As a state capital and center for the insurance industry, Hartford has a long and colorful history as a colonial center and prosperous industrial-era city. The first insurance company was established here in the late 1700’s, and The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, established in 1866, charted the course for industrial safety. Today Hartford is home to 35 insurance companies, including AETNA and The Hartford, which provide stable employment. The area is also headquarters to conglomerate United Technologies but most manufacturing has disappeared from the Hartford landscape and it has become a center for “knowledge” industries.
By the 1870’s, Hartford was home to many of the country’s leading philanthropists and literary figures, including Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe. The old city center is located on the Connecticut River with a modern downtown sprinkled with older historic buildings and nicer suburbs spreading into the wooded areas in the west. Areas north are commercial and somewhat run down while ethnic neighborhoods spread south.
East Hartford, across the Connecticut River, is headquarters to Pratt & Whitney and has more of a blue-collar feel, but is currently developing a large downtown commercial/retail/hospitality center along the waterfront. West Hartford is a more upscale residential area. The philanthropic heritage leaves Hartford well stocked with museums, activities, and special events. The area’s ethnic, economic and educational diversity are noteworthy.
Hartford is located in the broad Connecticut River Valley with low north-south mountain ranges on both sides of the city. The climate is New England continental. Prevailing winds bring most weather systems into the area from the west. In winter, Hartford receives polar air masses from the north and moist, tropical air from the south, resulting in variable weather and strong winter storms. Cold air trapped in the river valley can produce freezing rain and ice storms. In summer, the climate is usually warm and pleasant with occasional thunderstorms. First freeze is early October, last is late April.