Suburban Park

Farmington, Connecticut
The remains of the abandoned Suburban Park Amusement Park are hidden within the Unionville Village of Farmington, Connecticut.
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About This Location

Hidden within the charming Unionville Village of Farmington, Connecticut, lies the intriguing and long-forgotten remains of Suburban Park, also known as Rainbow Park. While time has reclaimed much of its former glory, this amusement park holds a unique place in history and offers an extraordinary destination for exploration.

Suburban Park, or Rainbow Park as it was sometimes called, had a relatively brief existence, operating from 1895 to 1905. It was owned and operated by The Farmington Street Railway Company, which was a part of a broader trend during the late 19th and early 20th centuries when similar parks were established across the United States. These parks were strategically situated in suburban areas to entice city dwellers to venture into the outskirts.

Visiting Suburban Park was an adventure in itself, involving a journey of one hour and fifteen minutes from Hartford, Connecticut, at a cost of 15 cents per traveler. The park’s grand opening on Memorial Day in 1895 was a highly publicized event, with The Hartford Courant playing a pivotal role in its promotion.

Spanning approximately thirty-five acres, the park extended well into what is now Farmington Woods. Its entrance, different from today’s access point, welcomed visitors from the western side, with a set of wooden stairs leading uphill to the dance pavilion. The park was characterized by meticulously manicured lawns, captivating water features such as canals and a dam, and miles of shaded paths and walkways illuminated by numerous Japanese lanterns adorning the trees.

Suburban Park was more than just an amusement park; it was a hub of diverse activities and entertainment. Visitors could partake in ball games, polo matches, and nature study amidst its idyllic setting. The park featured several structures, including a dance pavilion, a pagoda, a photography gallery, an ice cream parlor, a pavilion cafe, railroad offices, and a barn. Additionally, amenities like tennis courts, chair and rope swings, and hammocks added to the park’s allure. Various organizations and groups, including Courant’s Fresh Air Fund, Good Will Boys, Open Hearts Shelter, Sunday School picnics, Sisters of Mercy, and the Friday Eve Club, used the park as a venue for their events. It was also a popular choice for local factory owners organizing company outings.

The eventual closure of Suburban Park in 1905 was attributed to a decrease in patronage. The reduction in trolley schedules and increased fare rates played a significant role in the park’s decline. After its closure, the park’s land and buildings changed hands numerous times, with various purposes and owners over the years.

During World War II, the park became the site of one of the town’s two airplane observation posts. Over time, approximately fifteen acres of the original property were sold to different buyers, leaving 20.5 acres. In 1999, Roger Toffolon of White Oak Construction Co. owned this remaining portion of the land. A grassroots campaign led by residents successfully prevented Toffolon from extracting sand and gravel from the property and constructing 50 houses. As a result, the Farmington Land Trust and Unionville Historical Society managed to purchase the land for $1.2 million, ensuring its preservation as open space. An overwhelming 85% of locals supported this acquisition.

Today, Suburban Park stands as a natural, untouched open space dedicated to passive recreation. It offers a unique opportunity for the public to immerse themselves in the history and natural beauty of the area. Over the years, it has become a beloved destination for locals to appreciate and explore.

In 2019, a significant addition was made to the park’s appeal. Timothy Germano, a member of Farmington’s Boy Scout Troop 170, undertook the task of enhancing the park through his Eagle Scout project. His efforts culminated in the creation of an exhibit that opened in July, showcasing Suburban Park’s history and attractions. Germano’s project involved the placement of informative signs throughout the property, detailing different aspects of the park’s original offerings. Additionally, he installed a new sign at the park’s entrance and improved the park’s trails to make them more accessible and comfortable for hiking.

For those intrigued by the park’s history and eager to learn more, the Unionville Museum features an exhibit dedicated to Suburban Park. This exhibit includes historical photographs, in-depth information about the park’s history, and examples of clothing that might have been worn during its existence from 1895 to 1905.

Suburban Park may have faded into history, but its legacy endures as an enchanting and educational destination for modern-day explorers and history enthusiasts alike.

Location

Address: Park Pond Place, Farmington, Connecticut
Place GPS Coordinates: 41.757333, -72.883222
Parking GPS Coordinates: 41.757333, -72.883222
Parking Notes: Parking is available right at the entrance to Suburban Park in front of the archway. One side of Park Pond Place is available for parking. Additional parking can be found at the nearby Lions Memorial Park which has a trail that leads into Suburban Park. Parking is free at both locations.

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