company’s dam burst, flooding the valley for a distance of five miles and causing the loss of two lives.

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Civic Center Collapse

Civic Center Roof Collapses – Today in History: January 18

On January 18, 1978, at about 4:20 in the morning, the Hartford Civic Center roof collapsed.

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“Appalling Calamity”: Loss of the Steamboat Lexington – Today in History: January 13, 1840

On January 13, 1840, over 150 people perished on Long Island Sound when the steamboat Lexington caught fire.

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East Thompson train wreck, December 4, 1891

The Day Four Trains Collided in East Thompson

December 4, 2022 • Disaster, Transportation, Thompson

In 1891, Thompson, Connecticut, was the site of one of the most horrific railway accidents in American history.

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Fire Bucket

Firefighters Answer the Call in Greenwich

November 3, 2022 • Disaster, Greenwich, Work

From neighbors rushing to help neighbors and the town’s first fire department, which opened in 1879, to the present day, the volunteer tradition of firefighting continues despite many changes over the decades.

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Piling sandbags, Colt dike

The Hurricane of 1938 Rocks Connecticut

Together the combination of chance and human error produced the most destructive hurricane in Connecticut’s history.

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Computer generation of a hurricane over the northeast United States

Hurricane Gloria: “Storm of the Century”

September 16, 2022 • Enfield, Disaster, Weather, Middletown, Milford, Stonington

In September of 1985, Hurricane Gloria made landfall in Connecticut, causing approximately $60 million of damage in the state.

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Ensign, Bickford & Company fuse factory campus, ca. late 1800s

The Steady Evolution of a Connecticut Family Business

Simsbury and Avon’s fuse-making helped build America’s railroads, mine her natural resources, expand the Panama Canal, and even blow up tree stumps in local farm fields.

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A fire swept through the tent at the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus in Hartford, July 6, 1944

Hartford Circus Fire: “The Tent’s on Fire!” – Who Knew?

The Hartford Circus Fire on July 6, 1944, may be the worst human-caused disaster ever to have taken place in Connecticut.

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Steamer City of Hartford

A Night to Remember: When the Steamboat Took on the Railroad—and Lost

A case of mistaken identity causes a vessel to crash into a bridge and results in new a rule for marking safe passage with red lights.

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Aetna Helps Make Hartford “The Insurance Capital of the World”

Aetna started out as fire insurance company in Hartford in 1819, but spread into life insurance and is now a global leader in the health insurance industry.

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Ruins of the Upper Dam of the Kohanza Reservoir in Danbury

Frozen Reservoir Destroys Danbury – Today in History: January 31

January 31, 2022 • Danbury, Disaster, Weather

On January 31, 1869, Danbury’s Kohanza Reservoir froze.

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The Surprising Prevalence of Earthquake Activity in Connecticut

Connecticut has experienced thousands of earthquakes since European settled the area, the most active site being the village of Moodus in East Haddam.

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Hazard's Electric Gunpowder, Hazard Powder Company

Colonel Augustus G. Hazard, Gunpowder Manufacturer – Who Knew?

By 1843, Augustus Hazard and partner Allan Denslow formed a joint stock venture called the Hazard Powder Company.

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Eighty-Five Hundred Souls: the 1918-1919 Flu Epidemic in Connecticut

December 12, 2021 • Disaster, Health and Medicine, New London

The state’s busy ports provided an easy point of entry for the disease that claimed millions of lives around the world.

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Byram River, Pemberwick, October 16, 1955

Byram River Flood – Today in History: October 15

A few minutes before 11:00 pm on October 15, 1955, Greenwich officials pulled the alarm signal and declared a state of emergency.

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Downed tree after the tornado at Wallingford

The Great Wallingford Tornado – Today in History: August 9

August 9, 2021 • Disaster, Weather, Wallingford

On August 9, 1878, a tornado swept from west to east across the northern part of Wallingford.

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The White Mountain Express, traveling 50 miles per hour went off the track in Greenwich

The White Mountain Express Derails in Greenwich

July 16, 2021 • Disaster, Everyday Life, Greenwich

On July 16, 1908, the gong of the ambulances on Greenwich Avenue broadcast one of the worst accidents on the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.

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Bridgeport’s Catastrophic 1911 Train Wreck

In the early morning hours of July 11, 1911, a train derailed in Bridgeport, killing fourteen people. Among the first responders were members of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.

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Clown with bucket

The Hartford Circus Fire – Today in History: July 6

July 6, 2021 • P.T. Barnum, Disaster, Hartford

Called the worst disaster in Hartford’s history, the fire killed 168 and injured 487, including many children.

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Greenwich Emergency Responders: On the Move Overtime

Horses, motorcycles, and boats are just a few of the modes of transportation that town emergency personnel have used over the years to get to where they’re needed.

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Aunt Polly and Its Preservation

Screen actor, director, and playwright William Gillette owned a houseboat he named Aunt Polly. He lived on the boat and entertained there while he awaited final construction of his Connecticut mansion in East Haddam.

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The Collapse of the L’Ambiance Plaza

On April 23, 1987, twenty-eight workers lost their lives during a collapse at the L’Ambiance Plaza construction site in Bridgeport.

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The City of Hartford steamboat after collision with railroad bridge

Steamboat Accident – Today in History: March 29

On March 29, 1876, the steamboat City of Hartford hit the Air Line Railroad Bridge on the Connecticut River at Middletown.

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Waterbury, Bank Street. After the Great Blizzard

The Blizzard of 1888 – Today in History: March 11

March 11, 2021 • Disaster, Weather

On Sunday, March 11, 1888, a blizzard came unexpectedly to the northeastern United States.

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Ruins of commercial buildings on Grand Street, Waterbury

Waterbury Burns – Today in History: February 2

February 2, 2021 • Disaster, Waterbury

In 1902, nearly all of Waterbury’s downtown district was destroyed by one of the worst fires in the city’s recorded history.

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Fire at G. Fox & Co., Main Street, Hartford

G. Fox & Co. Destroyed by Fire – Today in History: January 29

On January 29, 1917, watchmen discovered a fire on the ground floor of the G. Fox & Co. building complex located on Main Street in Hartford.

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The New Haven Veterans Memorial Coliseum, 1979

New Haven Coliseum Imploded – Today in History: January 20

On January 20, 2007, the 35-year-old New Haven Veterans Memorial Coliseum met its end as crews imploded the partially dismantled structure.

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Sandbagging at the Stanley P. Rockwell Co

The Flood That We Forget: October 15 and 16, 1955

When we speak of the “Flood of 1955,” we should remind ourselves that two separate floods, one in August and a second one in October, occurred.

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New England burst its boilers off Essex, October 8, 1833

The Steamboat New England: “The shock was dreadful” – Today in History: October 8

October 8, 2020 • Disaster, Essex, Environment, Transportation

One of Connecticut’s worst steamboat disasters occurred on the dark and stormy night of October 8, 1833, on the Connecticut River.

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Smoke billows from Hartford Hospital

The 1961 Hartford Hospital Fire

On December 8, 1961, the casual disposal of a cigarette spread raging flames and deadly smoke through Hartford Hospital.

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Rescue Scene, Hurricane, September 1938

The Great Hurricane of 1938 – Today in History: September 21

September 21, 2020 • Disaster, Greenwich, Weather

The great hurricane of 1938, which hit on September 21, was the first major hurricane to strike New England since 1869.

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Red Cross Emergency Ambulance Station

The Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918

For those who lived through the 1918 flu, life was never same. John Delano of New Haven recalled, “The neighborhood changed. People changed. Everything changed.”

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Red Cross Headquarters, Hurricane of 1944

The Great Atlantic Hurricane Hits Connecticut

September 14, 2020 • Disaster

Applying lessons learned from the Hurricane of 1938, Connecticut made extensive preparations before the arrival of a similar storm in 1944.

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Second Congregational Church, Greenwich

Bucket Brigade to the Rescue – Today in History: September 12

September 12, 2020 • Disaster, Greenwich

On September 12, 1873, the bell in the Episcopal Church rang the cry—Mr. Bailey’s carriage house, located in the center of town, was on fire.

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Torrington Recovers after the Flood of ‘55

In August of 1955, two hurricanes that moved through Connecticut caused a devastating flood of the Naugatuck River.

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Eighteen-hundred-and-froze-to-death: 1816, The Year Without a Summer

Sunspots and volcanic eruptions led to cooler than normal temperatures in the summer of 1816.

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Collision on the Housatonic Railroad near Bridgeport

Horror on the Housatonic: The Railroad Disaster of August 1865

August 14, 2020 • Disaster, Transportation

Despite measures to ensure the safe operation of railroad trains traveling in opposite directions on single-track lines, things sometimes went wrong—with deadly results.

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Flood damage to railroad tracks, Derby, 1955

Hurricanes Connie & Diane Deliver Double Hit – Who Knew?

Hurricanes Connie and Diane, which both struck in August 1955, exceeded the combined property damage of the Flood of 1936 and Hurricane of 1938.

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Fire at Cos Cob School, Roberta Lindstrom, photographer

Fire Ravages Cos Cob School – Today in History: July 29

July 29, 2020 • Disaster, Greenwich

At 1:59 a.m. on July 29, 1990, a smoke detector signal alerted the central Greenwich fire station of a fire at the Cos Cob School.

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Height of the fire on Greenwich Avenue February 22, 1936

The Greenwich Avenue Fires of 1908 and 1936 Sparked Upgrades to Town’s Emergency Services

July 17, 2020 • Disaster, Greenwich

From the ashes emerged new approaches to coordinating the town’s fire fighting resources.

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Firemen work to douse the last flames of a fire that swept through Gulliver's Restaurant

Deadly Fire at Gulliver’s – Today in History: June 30

June 30, 2020 • Disaster, Greenwich

Despite passing inspection shortly before the disaster, a fire at the Greenwich nightclub Gulliver’s in 1974 killed two dozen people.

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New York and New Haven Railroad train bound from Manhattan

Misread Signal Leads to Deadly South Norwalk Train Wreck – Who Knew?

By 1853, the era of steamboat transportation had largely given way to trains, but there was still a need to manage drawbridges for safe passage.

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Hamilton Wrecks Aeroplane – Today in History: April 22

On April 22, 1911, aviation pioneer Charles Hamilton crashed his brand new, all white, biplane the “Moth” at Andrews Field in New Britain.

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Triangle Shirtwaist Fire: Connecticut Lessons from a Tragedy

While the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in New York City is one of the most famous tragedies behind the organized labor movement, Connecticut had its share of equally dangerous work environments in the early 20th century.

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The boiler that fed the machinery at the Fales & Gray Car Works in Hartford exploded

Today in History – Fales & Gray Explosion Underscores Need for a Hartford Hospital

At 2 pm on March 2, 1854, the power of steam incorrectly managed and harnessed wreaked havoc at the railroad-car factory Fales & Gray Car Works in Hartford.

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Union Station during the Fire of February 21, 1914

Fire and Ice: A Very Bad Week in 1914

Hartford’s Union Station and Allyn Hall caught fire on two different days in February. Only one still stands today.

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Park Central Hotel disaster

Park Central Hotel Boiler Explosion – Today in History: February 18

In the pre-dawn hours of February 18, 1889, the Park Central Hotel in Hartford was ripped apart by a steam boiler explosion.

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Meriden town hall during renovation, 1890

Meriden Town Hall Burns Down – Today in History: February 14

February 14, 2020 • Disaster, Meriden

On February 14, 1904, Meriden’s town hall burned to the ground due to a fire that lasted eight hours.

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Armory Fire

Colt Armory Burns – Today in History: February 4

On February 4, 1864, most of Colt’s East Armory, located in Hartford, burned to the ground.

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February 2, 1902, a fire broke out at Reid & Hughes dry goods store in Waterbury

Six Cities Respond to 1902 Waterbury Fire – Who Knew?

A fire, which swept through Waterbury on a stormy February evening in 1902, would become the worst in its recorded history up to that point.

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View of the Hartford Civic Center roof, which collapsed on January 18, 1978

Almost a Tragedy: The Collapse of the Hartford Civic Center

In the early morning of January 18, 1978, the roof of the sports coliseum collapsed onto 10,000 empty stadium seats.

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Tariffville Train Wreck

The Tariffville Disaster – Today in History: January 15

On January 14, 1878, at about 10:00 p.m., a span of the Tariffville Bridge gave way, plunging a Connecticut Western Railroad train into the Farmington River.

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Sandbags in Rockville. September 22, 1938

Hurricane of 1938: Connecticut’s Worst Disaster

Deadly as well as costly, this storm scarred the landscape for decades after and left each Connecticut family with its own tale to tell of the ruinous events.

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The Hartford Circus Fire

As a result of the Hartford Circus Fire of 1944, Connecticut enacted new, strict fire safety regulations for public performances.

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Hard Times: Governor Wilbur Cross and the Great Depression in Connecticut

Born in Mansfield, Governor Wilbur Cross helped see Connecticut through the Great Depression and several natural disasters.

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Ruins of North College, Wesleyan University, Middletown

Fire at Wesleyan’s North College – Today in History: March 1

On March 1, 1906, North College at Wesleyan University in Middletown was destroyed by fire.

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Collapse of the Mianus River Bridge

Mianus River Bridge Collapses – Today in History: June 28

June 28, 2018 • Disaster, Greenwich

Not long after midnight on June 28, 1983, a section of the Mianus River Bridge on I-95 in Cos Cob collapsed.

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Waterbury Tornado – Today in History: May 24

On May 24, 1962, a tornado hit the towns of Waterbury, Wolcott, and Southington.

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An Orderly & Decent Government: Searching for the Common Good, 1965-Now

The state generated revenue for urban renewal and social programs through gaming and income tax initiatives.

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Video – When Disaster Struck: The Flood of 1936, Part I

The CPTV Original, When Disaster Struck Connecticut, provides an in-depth look at the four major natural disasters that befell Connecticut between 1888 and 1955.

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Video – When Disaster Struck: The Flood of 1936, Part 2

The CPTV Original, When Disaster Struck Connecticut, provides an in-depth look at the four major natural disasters that befell Connecticut between 1888 and 1955.

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Middletown, Main Street

Video – When Disaster Struck: King Blizzard

The CPTV Original, When Disaster Struck Connecticut, provides an in-depth look at the four major natural disasters that befell Connecticut between 1888 and 1955.

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Blizzard of 1888 - Hartford, corner of Main Street and State Street

Blizzard of 1888 Devastates State

An unexpected and deadly March storm, stretching from Washington, DC, to the Canadian border, buried Connecticut in as much as 50 inches of snow.

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Video – When Disaster Struck: The 1938 Hurricane, Part I

The CPTV Original, When Disaster Struck Connecticut, provides an in-depth look at the four major natural disasters that befell Connecticut between 1888 and 1955.

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Detail of the Town Hall, Public Library, and Fire Department and the Bristol Manufacturing Company

The Plainville Town Hall Catches Fire

Built in 1890, the three-story Plainville Town Hall quickly became the center of daily life in town.

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Video – When Disaster Struck: The 1938 Hurricane, Part 3

The CPTV Original, When Disaster Struck Connecticut, provides an in-depth look at the four major natural disasters that befell Connecticut between 1888 and 1955.

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Video – When Disaster Struck Connecticut: The Flood of 1955

The CPTV Original, When Disaster Struck Connecticut, provides an in-depth look at the four major natural disasters that befell Connecticut between 1888 and 1955.

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Video – When Disaster Struck: The 1938 Hurricane, Part 2

The CPTV Original, When Disaster Struck Connecticut, provides an in-depth look at the four major natural disasters that befell Connecticut between 1888 and 1955.

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