After 35 years of preserving and maintaining, restoring and protecting the Park's gardens, grounds and buildings, the organization changed its name to the Elizabeth Park Conservancy. This name change reflects their mission and stewardship of this great Park. The Conservancy celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2017.
Elizabeth Park opened to the public in the spring of 1897, and is home to America’s oldest public rose garden. In 1894, Charles Pond donated his estate to the City of Hartford to be named a public park in honor of his wife, Elizabeth. By the mid-1970s, the Rose Garden (now the Helen S Kaman Rose Garden) had fallen into disrepair, and the City of Hartford could not allocate funds to sustain it.
Once the Rose Garden was restored, the Conservancy’s mission expanded to include the whole Park – the gardens, the grounds, and the structures. Working together, the City of Hartford and the Conservancy maintain the gardens and grounds, plan improvements and renovations, and are a model of public-private collaboration.
Once the Rose Garden was on a path to success, the Conservancy began to restore and maintain other gardens, renovate buildings and the greenhouses, and take on more responsibility as leaders in the park. In addition to the Rose Garden, the Conservancy oversees the maintenance of the Annual and Tulip Garden, the Julian and Edith Eddy Rock Garden, the Perennial Garden, the Heritage Rose Garden, the Sunrise Overlook, and the Hosta Garden. The Conservancy also works with the City of Hartford to maintain, remove, and replant trees in the Park.
The Conservancy recruits and manages volunteers to work in the gardens and grounds of the Park, and hires and manages key gardening personnel, contractors, and summer gardeners. The Conservancy collaborates with Connecticut Horticultural groups, garden clubs, corporate and community service organizations, and students from high schools and local colleges.
The Conservancy hosts events and educational programs for the public, such as Rose Weekend, to celebrate the Park and the community with music, tours, and family activities. The Conservancy organizes a free Summer Concert Series, holds plant sales, a Gardening Lecture Series and garden workshops, and organizes tours for the public, such as garden tours, history tours, and tree tours.
The Elizabeth Park Conservancy has been supported by many foundations and trusts over the years for capital improvements, free public events, operating funds, and staffing, and is grateful for that support as well as for the support of many generous individual donors. Donors are recognized annually in the Conservancy's Annual Report/Newsletter.
In 1983, Elizabeth Park was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, a huge honor for the Conservancy, the Park, and the City of Hartford. The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of historic properties recognized by the Federal Government’s National Park Service as worthy of preservation for their significance in American history, architecture, and culture.