Phoenix Companies Boat Building Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Hartford landmark was the world’s first two-sided office building

Newly renovated plaza is the first completed private property piece of Hartford’s iQuilt Plan

Business Wire
Phoenix Companies Boat Building Celebrates 50th Anniversary

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Phoenix Boat Building, Headquarters of The Phoenix Companies, Inc., Hartford, Conn. (Photo: Business …


The Phoenix Boat Building, headquarters of The Phoenix Companies, Inc. (PNX), celebrates its 50th anniversary today with the rededication of the world’s first two-sided office building. The anniversary event coincides with the opening of its newly renovated plaza, the first private property piece of Hartford’s iQuilt Plan to be completed.

“In 1963, Phoenix pioneered a modern vision for Hartford with the construction of a unique headquarters in the heart of the city,” said James D. Wehr, president and chief executive officer. “Fifty years later, we are proud to expand on that legacy by contributing to the very promising vision for a green, pedestrian-friendly urban center as laid out in The iQuilt Plan.”

Located at One American Row in downtown Hartford, Conn., the Boat Building is a major landmark in the city and a significant example of the Modernist architectural style. Its cutting edge concept from 50 years ago remains contemporary and a distinctive presence on the Hartford skyline. The Boat Building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and holds Silver LEED® certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, one of very few buildings in the U.S. that have both historic and environmental designations.


Phoenix’s decision to purchase the American Row property was a catalyst for the stalled development of the adjacent Constitution Plaza complex, the first urban renewal project in Connecticut and one of the earliest in the nation.

The company wanted a high-impact design that would symbolize its innovative and forward-thinking business approach and hired one of the nation’s top architects, Harrison & Abramovitz. The result was the world’s first two-sided office building. The 13-story tower, technically called an “elliptic lenticular cylinder,” rests on a quadrangle base surrounding a sunken courtyard.

Phoenix broke ground for its new headquarters on July 12, 1961. The grand opening celebration was scheduled for Nov. 24-27, 1963 but was postponed after President Kennedy’s assassination on Nov. 22. The company held a simpler dedication ceremony on Dec. 2, 1963. More than 12,000 visitors toured the Boat Building during its first year of operation.


In 2012, Phoenix began renovating the plaza surrounding the Boat Building, replacing most of the sections covered with brick pavers with environmentally friendly planted areas. Completed this month, the green plaza is consistent with the goals of Hartford’s iQuilt Plan, which uses creative urban design to strengthen pedestrian links between downtown destinations. The iQuilt Plan lists the Boat Building as one of the city’s important cultural destinations. Phoenix’s plaza connects seamlessly to Constitution Plaza and Riverfront Plaza, and is also part of the East Coast Greenway, a designated bicycle route extending from Maine to Florida.

The plaza project grew out of the company’s need to address practical concerns, as it serves as the roof of offices in the quadrangle base and was last renovated nearly 30 years ago. “The timing for this project was perfect for incorporating iQuilt elements into the design,” Mr. Wehr said.

The renovated plaza is 42 percent landscaped area, increased from 5 percent. One of the gardens is dedicated to Josephine A. Melusky, who worked for Phoenix for 72 years, from 1941 until shortly before her death earlier this year.


The 50th anniversary celebration and plaza dedication will take place at 10 a.m. today. Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and Doug Suisman, of Suisman Urban Design, who developed The iQuilt Plan, will attend along with employees, Phoenix retirees, and invited guests from the community.


The Phoenix Companies, Inc. (PNX) is a life insurance and annuity company serving customers’ retirement and protection needs through select independent distributors. Founded and headquartered in Hartford, Connecticut, Phoenix has a history of keeping its promises since 1851. For more information, visit or


The iQuilt Plan is a culture-based urban design plan for downtown Hartford that aims to integrate its cultural sites and institutions, including museums, performance spaces, historic landmarks, modern architectures and public art. The Plan links those destinations with a vibrant and innovative pedestrian network centered on the GreenWalk, a one-mile chain of parks and plazas connecting the Capitol in Bushnell Park to the waterfront of the Connecticut River. For more information, visit


Prosek Partners
Todd Miller, 203-254-1300 x149
Alice Ericson, 860-403-5946
iQuilt Partnership
Jackie Mandyck, 860-614-6077


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