RJ 150: Amusement park, sandy beach once surrounded Hanover Pond in Meriden

RJ 150: Amusement park, sandy beach once surrounded Hanover Pond in Meriden

Record-Journal


MERIDEN — In the 1890s, fun-seekers from across the state traveled by horse-drawn carriage, train or trolley to Hanover Park to skate, boat, picnic, ride a roller coaster, try their luck at the casino or catch a show at the theater.

After interest in the park declined in the 1920s, the surrounding area took on new life as a popular swimming spot before pollution from industrial factories along the river prompted the beach’s closure. The man-made Hanover Pond was created in the 1850s when The Meriden Cutlery Co. constructed the dam along the Quinnipiac River to power its factory. After the embankment of the pond was used during the Civil War as a training ground for soldiers, the pond took on a new identity in 1894 when the Meriden Horse Railroad Company established a park on the pond’s north shore as a way to generate passengers for its trolley lines.

“The ‘open-faced’ trolleys, which ran by way of Hanover Street, were crowded to the limit when the season was at its height,” a 1956 Record-Journal article stated. “The park was laid out for pleasure seekers who, it was believed, would patronize the road in large numbers - and they did just as expected for many years.”

The 30-acre park contained sprawling lawns for picnicking, adorned with flower beds, a casino complete with dance hall, a merry-go-round, boat house and a bandstand overlooking the pond. The park attracted vaudeville and circus acts and was noted to be “crowded every weekend during the summer,” according to Record-Journal archives.

After the Connecticut Co. acquired all local street transportation, interest in the park declined as automobiles overtook trolleys as the city’s main mode of travel. The company would ultimately turn the large park into a parking lot for buses.

“The headquarters for buses serving the area was established where the crowds had gathered for so many years,” according to Record-Journal archives. “Since then, Hanover Park has become just a memory.”

By the 1930s, the city spent $60,000 — the equivalent of $1.1 million today — to convert the western shore of Hanover Pond to a sandy beach complete with a large pavilion.

Once known as a “mecca for swimmers,” according to a 1937 Record-Journal article, Dossin Beach was closed less than three years after opening due to high levels of pollution.

“Little attention was paid to the water, because for years swimmers used the beach without ill effect,” the 1937 article stated. “The pollution became known only last year, and since then the recreation commission and health department of the city and state have wrestled with the problem of cleaning the river.”

A Category 5 hurricane struck the region in 1938, causing severe damage to the dam. Recreational activities at the pond never fully recovered.

The city contemplated constructing a fire school at Dossin Beach in the 1970s, however, the concept was abandoned after Wallingford constructed its fire training tower.

ltauss@record-journal.com 203-317-2231 Twitter: @LeighTaussRJ


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