East Lawn was the first area designed by Theodore Wirth when he began his work in 1896. Sunrise Overlook is one of Hartford's highest natural points and has been a community-gathering place since the Park opened in 1897. Because it caught the early morning sun and offered a clear view to the east of the city's downtown area, it was called Sunrise Overlook. Along this highest point of the East Lawn, Mr. Wirth placed a formal promenade with long panels of turf and flowerbeds.
From this vantage point, one can see the Olmsted influence in the design with sweeping lawns and a large vista of the city, bordered by trees. Along the borders, Mr. Wirth planted over 275 trees and 20,000 shrubs, which enclosed East Lawn from the street and created a special place within the city.
In the 1980s, Sunrise Overlook fell victim to neglect. Through the efforts of the Connecticut Valley Garden Club, a new plan for Sunrise was designed and implemented in stonework and plantings. The 1994 design has a semicircular pattern of sitting walls, viewing terraces and walkways amid new trees, flowering shrubs, native plants, and perennials. The terraces were planned to accommodate people with disabilities.
East Lawn today still has the wonderful, large open field. Over the years, two baseball diamonds were added on the east border and a playground on the south border. In the spring, children and adults use the fields for softball and baseball. There are two basketball courts. The gravel track was renovated and over eighty dogwood trees were planted in 2012. The track measures about one-half mile long. East Lawn is a popular sledding slope for children.
The Western Loop area is pretty much the same since the 1900s except for the wider roads, the parking lot, and the tennis courts. It is a part of the “circuit” for the Park walkers and runners. The “Tear Drop” parking lot located there is so called because it is shaped like a teardrop. The Western Loop has very old trees, a “bog” in the middle, and was the original spot of the Sunset Overlook. The western view once had an impressive view of Talcott Mountain and the setting sun to the west, when there was nothing but undeveloped space and an open view. The Western Loop is a lovely quiet walk for those who have “discovered” this area. People spread out blankets or lawn chairs on the grassy knoll and enjoy the solitude and quietness. It does feel quite like being in the woods. There are six tennis courts on the south side of the Western Loop.