Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Two-sided building turns 50

Fifty years ago, the world's only two-sided building opened--the headquarters of Phoenix Insurance in Hartford, CT. The Hartford Courant did a good story about the Boat Building, as it's called, on Oct. 18. This is a bittersweet anniversary for me because Phoenix's story was the first corporate history I wrote. My book celebrated the company's 150th anniversary in 2001 and is actually buried in a time capsule with other memorabilia on the building's plaza.  Phoenix went public in 2001 as well--not long before 9/11, as it sadly turned out--and the company has since changed radically. That history book is truly a history. (There has never been another two-sided building, but that's a story for another day.)

Phoenix's HQ, the two-sided
"Boat Building."
Photo courtesy Hartford Courant

A longtime Phoenix employee who championed the book has long since been laid off. We keep in touch; that's one of the ongoing pleasures of chronicling businesses. He wrote me this morning: "Corporate history books are so darned interesting. I still take ours off the shelf and relive the process and the period. I'll bet no one has ever so thoroughly explored and exploited their history as we did for our 150th. Too bad you didn't create a business model for us too."