Day Trips: Plenty to see and do in West Hartford

Published on Friday, 23 February 2018 22:40
Written by Marty Podskoch

Once considered merely the West Division of Hartford, West Hartford has grown into a dynamic town known for its blending of historic charm and contemporary living.

Prior to its incorporation in 1854 as a distinct town, West Hartford was already placed prominently in history. Before the arrival of the Europeans, the Wampanoag, Pequot, Tunxis, and other Algonquin tribes, had been enjoying this location west of the Connecticut River. In 1636, Reverend Thomas Hooker, a Puritan leader from the original settlers in Massachusetts settled the Hartford area and expanded westward. Thomas and his wife, Sarah Whitman Hooker, made their home in West Hartford. Built between 1715 and 1720, the house can still be found on 1237 New Britain Ave. and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The home was a site of great activity during the Revolutionary War.

The Hooker’s slave, Bristow, who bought his freedom in 1775, continued to live on the Hooker homestead and is the only known African American person buried in the West Hartford Old Center Cemetery. The cemetery is located on North Main Street in the center of West Hartford.

West Hartford’s most prominent native son is undoubtedly Noah Webster, the author of the colonies’ first American Dictionary of the English Language. Webster’s dictionary was influential in defining the American lexicon and spelling as distinct from the British. His Grammatical Institute of the English Language or “Blue-Backed Speller” so named for its recognizable bright blue cover, became a tool for teachers in the newly founded United States. His birthplace is the home of the West Hartford Historical Society where you can take tours of this well-preserved 18th century house and museum.

Today, West Hartford brings a new meaning to “Blue Back” with its latest development of a retail hub in the center of town. Rich with restaurants for every palate, shopping boutiques and a broad offerings of entertainment options, Blue Back Square has become a popular gathering place.

Interesting places

For naturalists, West Hartford boasts two reservoirs with over 3,000 acres of paths through scenic woodlands. There are miles of paved and gravel roads for joggers, cyclists, and walkers as well as areas for picnicking. Many areas are wheelchair accessible. Elizabeth Park, on the boundary between the West Hartford line and the City of Hartford, is known for its expansive lawns and seasonal gardens. Opened in 1897, it has America’s oldest public rose garden, which explodes with color every June. The Pond House Café serves an eclectic menu with views of the park’s lily pond (1555 Asylum Ave.).

The Governor’s Residence is located close to Elizabeth Park on 990 Prospect Ave. Built in 1909, the mansion has been the family residence of Connecticut’s Governors since 1945. The home is open only for tour groups but well worth a drive-by as it is an excellent example of Georgian Revival architecture of the early 20th century and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Families with young children will find hands-on fun and learning at The Children’s Museum in the center of West Hartford They will be greeted by Conny the Whale, a 60-foot life-sized replica of a sperm whale. Children can climb inside Conny before entering the Museum where they will find the museum’s zoo, learn about dinosaurs that once lived in the Connecticut area as well as taking in an educational show at the planetarium. West Hartford offers variety of experiences for all interests and tastes.

Helpful websites

Sarah Whitman Hooker Homestead.

Sarah Whitman Hooker Chapter DAR.

Old Center Cemetery.

Noah Webster House.

Blue Back Square.

West Hartford Reservoirs and Reservoir 6. 3,000 acres of some of the most beautiful woodlands and trails.

Elizabeth Park.

Governor’s Residence.

The Children’s Museum. 950 Trout Brook Dr.

Joyce Petrella, Resident

This is an excerpt from the book, The Connecticut 169 Club: Your Passport & Guide to Exploring CT. It was written by local residents to encourage people to visit the beautiful 169 towns and cities in Connecticut. The 8.5 x 11 hardcover book contains 368 pages and over 180 illustrations, maps, and photos. It was edited by Marty Podskoch, author of eight books including the Conn. Civilian Conservation Corps Camps, Catskill & Adirondack fire towers, Adk CCC Camps, Adk 102 Club, and Adk illustrated stories. The travel book will be available in late summer 2018. One can pre-order a signed book with free shipping by sending $24.95 plus CT sales tax $1.58 to: Podskoch Press, 43 O’Neill Lane, East Hampton, CT 06424 Also available in late summer 2018 at local stores, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Information (860)267-2442 or

Posted in The Bristol Press, General News on Friday, 23 February 2018 22:40. Updated: Friday, 23 February 2018 22:42.