Circus Fire Remembered
Memorial To Mark Site Of One Of Hartford's Worst Tragedies
Courant Staff Writer

July 6 2004

Ten years ago today, Charles A. Teale Sr., a Hartford Fire Department captain, presented a plaque that now hangs in the lobby of Fred D. Wish Elementary School in Hartford. "In loving memory of those who perished on this location fifty years ago, July 6, 1944, and with heartfelt condolences to their survivors," reads the inscription.

Today, on the 60th anniversary of the Hartford circus fire, Teale - now the city's fire chief - will join others in breaking ground on a more lasting memorial to the 168 people who died that day.

Teale, along with city Treasurer Kathleen Palm; Hartford teacher Kathy Spada-Basto, daughter of a fire survivor; and other civic leaders have raised about $115,000 to build a 35-foot circular plaza in memory of the victims at the site where the circus tent stood.

They will gather at the site, behind the elementary school at 350 Barbour St. in Hartford's Northeast neighborhood at 2 p.m., for a memorial and groundbreaking ceremony. The public is invited.

A bronze medallion at the center of the plaza, 8 feet in diameter, will be the heart of the memorial. It will mark the exact spot where the center pole of the circus tent stood on July 6, 1944. An image of the tent and the date of the fire will be engraved in the middle of the medallion, which also will be engraved with the victims' names.

Phil Barlow, a landscape architect at TO Design LLC of Hartford who helped design the project, said flowering trees will be planted around the plaza to mark the perimeter of where the tent once stood and its main entrances.

"The trees are symbolic. People will be able to tell the size of the tent and locate its entrance, where a lot of the deaths occurred," Barlow said. "So people will be able to figure out where their loved ones were during the fire."

The medallion will be surrounded by a circle 33 feet in diameter, with four benches. Four bronze plaques will be placed across from the benches and engraved with quotations from survivors and victims' family members. The circle will be filled with inscribed bricks. The public can purchase individual bricks with specialized inscriptions for $50 each.

A path will lead into the memorial from the Wish School parking lot. A plaque at the entrance will describe the fire and the symbols included in the memorial. Other small plaques along the path will include more facts about the circus fire.

The memorial will be ready by the end of October, Barlow said. The design was a joint project between TO Design LLC and DuBose Associates, also of Hartford.

At 11 a.m. today, WWUH-FM (91.3) at the University of Hartford will air a documentary about the circus fire featuring interviews with survivors.

Copyright 2004, Hartford Courant


My late aunt was a survivor of this fire.