In 1839, a wealthy Hartford businessman named Charles Floyer Pond (born 1809) purchased 33 acres of land at the western edge of the city. As early as 1859, C. F. Pond was raising Ayrshire cattle on Prospect Hill Farm. Mr. Pond had three children, Charles, Clara, and Anson. When he died in 1869, his eldest son, Charles Murray Pond, inherited the estate. Born in 1837, Mr. Pond served as treasurer of the Hartford-New Haven Railroad. Elected to the State Senate (1872 and 1874), he became State Treasurer (1876). Mr. Pond continued to operate a working farm with cattle, horses, and barns, and also grew tobacco and other produce.
In 1870, he married Sarah Elizabeth Aldrich (1840–1891) and built a Second Empirestyle home along Prospect Avenue. Horses were Mr. Pond’s passion, and he was famous for breeding purebred trotters. On Sunday afternoons, he would host races around a dirt track of the present-day rose garden.
The current rose garden was Mr. and Mrs. Pond’s nursery area where they had plants propagated for their grounds. Elizabeth loved flowers and had a variety of gardens maintained around the estate. Charles had a special interest in trees. As head of the working farm, he would signal to his laborers the end of the workday by firing his shotgun. Between 1869 and 1874, Mr. Pond added to the property three times, bringing his total land holdings to 90 acres.
In 1870, Mr. Pond asked Frederick Law Olmsted to assess Prospect Hill as a potential public park. In 1893, Rev. Francis Goodwin, who served on the Board of Park Commissioners, convinced Mr. Pond to leave Prospect Hill land to the city. Charles Murray Pond passed away in 1894, just three years after his wife, Elizabeth, who died at the age of 51. The couple had no children. His gift to the city included 90 acres of land, along with a generous fund of $100,000 for the layout, care, and maintenance of a public park.
Mr. Pond’s will spelled out the following bequest: “I give to the City of Hartford, this gift of about ninety (90) acres, to be forever held and used as a public park. My wish is that this land may be associated with the name Elizabeth, in memory of my beloved wife.”
On April 19, 1897, the Court of Common Council voted to designate, hold, and use Pond’s property as a public park, an act that placed the care and management of the property in the hands of the Board of Park Commissioners. The park officially opened on July 12, 1897.
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