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Bushnell Park, Hartford

4.0
Park · Hidden Gem · Jogging Path
Bushnell Park in Hartford, Connecticut is the oldest publicly funded park in the United States. It was conceived by the Reverend Horace Bushnell in the mid-1850s at a time when the need for open public spaces was just starting to be recognized. Today the park comprises of green space, and is visited by over one million people each year. Paths through the park contribute to the East Coast Greenway.
Hartford in the 1850s was a rapidly growing river town, doubling in population from 1850 to 1860. The city’s economy was booming, driven by industries such as publishing, insurance, banking, munitions, manufacturing and river shipping. Like many American cities of the time, Hartford was enjoying the benefits of the Industrial Revolution. But along with this growth came some growing pains, including crime, crowded tenements, poverty, poor sanitation, polluted water and air. It was in this context that Bushnell presented an idea that had not been suggested in any other American city: the creation of a public park, financed entirely by public funds.
Initial public reaction was skeptical. Hard-nosed business leaders were opposed to removing taxable property from the tax rolls. Furthermore, it was hard to imagine a less likely place for a green, peaceful park than Bushnell’s proposed site, which was home to two leather tanneries, a soapworks, pigsties and other livestock–even a garbage dump. A railroad spur ran through it and the smelly Park River, polluted with the city’s industrial waste, ran alongside it. Crowded tenements lined both banks of the river, with their outhouses in the back emptying directly into the sluggish current. Even Rev. Bushnell described it as “hell without the fire.”
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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.0
195 reviews
TripAdvisor
  • Very fun park located in downtown Hartford. Beautiful cherry blossoms line a small pond filled with ducks. There is plenty of space to walk around and get some exercise all while maintaining views of....  more »
  • Nice park across the road from the capital. There is a carousel that was not running when we were there. There are plenty of hunches around and a nice pond for watching ducks. There is a walking path....  more »

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