Hamilton Park

July 10, 2020

Edgewood Park is a centerpiece to outdoor life in Westville. But what about the original public park that was once one of the most renowned sports and agricultural complexes in the Northeast? This week we’ll take a closer look at Hamilton Park.

Hamilton Park opened in 1859, predating the New Haven municipal parks system by 21 years. It was located at the intersection of Osborn Avenue and Pendelton Street. For the first year that it was open it was known as Brewster Park. The fenced in 40-acre park was a public contribution by a group of prominent citizens that understood the city’s necessary need for an agricultural fairground. The park grew to accommodate an additional array of amusements for the general public including a half-mile horse racing track, stables, bowling alleys, pool halls, a baseball playing field and a pump driven winter skating pond.

Hamilton Park was significant as a sporting venue in the 19th century just as baseball and American football were first being introduced. The park served as home to all of Yale University’s outdoor field sports prior to the construction of their own fields in Westville in 1884. Hamilton Park held the importance of hosting the first Yale-Harvard football game in 1875, along with presenting the big top tent Barnum and Bailey Circus. The half-mile horse racing tract was utilized by the New Haven Bicycle Club for widely-publicized races during the late 1800s bicycle craze that swept American cities.

Shortly after New Haven formally introduced its municipal parks system in 1880 with the opening of East Rock Park, Hamilton Park was purchased by the enterprising Hubinger brothers. In 1889, they rechristened the fields as Elm City Park, and operated them until 1894.

Following the closure of the park Nicholas Hubinger, the “Starch King” of New Haven, built a unique and extravagant estate on the grounds near the old entrance on Whalley Avenue. The estate featured a stately mansion, and a series of stables and outbuildings including a private electric plant. For a brief period Hubinger continued to use the horse track for his personal use, but eventually the track and the rest of park not used by him was subdivided for housing. A small portion of land was donated to become part of the new Edgewood Park, which is adjacent to the old Hamilton grounds.  West Park Avenue was constructed, loosely following the old fence line of the park, and Elm Street was extended to West Park, along with the additions of Hubinger and Eldert Streets to the local grid.

Nicholas Hubinger passed away in 1913. In 1936, the mansion and remains of his landmark estate were sold. 3 years later, the property was rezoned and the eclectic manor was demolished to avoid the expensive payment of taxes on the buildings, ending the story of Hamilton Park.

Jason Bischoff-Wurstle
Director of Photo Archives, New Haven Museum

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