Thursday Doors – Riverside Park Boathouse

Boathouse Doors
For my Thursday Doors, a close up the front doors to the Riverside Park Boathouse

As I was researching the story behind today’s doors, I discovered more about the common thread between my adopted city and my home town. So, in addition to doors, today I am writing about the special relationship a city has with its river.

Although it’s always tempting for me to write about Pittsburgh, today I am writing about Connecticut’s capitol city, Hartford. The common thread? I had the privilege of living in both cities when they began to recapture their riverfront. In Pittsburgh, I know, I’m not writing about Pittsburgh, they had the idea to turn three struggling polluted industrial lifelines into a major tourist attraction well ahead of the national trend.

They began their riverfront recapture program in the mid-to-late 50s. John Connelly had the assignment to begin that process. Luckily, he also had the vision for a way to begin, by putting people on the river(s) for sightseeing and dining. Mr. Connelly founded the Gateway Clipper fleet. I worked on his boats for a while and I’ve been on them as a tourist when I’ve traveled back to see Pittsburgh’s thriving waterfront 60 years later.

About the time that Pittsburgh was trying to clean and rediscover its rivers, Hartford was busy building a permanent barrier between the Connecticut River and the city. Interstate 91, as it was originally constructed, ran atop a flood control dike that was protecting the city.

The highway would prevent people from accessing the river for about 40 years. Hartford began its own Riverfront Recapture project in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until 1999 that the City of Hartford was reunited with the beautiful Connecticut River.

It's taken over 30 years, but the bulk of the riverwalk is complete.
It’s taken over 30 years, but the bulk of the riverwalk is complete.

Hartford’s recapture plan required lowering I-91 to grade level and building an elevated plaza over the highway to provide pedestrian access to the river for sightseeing cruises and concerts. Also, a series of walkways along the riverbank and across a couple of bridges would link the plaza to three different parks. It’s been over 30 years, but the work is almost done and the results are good. These days, over a million people are visiting the Hartford area waterfront each year.

You can read about all of the attractions in the descriptions of the photos. Riverside Park, the park with the boathouse whose doors are featured here today, is on the north end of the City of Hartford. The park provides access to the river via a public boat launch, as well as playgrounds, sport fields and picnic areas. The boathouse is the base of a significant community rowing program and the upper floor can be rented for social events. The lower floor houses about 65 rowing sculls and was designed to withstand the annual flooding that puts most of Riverside Park underwater during the spring.

The rivers that had appeared to have outlived their usefulness to the cities that were built nearby, are once again playing an important economic role. Abused for centuries, we have finally reached a point where we appreciate the natural beauty of these magnificent waterways. It was a long time coming in Pittsburgh. The rivers that powered the industrial age in my hometown are now urban playgrounds. For longer still, Hartford had hidden it’s river from sight but has now welcomed it back into the landscape and the economy. Great River Park, where I begin many work days is apply named.

This post is part of Norm Frampton’s Thursday Doors series. It’s easy to participate, you really only need one picture of one door. See the link for more information.

39 thoughts on “Thursday Doors – Riverside Park Boathouse

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  1. Nice one Dan. It took us a while to wake up in North America but it really is encouraging to see so many cities reclaiming their riverfront areas for recreational use.
    Here over the last 25-30 years Federal and Provincial governments have spent hundreds of millions to revitalize the Old Port of Montréal and turn it into a major tourist attraction.

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    1. Thanks Norm. The effort to reclaim the rivers is staggering but the results are wonderful. It is a 25-plus year project, but it’s amazing how the rivers seem to know that it’s coming . They respond with cleaner water, fish and wildlife and it all comes together in the end. I hope we can keep them clean.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Great arm-chair tour of your river front and park!
    Our town started building parks, pedestrian, and cycling paths along our little river years, and years ago. I rarely get downtown to enjoy it the larger park, concerts, and events, but the paths created follow the river, and creek all the way out to the burbs and beyond where I am so I do enjoy those trails, and paths.

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  3. That is really neat. You’ve inspired me to take pictures and blog about our canal.
    Indy has the White River, but it’s a small one. We have a man-made canal that’s about as big. It only took 200 years off and on to finish it, haha. I’d say the best features are ducks and murals :) I love ducks and murals :)
    I love to walk the canal, and we go often, but I must say, they need to have a “rest area” on ours. Our visitor center has short hours and is located only on one end, and the restaurants along the way are overpriced and don’t offer portables. I believe more people would enjoy the canal if more facilities were available. Unfortunately, I’ve heard the city doesn’t want homeless people hanging out by the canal, which always bothers me, since they’re people…
    Real estate is too high there, me thinks.
    When we lived in Georgia, we visited River Street many times, and in Savannah, this is a great place to go. Lots of shops and dining, bricked streets, river access, river boats and barges passing by, pretty park areas…definitely caters to all people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I look forward to reading about your canal. We have a tiny canal (4.5 miles) in our town but I visit it often, usually by bike. It hugs the CT Rvier and provides a very nice escape. No facilities (hmm, interesting phrase), maybe portis at one end bubt it’s not that long a deal. I like rivers more than oceans. Thanks for dropping by and thanks for joining us today with those beautiful doors.

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  4. Lovely pics, Dan. Though from the lighting, I suspect those were all taken very early in the morning. (I suppose it could be dusk too, but I’m sayin’ ungodly early morning.) While I am somewhat of a morning person, I know I’m not THAT much of a morning person. I may need to go back to bed now just to make up for how early you took those!

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    1. You have a good eye for light Wendy. Those were taken during my morning commute, so between 6:00 and 6:30 am. Our daughter and I are going to walk the 7.5 miles of pathway this summer, so I’ll have close-ups from all three parks, both bridges and they will all be at a reasonable hour. Get some sleep – thanks.

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  5. Wonderful tour and history lesson! We have enjoyed seeing the riverfront revitalization in many cities, and it has certainly given renewed interest in the importance of our waterways throughout history.

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    1. Thanks Sammy. I remember laughing when they started this effort in Hartford because their track record with large projects is awful. But, 30 years later, it seems to be working. I’m glad to see/hear that it’s working in other cities as well. These are too valuable a resource to squander.

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      1. I hear ya! Most big projects are a recipe for taxpayer money down the proverbial drain. I think these municipal revitalization efforts work best when they are public/private collaborations and the waterways definitely stoke private investment.

        Denver’s downtown revitalization began, not with a river, but with our Colorado Rockies ballpark and it has been amazing to see what came as a result of that. I’m always torn between wishing I lived right downtown and in the mountains 😀

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  6. Good pic, Dan. Love any kind of boathouses. This one is pretty cool. Besides I love it when cities decide to make good use of their riverfront. More and more people want to enjoy the outdoors. Water captures everyone’s heart and belongs to all of us. See you.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Very cool, Dan, and pretty photos! We have a Riverside Park in our area, right on the water. No boathouse, but lots of sailboats moored just off the park’s edge. You would probably find the old, stately homes/mansions that surround the park very interesting.

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    1. I think I would like seeing those houses. It’s funny that in Hartford, the old mansions are a mile or two west of the river. The area by the river, both in Hartford and East Hartford is less desirable housing. Maybe that will change now that the river is becoming such an attraction. I’d be happy to see the people who lived there through the bad times, get the benefit of a nice resource close to their houses.

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      1. yeah – well I noticed that sometimes the reader comment thing doe snot work with image comments – or something like that. and I was just telling Sherri that I like when bloggers make those collages because the slide shows are a treat. I used to know a guy from Hartford and everyone always thought he said “Harvard” – but he said it was better! and it looks like ti could be… :)

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        1. I have found that I can make comments in the browser, but not in the reader or the App. I also (finally) modified the Reader settings so I get an email notice on your blog. I’ve been having the worst time following people in the Reader alone.

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          1. woo -hoo – I am so glad to hear that – and same here – something is weird wight he reader – it loops at times and then it also sometimes gives me too many suggesting blogs to follow – which I know could lead to a few nice blokes to add to the list – but it i sky least favorite way to visit blogs. I still do not have a perfect system down for visiting – but sometimes I blog hop and that is fun.

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  8. This is why I love our downtown waterfront so much. Something about being so close to the water makes you feel like you can breathe again. The boathouse is beautiful, Dan! I really enjoyed this tour. All it takes is one man with a vision….good for Mr Connelly.

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    1. I have read some articles that attribute the whole concept of turning rivers into recreational areas to John Connelly. That may be going a bit too far, but to put a riverboat in the Pittsburgh rivers in the late 50s either required vision or being insane. The rivers were so polluted back then. I worked on his boats in 1971 and things were getting better.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. First of all, sorry for commenting late. Yesterday (on Thursday) I was handling personal matters that needed my immediate attention. Now coming to the post, I loved the pictures, especially the Hartford Waterfront, the sunlight reflecting on those buildings. I’ve heard from one of my friend in Maine that New York is a mess, its crowded too fast and the crime rate is high. Don’t know how much of that is true, but how’s Hartford? I mean the lifestyle is fast, or little laid-back, small town life. How do you compare it with Pittsburgh as well, since you spent some time there? I hope I am not putting down too many questions. Just curious.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s no time limit Sharukh, I know that sometimes, I have to leave things until the weekend so I can read them and really appreciate them. I’m glad you liked this.

      New York is fast and crowded, but I don’t think it’s so bad anymore from a crime perspective. I lived there for one year in the late 70s and it was very bad. These days, you can walk around without much fear as long as you’re careful.

      Pittsburgh is much smaller than New York, and has its share of crime but when I’ve visited, my daughter and I walk all over the place. We have felt a little uncomfortable in some areas, but not many and, thankfully, without reason. I think the pace of life in Pittsburgh is a little slower than here in New England (nothing is as fast as New York).

      Hartford is a very small city by most measures, but it has a lot going for it and I think it is poised to become a better city in the future. There is a lot of poverty in Hartford and that brings with it crime and despair but things seem to be turning around, albeit slowly. The pace in Hartford is fast for the commuters, they seem to want to get in and out. The residents seem to like the kind of things most people do, gardens (if they have land), walks and entertainment. They are working to try to bring more young people into the city as residents and to attract more of us in the suburbs to visit the city at night and on weekends.

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      1. Thanks for all the information Dan. I believe Mumbai is alike New York, super fast and on-the-toes lifestyle. I love living in smaller cities or hill stations where there’s more to life than regular 9-to-5 job and a constant tug-of-war between personal and professional commitments. Although, my heart belongs to Mumbai, but someday I would leave it behind for a better meaningful life up somewhere in the mountains, close to nature. It will be a tough choice to make.

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        1. I think it’s great that you can be at home at both ends of the spectrum Sharukh. It probably means that you can be comfortable anywhere. That’s how I feel, although I think I prefer smaller cites to larger ones.

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  10. Beautiful beautiful beautiful post, Dan. I am hoping HOPING that here in Buffalo the abandoned ugly factories and warehouses down on the waterfront, are torn down and replaced with recreational/ beach/resort types of rebuilding. Our lakefront is SO beautiful, and yes portions of it have been maintained and renewed, but a lot has not, and it is a real eye sore. Our Lake has gotten cleaner, from a point years ago that it was absolutely disgusting. You have encouraged me to take shots of the lake front here that are beautiful. Thank you, Dan!!! Love, Amy <3

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great photos, Dan! I love the rivers. And I’m in fact amazed that they are yet so clean, even blue in the photos, like the ocean. (I thought the photos were of the ocean.) Over here–aha!–they’ve all become full of goo, some thick awful greenish-yellowish thing you can’t look twice without a scream beginning to form in your head. Really. I haven’t seen a true river in ages.
    Thanks for the photos and do have an amazing weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The rivers back in the 60s and 70s were awful. Running sewers of human and industrial waste. It takes a long time (and The Clean Water Act) to make positive change. Some people in government want to repeal the Clean Water Act. They don’t understand that it doesn’t take long at all to make negative change. Most communities still haven’t separated storm water runoff from sanitary sewers. So, in heavy storms, we still end up putting raw sewerage into the rivers. CWA was passed almost 50 years ago and we haven’t fully complied but people want to repeal it. Crazy – they don’t understand history at all unless it was yesterday.

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