Thursday Doors–Pump House

Pump House Doors
Pump House Doors

I thought I’d return to Hartford today for an easy door. Easy, in the sense that the post wouldn’t take too long to write (or read, I do think of you guys from time to time). I think it will remain easy to read, but that’s somewhat because it wasn’t easy to write.

I like to provide a little bit of history around doors like this, but the history of the pump house is curious. Let me share a couple of the conflicting facts with you:

The Pump House gallery website says the pump house was originally built in 1947. The State of Connecticut Office of Policy and Management (OPM) website says it was originally built in 1949. The plaque on the wall says it was built between 1947 and 1949. OK, potato/potahto. I guess it comes down to the meaning of “originally built” because one meant “started” and one meant “completed” but who’s to fuss over that?

However, the OPM site goes on to say:

“…originally built in 1949 as a pumping station for flood control. Due to erosion problems, the river was rerouted beneath the City and the function of the pump house was no longer needed.”

Whereas the Pump House Gallery site says:

Originally built in 1947 by the Army Corps of Engineers using stones from the bridges that were removed when the Park River was buried… This quaint-looking building, reminiscent of an English cottage, is actually a functioning pump house–part of the Connecticut River Flood Control Project–and an art gallery, featuring exhibits by area artists.” (Text bolded by me).

I am going to go with the Pump House Gallery on this one, because, according to Wikipedia (yes, I know) The Park River was: “Buried in 1940 by Army Corps of Engineers.”

You have to put your thinking cap on here and approach this as a logic problem:

A) Two of the three sites mention that at least portions of the Pump House were built from stones removed from the bridges that used to cross the Park River. That tells me that the river was buried before the Pump House was built.

B) What would the pumps have been pumping before the river was buried? A free-flowing river wouldn’t be prevented much from flooding by pumping the water faster, but water moving through a tunnel would be aided by pumps.


C) There is a plaque on the wall of the Pump House, (not the Gallery) indicating the span of the construction.

D) A fourth source Karen O’Maxfield’s History and Connecticut’s Landmarks website, says:

The park changed dramatically after the floods of 1936 and 1938 when all of Hartford was inundated from water backing up from the Connecticut River. By the 1940s, the Park River, which has flowed along the north edge of the park, was streaming underground through a concrete vault, its flow assisted by a series of pumps. The Bushnell Park Pump House was designed by H. Hilliard Smith to resemble a Cotswold Cottage.”

Whether the pumps still run today or not, the building is beautiful and it has some beautiful doors. I like the fact that it was built from the stones of the old footbridges. I’m not sure we would have gone to that much effort today.

This post is part of Norm Frampton’s fun and interesting Thursday Doors series. Please consider joining us.


  1. Well that’s just beautiful. The stone IS beautiful. I live in an area where re-purposed brick, stone, and wood is all used again. What must those footbridges have looked like? I bet they were gorgeous.
    I’m totally jealous that you have so many doors to choose from, you can actually post two sets on one Thursday!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks! The foot bridges were little stone arch deals and they were beautiful. I tried to find a picture that I could use but I didn’t turn up anything that looked public. I am so impressed with the reuse of the stone to make a handsome building, rather than throwing up some utility structure. I had to post these together since they are literally joined at the “hip.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful building! Thanks for all the views; I’m a sucker for beautiful buildings. I would Like this post, but the Like button is gone, ruthlessly stripped by Adblocker, which I just installed. So, LIKE. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Army Corp of Engineers did it in 1947…in the Hartford area…with a candlestick and red brick. The butler and Park River were nowhere to be found at the scene of the build. Private Investigator Dan has been on the job, sorting out the mystery and taking beautiful photos of the pump house. A news conference to announce further details has not been scheduled.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a magnificent looking structure! The doors you choose to feature are very nice too, but wow, the rest of your photos are great, Dan. I also enjoyed seeing you breakdown the facts about the pump house’s history. That kind of thing drives me crazy — where there are multiple sources and they don’t QUITE line up, but you know there’s some truth in all of it. I’m a bit of an amateur genealogist, and dates can be so maddening. But if you search long enough and you pay attention and use a little bit of logic, the truth can suddenly jump out at you.

    And those Gallery doors are very nice too, but I think you made the right choice having the pump house’s front and center in this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Wendy. It is fun sleuthing around trying to figure out the truth. The odd part is that Hartford is the capital of Connecticut and The OPM is about 4 blocks from the Pump House. It’s like when the weatherman says it’s sunny but you look outside and it’s raining.

      I always struggle when I have two sets of doors that would work, and I like both of these very much. I decided to feature the pump house, but I am impressed that they built the Gallery too. It’s the only community art gallery in a municipal park in CT. It’s also about two blocks from the Hartford Atheneum which is/was the first art museum in America. (I tossed that in just for you). They have been renovating the Atheneum for a long time. It is reopening this week, so you can expect to see it featured here at some point.


  5. Beautiful buildings and stones, and love the factual twists! Speaking of stones, I walked the soft clean sand beach yesterday collecting small colorful stones worn smooth and washed ashore on Lake Michigan. A step back in time at one of my childhood summer haunts.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Sammy. The story of those stones brings back memories of summer vacations on Lake Erie. I used to always collect rocks on the beach. I am trying to imaging taking those foot bridges apart, stone by stone so they could reuse them in this building. It sounds more like a WPA project.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Aren’t the Great Lakes a national treasure? Glad you’ve experienced them. I often think old stone and brick buildings should all be re-used when bldgs are demolished – great idea to do so with bridges. Bricks aren’t as easy to save. It does sound like a WPA project ! Lots of highway bridges being replaced during our drive cross country, with mountains of torn up concrete. Interesting to see the progression year by year.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Well… whenever they built it, I’m glad they managed to hang a fine looking door. It’d be a shame if it didn’t have one… all sorts of people and other varmints just wandering in as they pleased…
    Seriously, it’s a charming looking place. Thanks for the extra photos. Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The stone work is nice. I noted the front and back walls look very flat. Not any decoration. The building looks better lit up because you can see the stone is a pretty color. The idea of a river running under a town really peaks by imagination. I wonder if there are places where you can see it flowing. It is a nice feature that there is a gallery of local art as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My daughter attended the Hartford Art School about five miles west of the city. It’s now part of the University of Hartford. The river is above ground there but it’s called the Hog River. It’s was called the Park River in The city. You can see the tunnel entrance and exit and, every now and then, they organize a kayak trip through the tunnel at night. My daughter wants to go. I’m avoiding that for now. Thanks for the comment Deborah.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Dan, finally able to weigh in on your beautiful door photographs. I liked the irregular way the stones are inlaid. They are not cut exactly the same and this intrigues me. I am glad they came from the footbridges.
    I am also glad you explained the actual reason for Pump Houses. I am a little slow on some things like this. I usually just say I am “lacking a mind for technical details.”
    Let me tell you, Dan, we have more of a creek or stream, than a river, running next to Ohio Wesleyan University campus. It goes under South Sandusky Street where one store claims you can go in the basement and see it. When you go around this building it continues near the post office, under West William Street then along the Music Building called Monnett Hall. Eventually going along by Blue Limestone’s three quarry ponds. It is really fascinating about your Park River and how the story is not “nailed down” nor fully documented, Dan. You really tried to trace the history of this fine Pump House.
    We check with the county historian (Mr. Brent Carson) or the Delaware County Historical Society when we were writing our biographies of the homes on our tours.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Robin. The building is beautiful and I love the fact that they included an art gallery in the design. The design of stone may have been influenced by the fact that they were recycling the stones cut for the bridges. I posted this on Facebook to see if any Hartford area folks could to the history. Ironically, a friend from LA pointed me to a comprehensive history book that includes a fairly complete write-up about the park and its structures.

      Thanks for your comment Robin. It’s interesting the way “river cities” dealt with the water. Initially, they needed to be close to that power supply. I find the stories that survive to be fun to read.


    • Thanks Judy. Given when the building was built (give or take) I am a bit surprised that they put the effort into making it beautiful and that they added an art gallery. That seems so un-Hartford. Then again, in the late 40s, Hartford was a very different city.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. A bit late to the party but just stumbled across this … First, thank you, Dan, for providing a hot link to my website rather than to just plagiarize the information. Second, wanted to let you know (in case you’ve not found this out for yourself in the past 2½ years, the the pumps, in fact, DO still move the Park/Hog River underneath Bushnell Park towards the Connecticut River. I’ve had the privilege of touring the bowels of the facility and can tell you its quite fascinating. Third, there are, in fact, photographs of the burial of the river, taken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. I believe the archive is at the CT State Library in Hartford. Fourth, it is now impossible to canoe/kayak/boat/swim or otherwise pass through the underground river all the way out to the Connecticut River as iron bars have been put into place at the juncture of the two rivers. I do know a few that have made that journey and rave about it, but it’d not be for claustrophobic moi. At any rate, thank you for a nice piece on the Pump House.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Karen! I’m glad to get the additional information. I always try to attribute the information I have back to the place I found it, if possible. I’m glad you enjoyed this post.


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