Heartbreak Hotel


Drawing by Richard Welling. The Connecticut Historical Society, 1982.33.0. Welling drew on this side of the sheet of paper using magic markers.


Drawing by Richard Welling. The Connecticut Historical Society, 1982.33.0. This is the back of the same sheet of paper, which Welling signed and considered the finished drawing.

Does anyone recognize the grand Victorian structure in this drawing? Richard Welling drew the Heublein Hotel in 1965 as it was in the process of being torn down to make way for Bushnell Towers. At the time, Welling was experimenting with drawing with magic markers on soft sketchpad paper. The colors bled through to the back of the paper, creating a lovely atmospheric—and somewhat ghostly—effect. I wonder if in this case Welling deliberately used this technique to suggest that the grand old hotel was vanishing before our eyes. He signed the ghostly version on the back of the paper in order to make it clear that this was the version he regarded as the finished work of art. When the Heublein Hotel came down, nobody—except perhaps Welling—seemed to care. Less than ten years later, the destruction of the old YMCA, another massive Victorian building facing Bushnell Park, would lead to widespread protests from preservationists. Richard Welling would be on the spot to record its demolition, too. CHS is planning an exhibition for October 2014 that will feature Richard Welling’s drawings of demolition and construction in Hartford during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s and examine the effects of urban renewal during this period.

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