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. Reverend Bushnell asked his good friend and Hartford native, Frederick Law Olmsted, to design the layout of the park. Olmsted, however, was occupied at the time with the double-duty of designing of New York City’s Central Park and Springfield, Massachusetts’ Forest Park, and thus declined the offer.
Olmsted recommended Jacob Weidenmann, a Swiss-born landscape architect and botanist. Weidenmann’s plan for the park included graceful paths and clusters of trees that shielded strollers from the sounds of the city, and enhanced the presence of the Park River which flowed through the park.
Later additions to the park include: the Horace Wells Monument in 1875, sculpted by Truman Howe Bartlett; the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch, designed by George Keller in 1886 to commemorate those who fought in the American Civil War; the Corning Fountain in 1899, with sculpture by J. Massey Rhind; the carousel in 1974; and the performance pavilion in 1995. As a result of seasonal flooding, and especially after damage from the great flood of 1936, the Park River was buried in underground conduits, and a main feature of the park was lost. A pond was later added to return a water feature to the park.
Today Bushnell Park is a focal point in downtown Hartford, and it is the site of several festivals and music events each year. The Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz is a non-profit organization originally conceived by Paul Brown, noted Hartford jazz bassist and music educator. For 25 years, Paul had produced the Monday Night Jazz Concerts in Bushnell Park, drawing thousands of music lovers to Hartford’s Bushnell Park for picnics and world-class entertainment. That first Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz, in July of 1992, was dedicated to the 25th anniversary of those wonderful summers.
The tradition continues in 2012 in Bushnell Park, America’s oldest public park, when the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz will presented its 21th annual event of three nights and two days of hot and cool jazz on the Performance Pavilion and the Friends of the Festival Arch Stage, featuring great artists from around the world and the USA, as well as young and up-and-coming performers from the local region. Connecticut’s State Capitol Building and Hartford’s skyline provide a beautiful, dramatic backdrop as the sun sets and the stars rise in the night sky and on stage.
Bushnell Park, 1 Jewell St, Hartford, Connecticut 06103