Thursday, July 29, 2010

Olmsted's Walnut Hill Park, New Britain, Connecticut

The famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted is best known for his designs of Central Park in Manhattan and Prospect Park in Brooklyn, but he did a number of commissions in Connecticut, including Hartford, Bristol, and New Britain, not surprising since he was born in Hartford. New Britain is nicknamed "Hardware City" because it is home of Stanley Works. It is also referred to as New Britski, because of the large Polish population (the Public Library carries Polish-language versions of many magazines like Time and Newsweek).

Olmsted took the commission in 1870, and designed a series of walkways and rotundas on a hilltop overlooking all of the city. The World War Obelisk was built in 1928. The upper rotunda is surrounded by a recently re-instituted Rose Garden.

There is a steel monument in the shape of flames, built in 1984 commemorating the death of Jerzy Popieluszko, a pro-Solidarity priest in Warsaw, killed by the Communist regime 1n 1986.

Lech Wałęsa was a human-rights activist, who co-founded Solidarity (Solidarność), the Soviet bloc's first independent trade union, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and served as President of Poland 1990–95. Wałęsa visited the monument in 1986, and paid tribute to the priest by placing one of the field stones on the sculpture.

Also bordering the park is the New Britain General Hospital, first occupying a Victorian mansion in 1896, treating Spanish American War soldiers. The oldest museum in America dedicated to American art since 1903 is also within the park, the New Britain Museum of American Art.