Whether you’re looking to take date night outside or snap the perfect picture for Instagram, nothing says summer in Greater Hartford quite like Elizabeth Park and America’s oldest public rose garden.
Home to over 800 varieties of new and old roses, the rose garden is the center of Elizabeth Park. Not only is it the first municipal rose garden in the United States, but it’s the third largest in the nation today. Theodore Wirth began designing the rose garden in September 1903; the garden opened nine months later in June 1904. Initially, the garden was home to approximately 190 varieties of roses. Today, there are over 15,000 rose bushes and over 800 varieties.
Even with the rose garden’s popularity, Elizabeth Park features so much more! There are approximately half-a-dozen other gardens, a handful of greenhouses, the Pond House café and the list goes on! And none of it would be possible without the Elizabeth Park Conservancy.
The Elizabeth Park Conservancy was formed in 1977, initially titled Friends of Elizabeth Park. Friends of Elizabeth Park consisted of dedicated neighbors banding together to save the rose garden from demolition. In 1894, Charles Pond donated his estate to the City of Hartford to create a public park named for his wife, Elizabeth. Elizabeth Park was opened to the public in 1897. Unfortunately, by the mid-1970’s, the rose garden had fallen into disrepair. Once the rose garden had been restored, the Elizabeth Park Conservancy expanded their mission to protect and maintain other gardens and renovate buildings and the greenhouses. Today, the Elizabeth Park Conservancy oversees the Annual and Tulip Garden, the Perennial Garden, the Rose Garden, the Shade-Rock Garden, the Heritage Rose Garden and the Sunrise Overlook.
In addition to overseeing and maintaining Elizabeth Park, the Elizabeth Park Conservancy has a number of leadership responsibilities. The Conservancy hosts a number of events including Rose Weekend, a free summer concert series, tours of the park and even yoga! Additionally, the Conservancy recruits and manages hundreds of volunteers to work in the gardens and hires key gardening personnel, contractors and summer gardeners. A huge accomplishment for the Conservancy was the awarding of the National Register of Historic Places, an official list of historic properties recognized by the Federal Government’s National Park Service.
As one of our grantees, the Greater Hartford Arts Council grants funds designated to preserve the park’s heritage and improve the beautiful space for year-round arts and cultural events.
Join our United Arts Campaign to help support the arts in Greater Hartford including Elizabeth Park!