With live musical performances and cupcakes arranged to spell “378” at City Hall, New Haven celebrated its birthday on Wednesday.
Approximately 150 people attended the celebration of the Elm City’s 378th birthday, where Mayor Toni Harp recognized four different local organizations and individuals for their contributions to New Haven and accepted three pieces of artwork celebrating the city’s history as birthday presents.
“New Haven — it’s no mystery, this place is full of history,” sang members of the Gilbert & Sullivan Society before seated attendees. “New Haven is a modern major city cosmopolitan.”
The event featured a commemoration of the 175-year anniversary of the United States Supreme Court Amistad decision, in which kidnapped people from Sierra Leone were allowed to return home after taking control of the slave ship they were imprisoned on, which had landed in Connecticut.
“It was the people of the city of New Haven who recognized that slave cargo was human beings that ought to be free,” Mayor Toni Harp said.
The city also received three artworks as gifts for its 378th birthday celebration.
One of the artworks is a 30-foot mural in the city Hall of Records. The mural contains images of 203 objects, including Silly Putty and Singer Sewing Machines, made in New Haven. The piece, created by Robert Greenberg, is intended to celebrate the “203” area code.
Additionally, the second floor of City Hall now features two benches crafted from wood from the Lincoln Tree, a gigantic oak tree that was planted in 1909 in honor of Lincoln’s 100th birthday and stood on the New Haven Green until it was knocked over during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Nestled in the roots of the tree were skeletons that dated back to the 1790s. The benches are a gift from the New Haven Museum.
Zeb Esselstyn, one of the benches’ creators, explained that they are important because they represent a part of New Haven’s history. He added that the benches’ creation is also an example of “up-cycling” and reusing a resource that might otherwise be wasted.
Decorating the second floor of City Hall is the third work of art — a map of the nine squares of New Haven that originally hung in the First Niagara Bank. The bank donated the map to the city as a celebration of New Haven’s past and current culture and energy, according to the bank’s Vice President Jeff Hubbard.
After the art pieces were presented, New Haven Symphony Orchestra Executive Director Elaine Carrol performed “Sing-a-Song” with soloist Catalina Gonzalez. “Sing-a-Song” was written by pop duo The Carpenters who hailed from New Haven. Midway through the song, children from the New Haven Public Schools Youth Singers rose in the crowd and joined in. At the end of the performance audience members rose, joined hands and sang along.
New Haven Director of Arts, Culture and Tourism Andrew Wolf described the celebration as a tribute to life in the Elm City, adding that he hopes it gives people “a further understanding of the pivotal role New Haven has played in America” since its founding.
The birthday party, an annual city event, is the result of six months of planning.