Located immediately west of the Connecticut capitol of Hartford lies West Hartford, a small, affluent city that has earned a reputation as one of America’s coolest suburbs according to TravelandLeisure.com. Originally a part of Hartford and called the “West Division”, West Hartford was incorporated and re-named in 1854. It is a little over twenty-two square miles, or fourteen thousand acres.
West Hartford was listed as one of America’s ten great cities for raising families in 2010 by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine and the fifty-fifth best small city in America in 2010 by CNN Money. It is home to the University of Hartford and the University of Saint Joseph, as well as over sixty-three thousand residents.
West Hartford is well-known for its thriving downtown area, known as “The Center”, located on Farmington Avenue and Main Street. It has also become known for the section in The Center referred to as the “Blue Back Square” or “The Square”, which includes a movie theater, numerous medical offices, some restaurants and much more. In fact, The Center and The Square are largely responsible for the city being noted as one that is ripe with vacation-worthy hot spots, trendy boutiques, fantastic restaurants and plenty of great shopping. Additionally, along New Park Avenue is the Home Design District, where within one square mile consumers can choose from thirteen independent businesses that offer anything one could possibly need or want to improve their home–from roofing to flooring and everything in between. However, these areas still make up only a small portion of what West Hartford truly has to offer.
One of West Hartford’s claims to fame is Elizabeth Park, with its world-renowned rose gardens. Located in the center of Elizabeth Park, this stunning rose garden was the first municipal rose garden in the country, and it remains the third largest rose garden in the country today. The garden’s design was begun in September of 1903 and it first opened in June of 1904, boasting approximately one hundred ninety varieties of roses. The original main garden, referred to as the “square” and covering a full acre, still stands in its original design with one hundred thirty-two rose beds. The garden became the American Rose Society’s first official test garden in 1912, which is when the semi-circular South garden was added. The American Rose Society requested the addition of the semi-circular North garden in 1937, which completed the garden as it stands today. With the addition of the semi-circular North and South gardens, there are now more than fifteen thousand old and new roses from eight hundred different varieties in the two-and-a-half acre garden. The gardens themselves, as well as the central gazebo and the arches, are photographed and painted often, and have become a recognized symbol of Hartford.
Perhaps West Hartford’s most notable claim to fame is as the birthplace and home of Noah Webster. Webster was the author behind the first American dictionary which was published in 1806 and “An American Dictionary of the English Language” which was published in 1828. A marble statue was carved in his likeness by Polish-American sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski when Ziolkowski moved to West Hartford from Boston and decided that the town needed a memorial in honor of its most famous citizen. The statue was finished in 1941, and today it stands in front of the Noah Webster Public Library on South Main Street.
Through a tour of Webster’s home, visitors can come to understand both his vision and his impact on the entire nation. Webster’s family placed great importance on good education, and his mother taught Webster and his siblings spelling, mathematics and music prior to their attendance of the Ecclesiastical Society primary school. This value–a keen focus on the great importance of good education–has endured even as West Hartford evolved from the Ecclesiastical Society.
West Hartford has a lower-than-average crime rate, and along with fantastic schools, well-appointed neighborhoods, a variety of recreational opportunities and much more, it is a beautiful place to call home.