September 17 has been a special day of remembrance in Hartford since the Civil War. Four Connecticut regiments suffered heavy losses at the Battle of Antietam in 1864 – many of these casualties were Hartford’s sons. In 1879, September 17 was Battle Flag Day, a day of great celebration in Hartford as veterans just 14 years away from the “War of the Rebellion” gathered to parade their tattered and war-ravaged regimental flags from various armories to the Hall of Flags in the newly built State Capitol Building.
Just seven years later veterans from across the state would converge on Hartford for the dedication of the Hartford Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch, the first triumphal arch built in the country. Dedicated to the 400 Hartford sons who died in service during the Civil War, the Arch has stood not only as a monument to our war dead but as sentry to the historic Bushnell Park, the first publicly-funded park in the country.
One hundred and twenty eight years after its 1886 dedication, the Arch was again rededicated today in celebration of restoration work undertaken by the Bushnell Park Foundation. Since its founding in 1981, the Foundation has served as the preservation advocates for the park and have continuously raised the necessary funds to restore and maintain the park and its monuments. The Foundation will next start the work of raising funds for restoration of the Spanish American War Veterans monument located on the south side of the park near Elm Street.
At the re-dedication ceremonies, Mayor Pedro Segarra commented that Hartford, though only 18 square miles in area, is more complex than cities many times its size. We have many organizations who sometimes work alone and sometimes work together to affect change in the city. And this complexity is also our strength.
We applaud the Bushnell Park Foundation, a past winner of a Hartford Preservation Alliance Preservation Award, for its continued stewardship of this historic treasure.