A chance discovery in Colt Park has led to an ongoing effort to recover a piece of Hartford history that has been lost for almost half a century.
The discovery was made by Fairfield Avenue resident Karen O’Maxfield, President of the Hartford Vintage Baseball League. While doing some work for the league in one of the buildings located in Colt Park a few weeks ago, O’Maxfield came upon a huge pile of metal plaques with names engraved on them, each approximately 12” x 10”. She mentioned the discovery to several people, including Greg Secord, a long-time city resident and Director of Resource Development at the Mutual Housing Association of Greater Hartford, Inc.
Secord immediately began researching the plaques in the archives of the Hartford Courant and discovered that they were part of a memorial to the 207 Hartford Veterans that lost their lives in World War I. The "Trees of Honor" memorial was erected in 1926 in Colt Park with sponsorship from the Rau-Locke American Legion Post # 8, which is still active and headquartered on Babcock Street.
The plaques were placed on posts beneath the park’s many trees. Unfortunately, a major disease struck Hartford’s elm trees in the late 1960s. As a result, all the elm trees in Colt Park had to be cut down. In the process, apparently, the plaques were also taken down, stored away and – until now – forgotten.
Secord has started a “Hartford Heroes” campaign on Facebook to restore the plaques to a place of honor somewhere in the city. Open Shop Salute, a program of the CT Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, has stepped forward to help with the restoration of the memorial.
On Thursday, September 5, Secord and other volunteers will take an inventory of all the plaques. He is also hoping to contact remaining relatives of the veterans listed on the plaques.