Harborpark in Middletown, Connecticut

Mortgage and Lending with George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages NMLS #65149

Harborpark in Middletown, Connecticut has played an important role in the development of the Connecticut River, the City of Middletown, and the State of Connecticut, from the early days of Indian settlements, to the present day.

Settled by the English and early Pilgrims, Harborpark in Middletown, Connecticut quickly developed into an important port along the river.  Shipbuilding began almost as soon as the first settlers arrived. Shipbuilding and steamboat construction became a major industry. Many of our fighting ships in the Revolutionary and Civil wars were launched from Harborpark.  Harborpark became the home base during the Revolutionary War for many colonial warships,  including the first commissioned warship in the newly established United States Navy.

After the Revolutionary War, Middletown was established as one of the four official ports in Connecticut having a custom house. By the second half of the eighteenth century Middletown was the largest town in the State, and the river's most important seaport. One of its most important products shipped from Harborpark in Middletown, Connecticut was the brownstone from quarries in nearby Portland.

In 1824 Harborpark became an important port for Steamboats servicing between Hartford and New York. Shipping and railroad companies competed with one another until 1931, when the last steamboat to New York made its way down the Connecticut River, when automobile and trucking took over as the main source of transportation.

Because of this for the next several decades, Harborpark was neglected. Pollution from upstream factories, and gradual erosion over the river banks because of flooding which made the river an unpleasant place, causing the town to turn its back on it. Also the construction of Route 9 during the 1950's, further separated the downtown from the river. The only thing that remained to connect the river to the city was a pedestrian tunnel under the highway which quickly became an unpleasant place to walk through.  Not much good could be said about Harborpark during this time. This was indeed the low point of Middletown's riverfront.

In the late 1960's City Officials becoming more and more concerned over Harborpark's, run down condition, and the need of more economic activity in the city, as well as an awareness that Harborpark was too valuable a resource to continue to ignore. As a result City Officials took major steps to change things around, and make Harborpark a place people would want to use again.

In 1972 a Harbor Improvement Agency was organized, and produced a plan for bring back Harborpark to a place people throughout the State would want to come to again. Ground was broken on “June 15, 1977 for a project which included 1,500 feet of shoreline protection, bulkheading, rip rapping a boardwalking system, docking facilities for small and large excursion craft, launching facilities for high school and college crews, utilities for river craft and the structural rehabilitation of the former Middletown Yacht Club building.”

In Late 1977 the city constructed a boathouse for the Middletown rowing programs, parking, landscaping, recreational facilities, picnicking areas, gazebos, and a pavilion. The completed project which was dedicated in June 10, 1979, became known as "Harborpark".

The work of the Harbor Improvement Agency did not end with the construction of a new public area. For decades, the riverfront area had been avoided by the citizens of Middletown because of its negative reputation. So the city took steps to bring activities, and people back to Harborpark. The first major activity to be scheduled at Harborpark was the Head of the Connecticut Regatta. Since then Harborpark has been the host of many other events such as the Italian Festival, Emerson Regatta for schoolboy rowing, as well as all the home races of the Wesleyan and Middletown crews during the Spring and Fall rowing seasons. In 1990 the 4th of July Fire Works were move form Palmer Field to the river, and 1991 brought on two new events the Black Arts Festival in April, and The Middlesex Triathlon of which I am proud to say I chaired in 1992, as the incoming President for the Middletown Exchange Club. This was our main event to raise money for abused kids.

After several attempts to bring a restaurant to Harborpark, the Harbor Improvement Agency in 1980 found a developer for a restaurant in the old Middletown Yacht club facility. The restaurant has change names and had several owners over the years. It has also been the victim of several floods, especially in the early 80’s when the water on the Connecticut River rose over 27 feet and flooded the restaurant all the way up to the second floor.

In the 90’s the city purchase an additional parcel of land adjacent to Harborpark, and constructed a small park in honor of Christopher Columbus.

Today Harborpark in Middletown, Connecticut is once again well known throughout and a great place to stop at when traveling through Middletown, Connecticut.

Sources of Information:

Middletown, by David G. Sparks, published by the city of Middletown, copyright 1980.

Getting To Know The Connecticut River, by Elizabeth Gemming, published by Cowaard, McCann & Geoghegan, Inc. New York, copyright 1974.

The City of Middletown Municipal Development Department, William M. Kuehn, Jr. Director.

The City of Middletown Arts & Culture Department, Corine Gill Director.

And My Own Personal Knowledge of Harborpark in Middletown, Connecticut


Posted by

George Souto
NMLS# 65149

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I am a Mortgage Loan Officer who can assist you with all your mortgage & refinancing needs in
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FHA, CHFA, VA, USDA, & 203K loan programs.

I reside in Middlesex County which includes Middletown, Middlefield, Durham, Cromwell, Portland, Haddam. E. Haddam, Higganum, Chester, Essex, Deep River.


Comments (14)

Ed (Edward) Silva, 203-206-0754
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

George, I ca recall going there from time to time a they would have some excellent restaurants there, but the high water in early spring raises issues for them.

Apr 22, 2021 04:36 PM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good evening George,

Very informative post on Harborpark in Middletown, Connecticut! Certainly the history is fascinating and would be well worth the stop when traveling through Middletown, Connecticut.

Apr 22, 2021 04:46 PM
Myrl Jeffcoat
Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Realtor - Retired

Middletown's Harborpark looks like a pleasant place to spend time, George.  

Apr 22, 2021 06:45 PM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

George my friend loved this post bought back memories of living in CT 50+ years ago:)Endre

Apr 22, 2021 11:41 PM
James Dray
Fathom Realty - Bentonville, AR

Morning George.

Our little area when we moved here sure has changed.  We have became the hub for bicycle trails, golf, and the arts.  It is expected by 2040 our population will grow by 100%.  We'll see

Apr 23, 2021 01:25 AM
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Hi George - I love the water and also boating.  Harborpark is certainly my kind of place.  You gave us a very impactful history and glad things turned out as they did.

Apr 23, 2021 03:40 AM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Good morning, George... what a masterful presentation of Harborpark in Middleton and its history. Loved reading about it.

Apr 23, 2021 04:33 AM
Brian England
Ambrose Realty Management LLC - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

Harborpark sounds like such a wonderful place and I love it when things are revitalized like that.

Apr 23, 2021 05:32 AM
Rocky Dickerson
Realty One Group - Las Vegas, NV
Superior Service!

Good morning George and thank you for sharing. It looks like a lovely area

Apr 23, 2021 08:01 AM
Hannah Williams
HomeStarr Realty - Philadelphia, PA
Expertise NE Philadelphia & Bucks 215-820-3376


Beautiful post featuring Harbor Park in Middletown CT   The Pilgrims and the first settlers certainly knew how to pick  the right places to live 


Thank you for your entry in our Active Rain April Challenge 

Apr 23, 2021 03:48 PM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Hi George- HarborPark sounds so rich in history!!!! I know that if Larry and I were in CT, we would definitely make this a stop. 

Apr 24, 2021 02:14 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

I have Hudson good things about Middletown, Connecticut myself, and I think you're onto something here

Apr 25, 2021 08:51 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

Typo: I meant to say I have heard some good things about Middletown, Connecticut.

Apr 25, 2021 08:54 PM
Lynn B. Friedman CRS Atlanta, GA 404-939-2727
Atlanta Homes ODAT Realty - Love our Great City - Love our Clients! Buckhead - Midtown - Westside - Atlanta, GA
Concierge Service for Our Atlanta Sellers & Buyers

George - 
Thanks for the history lesson. I was born only 40 miles from Middletown but never had the privilege of seeing your town. Looks lovely - Lynn

Apr 30, 2021 09:43 PM