My most recent project here is to catalog photographs, prints and drawings by Hartford artist Richard Welling. I started on his Polaroids, of which there are hundreds. Welling loved photographing Hartford as it changed in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, and as a result, I’ve been playing building detective for the past few weeks. My job has been to go through a group of Polaroids of downtown Hartford and identify the buildings in them. Welling was very interested in urban renewal, that mid-twentieth century practice of razing inner city buildings in the hopes of clearing out slums and reenergizing downtowns.* With an SX-70 camera, he photographed several of Hartford’s ambitious renewal projects, often juxtaposing the old and the new. Several of Hartford’s old landmarks have since been razed, so having photographs that document their rightful place in the built landscape is priceless. Continue reading
A couple of weeks ago I shared one of my favorite drawings by Richard Welling, a view of the old E. M. Loew’s Theater on Asylum Street just before it was torn down to make way for the Hartford Civic Center. This reproduction of an 1982 drawing by Welling shows what went up on the opposite side of the street: CityPlace, a 39-story, 535-foot skyscraper, the first “megablock” to be erected in Hartford during the building boom of the 1980s. At the time, it was the tallest building in Connecticut. Welling loved construction projects and was affectionately known as Hartford’s “artist in a hard hat,” but he was less than enthusiastic about CityPlace, He described it as “handsome but bulky,” almost, but not quite successful. Welling believed in progress and could even justify tearing down historic buildings–as long as Hartford got something better in their place. This print of CityPlace was given to the Connecticut Historical Society in 2005 by Mary Lou Raby. It is part of a large series of drawings documenting the construction of CityPlace. In 2011 and 2012, the Richard Welling family donated the contents of Welling’s studio to the Connecticut Historical Society. .CHS is planning a major exhibition of the work of Richard Welling for the fall of 2014.