Riverside Park - Hartford

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Hartford, CT
United States
Riverside Park - Hartford

In 1895 the City of Hartford both purchased and leased a total of 75 acres for the establishment of a park along the Connecticut River. The Olmsted Brothers firm designed the park, in 1899, as a recreational space for nearby tenement residents. John Charles Olmsted, with the assistance of Percival Gallagher, supervised the park’s design, which consisted of a Picturesque landscape comprising open lawns encircled by scenic walking paths that overlooked the river. The park’s defining feature was the seasonal Riverside Pond that occupied the center of the landscape. The park’s riverbanks were planted with tree groves and native shrubs that mitigated erosion. Water Street, situated on the park’s western border, served as a connection to Keney Park. The New York & New England Railroad tracks framed the park to the north. A wading pool was placed at the southern end of the park near a boating and skating pavilion. In 1904 Hartford park superintendent Theodore Wirth oversaw the addition of recreational fixtures in the park’s southern section.  The construction of Interstate 91 in the mid-twentieth century isolated the park from downtown Hartford. The city renovated the park in the early 2000s, as part of a larger revitalization effort, resulting in the construction of a boathouse and new walking paths. 

The Olmsted Brothers’ original design is no longer evident in the present-day park. Having been reduced to 51 acres, the park lies nestled against the embankments of the railroad and interstate to the north and to the west. The landscape consists of two recreational areas divided north and south by a parking lot and a two-story boathouse with an accompanying boat launch. The open lawn to the north, containing a football and cricket field, is edged by forested riverbanks. The sloping lawn to the south contains several picnic areas, a playground, and a gazebo connected by paved walking paths. Two unpaved riverfront trails commence from the boathouse, extending north 4.5 miles through wooded groves to the Town of Windsor.