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Governor asks public for suggestions about who to honor with Capitol statues

The state Capitol building is adorned with statues of historic figures -- and eight empty pedestals.
Credit: FOX61

HARTFORD, Conn. — The ornate exterior of the Connecticut State Capitol is not just a National Historic Landmark, it's a 3-D history lesson on the state, with scenes carved into the marble over its doors and 24 niches for sculptures honoring significant people in the state's history. Eight of those are empty, and Governor Ned Lamont on Sunday said we should think about filling those empty spots. He has three suggestions but wants to hear your ideas. 

Lamont tweeted out a video saying that he was thinking about the empty pedestals, and noted that "Right now it's a lot of guys up there -- mainly political, generals -- one woman, Ella Grasso. So I'd like to think a little more diversity in terms of the people up there, and what they've done." 

Lamont has three suggestions: Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin", whose Hartford home is currently a museum; Igor Sikorsky, credited with inventing the helicopter, and baseball legend Jackie Robinson who broke the color barrier in America's Pastime and made his home in Stamford.

Along with former governor Ella Grasso, the niches on the Capitol hold likenesses honoring state founder Reverend Thomas Hooker, Revolutionary War Governor Jonathan Trumbull, lexicographer and author Noah Webster, and founding father Roger Sherman, who signed the Declaration of Independence and devised "the Connecticut Compromise" at the Constitutional Convention. 

Who we honor with statues in America, from Confederate generals to Christopher Columbus, has been the topic of much debate recently. Lamont's call to add diversity in people and professions on the Capitol is likely to spark many debates. But the idea to put new figures on the pedestals may face another hurdle -- funding. 

The Capitol dome was originally topped with a winged figure called "The Genius of Connecticut".  The 3.5-ton metal statue was damaged in the hurricane of 1938 and then melted down for ammunition and machine parts in World War II. A new statue was commissioned and delivered in 2009, but remains on display inside the Capitol, awaiting $200,000 in funding to mount it atop the dome. 

Credit: FOX61
Connecticut colonial Governor Jonathan Winthrop, as depicted on the Connecticut State Capitol.