History of Riverside Park


The land making up Riverside Park was acquired as several separate parcels over time. The City of New London acquired the first 18 acre parcel in 1893 from the Post Hill Improvement Company, recorded in Volume 85 Page 280 on May 5. In September 1907, Sebastian D. Lawrence and Frank.B. Brandegee purchased 11 acres of what had formerly been know as Lewis Woods, an adjoining tract with 500' water frontage, and transferred it to the city, as recorded on October 2 in Volume 104 Page 558. Additional transfers of land to the park occurred between 1908 and 1910, from Brandegee as well as from William R. Pollock and the Palmer Brothers Company.

In 1930, the size of the park began the first of several reductions in size, as the City of New London transferred portions to the United States of America for construction of the US Coast Guard Academy, recorded in Volume 180 Page 535 on July 3. Over the next 40 years, additional portions were transferred, through gift and eminent domain, to the USCGA for its expansion. Additionally, between 1947 and 1959, a few smaller parcels were deemed surplus and sold by the city for residential use. Riverside Park now covers 18.55 acres which rise from the Thames River to the adjacent neighborhood and the Winthrop Elementary STEM Magnet School.

Urban renewal, and the construction of I-95 and the Gold Star Bridge, severed the connection between the Riverside Park neighborhood and the rest of the city and caused the park to become isolated. Hard to find, and not well known to residents of other parts of the city, usage of the park gradually declined. In the 1990s, the city stopped maintaining the shoreline as a public beach, and the footbridge and bathrooms were closed to the public after years of neglect. Still, Riverside Park continued to be visited by some neighborhood and city residents who valued its quiet solitude, unique landscape and sweeping river views.

The City of New London has from time to time attempted to sell the remainder of the park. In fall 2010, City Manager Martin Berliner signed a contract with the USCGA to sell 9 central acres for $2.9 million. Contingent upon approval by the voters, the question was included on the ballot in November 2011: “Shall the City of New London sell a portion of Riverside Park to the Federal Government?” The measure failed, and the park today remains under city ownership and available for public use. As a result, perhaps, of the publicity surrounding its potential sale, there has been renewed interest in utilizing and restoring Riverside Park, and a series of charrettes on the future of the park – planned for fall 2012-spring 2012 – has brought together a diverse group of residents, nonprofit groups and city officials to create a master plan for revitalization.