Beardsley Park Bridgeport, Connecticut
Beardsley Park is a unique Connecticut treasure, with the only Zoological Garden (Beardsley Zoo) in the state nestled in its 125 acres of rolling parkland. Olmsted's vision of the park presented to the city in 1884 is remarkably similar to what you will see today. "It is just the place for a day's outing. It is a better picnic ground than any possessed by the city of New York after spending twenty million dollars for parks." (1) Although Olmsted never envisioned the Zoo within the park, it has become a beloved and significant attraction.
Beardsley Park will provide the visitor with a classic Olmstedian park experience. As you enter from Noble Avenue you are led to a slight curve in the road where you will catch a view of the pedestrian bridge added in 1921 that connects the “mainland” to a small island. As the road straightens, the view melds to a large open field that softly slopes to Bunnell's Pond. On the right is the Zoo, which was established in 1922. The main road follows two loops around 'greenswards,' traveling along the site’s rolling topography and leading through wooded areas by a running stream. Although Olmsted preferred to separate active and passive recreation he did mention "the need of additional level ground for games..."(1) in the park. The city appropriately adjusted to the needs of modern times by adding ballfields and picnic areas within the open fields (or greenswards) but keeping them near the roads.
The two stone bridges within the park also reflect classic Olmsted features. The 1921 pedestrian bridge and the Setzer Memorial Bridge (1918) both have arch forms and are created from granite block. Although the road no longer passes over the Setzer bridge, you can walk over and find the pathway lined with large trees on both sides, another classic Olmsted feature.
As you take a slow drive around this park it is hard to imagine that your visual experience was planned in 1884 and is still being manipulated by Frederick Law Olmsted to this day.
(1) Beardsley Park, Landscape Architects' Preliminary Report, Sept. 1884 By Bridgeport (Conn.) Park Commission, Frederick Law Olmsted, J. C. Olmsted