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Building could become museum for Black Civil War regiment

January 16, 2022 GMT

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A vacant building in Hartford could become a museum honoring a famed Black Civil War regiment.

Army veteran Bridgitte Prince is spearheading a project to raise $35 million to tell the story of the 29th Regiment Connecticut Infantry (Colored), the first Union soldiers to enter the defeated city of Richmond near the war’s end.

The city-owned building was built in 1920 and once housed city offices, but has been vacant for a decade. Prince and her partners also want to convert it into subsidized housing for low-income veterans. Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal has offered to help the group with the federal funding process.

The group also is seeking a national historic district designation for the building site and wants to redesign a park across the street to include a monument to the regiment.

City officials told the Hartford Courant that a thorough environmental assessment must be performed before the project can go forward.

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“We have very serious concerns about seeking a historic designation of the property until that environmental assessment is complete,” Hartford development services Director I. Charles Matthew said, “because while a historic designation can be helpful for redevelopment, it can also limit the options for redevelopment and increase costs dramatically.”

Tammy Marzik, a spokesperson for the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs, told the newspaper the project could provide needed options for veterans who are homeless or in need.

The 29th regiment was authorized in late 1863 after the General Assembly allowed the state to recruit Black men to fight in the war. The regiment fought through the end of the war under Connecticut’s banner and eventually totaled about 1,700 men and sustained more than 600 casualties.