It’s a truly remarkable piece of land: Hubbard Park, at 1800 acres the largest municipally operated park in New England and hallmark of Meriden since 1898. Speaking by Zoom to 37 Y’s Men of Meriden (a record online attendance) on March 30, Justin Piccirillo (art teacher, political cartoonist, musician, genealogist and historian) projected a slideshow to outline the extraordinary history of this gift to Meriden by Walter Hubbard, former president of the Bradley & Hubbard Manufacturing Company.
Hubbard, born in 1828, attended the finest schools and purchased his first shop in 1851; he subsequently married, but following her premature death, he never remarried. His family owned Meriden’s “Hanging Hills” and following the city’s 1882 decision to allow recreational areas, he embarked a year later on a round-the-world trip to view the finest parks, followed by construction of Hubbard Park. Opened in 1898, Hubbard donated it to the city in 1900.
Images included Crow Hollow, the Grecian Temple (gazebo), Fairview Observation Point, the Dovecote (decorative home for birds) and the Waiting Station (later known as the Skating House). After Hubbard observed some youngsters aggressively selling peanuts, he banned commercial sales within the park. Other slides included the Pavilion and Mortar on Mortar Hill (the mortar being melted by government order for scrap after World War I, with the unintentional detonation of a cannonball), Face Rock (face-shaped in a stone wall with marbles placed for eyes), Merimere Reservoir and the construction of Castle Craig, designed by 19 year old Stuart Davis Douglass.
The park, initially very popular, later became subject to decay and vandalism for more than 10 years, but underwent restoration by Craig Shroeder, followed by ongoing attention by several Meriden Parks and Recreation directors. Today a favorite for hikers is the Halfway House (so named due to its location halfway up to Castle Craig). And of interest: in 1982, the Mayor of Cincinnati offered $10 million to purchase Castle Craig! Nowadays the park hosts several outstanding annual events including the Daffodil Festival and the Festival of Silver Lights.
Hubbard and his wife are buried in the chapel (which he also built) at Walnut Grove Cemetery. Piccirillo has described this story in his Feb. 2021 book “Hubbard Park.” An energetic question and answer session (lasting over 30 minutes) followed this presentation.
For further information about the Y’s Men of Meriden, go to ysmenofmeriden.com or call 203-238-7784.