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Hartford City Parks Collection

Identifier: MS-CityParks

Scope and Content

The Hartford City Parks Collection at the Hartford History Center documents the growth and extent of the city's pioneering efforts to create and develop municipal parks. Series I contains albums with newspaper clippings, primarily from Hartford papers. The correspondence and essays of the Park Commission, and Superintendents Theodore Wirth and George A. Parker, comprise approximately 12.5 linear feet. Additionally, the collection contains papers concerning Parker's participation in the Hartford Committee on the City Plan, its Juvenile Commission, and other organizations (city and nationwide) related to the parks movement and recreation for urban growth. This material, found in Series II, is arranged by subject, but has not been divided into subseries. The material in Series III, added to the finding aid in 2021, overlaps and complements Series II. As much as possible, Series III is subdivided by the content's creator. Visual materials include over 500 glass negative views of parks and streetscapes, Series IV, and a large collection of half-tone printing blocks make up Series V. Many of these blocks reference the park report, or other publication, they illustrated. A collection of colored lantern slides, as well as planting and nursery order lists, document roses planted at Elizabeth Park. Responsible for the city's cemeteries, the Park Commission's records include documentation of burial ground oversight, plot sales, and the erection of grave markers. In Series VI, Bound Volumes, financial records may be found, including salary information for all parks, and accounts from the Keney Park Trustees, as well as letterpress books kept by Theodore Wirth. Especially rich is the archive's collection of maps, blueprints and drawings of cemeteries, and park structures and parkways (actual and projected), which comprise Series VII. Over 150 of these have been inventoried. Please note that the maps do not have titles, simply descriptions.


  • 1845 - 1967

Access Restrictions

The records are stored in a restricted area and therefore may not be available on a same-day basis.

Use Restrictions

See Hartford History Center's Collection Use policy. Permission to publish from the collection must be obtained in writing from curator of the Hartford History Center, and a copy of the published work may be requested by the Hartford History Center. The Hartford History Center reserves the right to refuse permission to publish, etc. to those who have not complied with its policies. Use of the collections will normally not be permitted for the purpose of promotion of commercial products and services or political campaigns. Hartford History Center at Hartford Public Library reserves the right to limit the number of photographic prints/captures and to restrict the use or reproduction of rare, fragile, or valuable objects.

Historical Note

During the first half of the 20th Century, Hartford was known throughout the nation for its system of parks. Building on the initiative of the Reverend Horace Bushnell in the 1850s, Hartford transformed an area of land along its Hog River (also called the Park River) into America's first public city park; an oasis in the midst of a growing industrial and commercial municipality. Designed by landscape architect Jacob Weidenmann, the City Park (later re-named for Bushnell) became the cornerstone of a chain of parks, large and small. The park system reached its zenith around 1900 under the direction of two visionary superintendents, Theodore Wirth and George A. Parker. They were aided by designs of the Olmsted firm. During that time, Hartford's chain of parks and projected linking parkways became a model for cities across the nation, as they sought to introduce space for relaxation and recreation into increasingly crowded urban settings. Inspired by the city's initiative, public benefactors like brothers Walter and Henry Keney, Colonel Albert Pope, Charles M. Pond, and Elizabeth Colt added large tracts, either as outright gifts of land or through funds dedicated to the purchase of additional parkland. Parks had many uses and amenities, such as golf courses, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, children's gardens, boating, and picnic facilities. Combined with experimental gardens and the nation's first public rose garden, Hartford's parks afforded all social and economic levels of the city's populace the opportunity for healthful recreation.


38 linear_feet (approximately)

Language of Materials



The Hartford City Parks Collection documents the city's pioneering effort to establish and maintain a viable system of municipal parks, connected by a system of parkways.

Physical Location

Ground Floor


The collection is closed. Additional accruals are not expected.

Processing Details

Collection was processed by Gary Waite in 2009-2010.

EAD Finding Aid created February 2013.

Migrated to ArchivesSpace July 2020.

Additional material processed and ArchivesSpace finding aid revised July 2021.

Processing Information

Portions of the collection have been processed, at different times and in different ways, since the Library acquired the material. No records, other than the 2013 processing, have been maintained. In 2020, an inventory was completed of all the portions of the collection. It was found that the Documents and Correspondence series had been assembled in alphabetical order by subject, without a focus on the creator of the documents, or the original order. When processing in 2020-2021, it became clear that the material came from several different eras, represented by the Superintendent of Parks at the time: Theodore Wirth (1896-1906), George A. Parker (1906-1926), George H. Hollister (1926-1954), Everett A. Piester (1954-1961) as well as the heads of Recreation: S. Wales Dixon (1914-1921), James H. Dillon (1921-1960). Order by creator was maintained as well as possible. Most material with no relation to Hartford or Connecticut was removed at this time.

Hartford City Parks Collection
A Guide to the collection at the Hartford History Center
July 2021
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Hartford History Center Repository

Hartford History Center
Hartford Public Library
500 Main St
Hartford CT 06103 USA