Walnut Hill Park Limestone Stairs. Photo by FHI Studio.

On May 9, Preservation Connecticut announced the recipients of their annual awards at a ceremony held in Hampden. 

“We are honored to recognize individual projects, long-term contributions, and professional achievements that demonstrate the many ways historic places contribute to the life and vitality of Connecticut communities,” said Jane Montanaro, the organization’s Executive Director. 

Among eight winners from across the state, two parks designed by the Olmsted firm were singled out. Fulton Park (#06780) in Waterbury was presented an Award of Merit, and the restoration of the limestone steps in New Britain’s Walnut Hill Park (#00600) won an honorable mention. 

“Fulton Park, designed by the Olmsted Brothers landscape architects [in 1920], remains Waterbury’s crown jewel thanks to careful stewardship by municipal departments and citizen volunteers. Over the years the city, the Fulton Park Conservancy, and neighborhood residents have restored park buildings and landscape features, cleaned trash, cleared overgrown plants, and recreated an historic lilac grove,” the citation read. The project team was identified as the City of Waterbury, Department of Public Works; Alderman Michael Salvio; Historic Overlook Community Club; and Fulton Park Conservancy. 

For New Britain’s park, they wrote, “A principal entry into Walnut Hill Park is the curving limestone steps added in 1931 to the Olmsted-designed park in conjunction with the World War I memorial that crowns the hill. After years of wear and neglect, the stairs have been cleaned and restored using historically appropriate patching material and Indiana limestone replacements where needed.” The project team included: The City of New Britain, FHI Studio and Armani Restoration. 

While the stairs were added later, Walnut Hill Park was among the first projects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux worked on after they resumed their partnership after the Civil War. Olmsted visited the site in 1867 and their plan was delivered in 1870. 

The Farmington Canal Heritage Trail was the subject of the night’s top honor, the Harlan Griswold Award, presented jointly by Preservation Connecticut and the Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office. At 54 miles long, it’s the state’s biggest historical site. Opened in 1828 as part of a canal system to bring products from New Haven to Massachusetts, it was abandoned in 1987 after decades as a railroad. Today, it acts as a greenway for hikers, walkers, cyclists and commuters. The recipients were the Farmington Canal Rail-to-Trail Association and the Farmington Valley Trails Council.

Farmington Canal. Photo courtesy of Farmington Valley Trails Council.

“Preservation stories often tell of threats and losses, so it is heartening to turn instead to stories of accomplishment and creativity,” said Ms. Montanaro. “These awards tell stories of rejuvenated places where we can work or play, gather and govern our communities, or create. They tell stories of places that provide shelter, conserve resources, and remind us of who we are and where we come from. They tell stories of places whose rejuvenated past can contribute to a richer future.” 

To learn more about the awards and the other winners, please visit: https://preservationct.org/2024-preservation-award-recipients