CT Main Street Keystone Award
sponsored by

New Britain Historic Trails & Signage Program

Recipient: City of New Britain, TO Design LLC
Partners: National Parks Service; New Britain Historic Commission; New Britain Arts Commission; City of New Britain Public Works Dept., Parks & Recreation Dept., Police Dept., Fire Dept.; CCSU Public History Dept.; New Britain Industrial Museum; New Britain Library’s Local History Room; City Historian Pat Watson; Polonia Business Association & multiple “Little Poland” & Broad Street organizations; New Britain Sports Hall of Fame; Golden Egg LLC; Kerby Gernander Photography.

Opportunities & Challenges

  • The City’s Historic Signage Walking Tour was an idea that was developed by the Downtown Streetscape Working Group, and was a major component of the Complete Streets Master Plan for Downtown.
  • The stated purpose of this program is to celebrate the city’s rich history in a way that puts “feet on the street” around downtown New Britain and helps bring vibrancy to the downtown, thus helping to support downtown businesses.

Highlights

  • The community outreach involved three formal nighttime public engagement sessions, plus two years of a collaborative process between all major partners.
  • The walking tour involves three distinct urban trails/loops around downtown, all of which begin at Central Park. Along each of the three loops viewers learn many interesting facts about the city’s history, points of interest, and the people of New Britain. There are a total of 25 signs and 50 panels.
    • Historic Downtown Gold Loop is a 1 mile, easy and flat walk around the heart of the downtown, featuring important architecture and monuments, stores & restaurants, and public art.
    • Walnut Hill Park Green Loop is a 1 ½ mile walk from downtown around the Fredrick Law Olmsted designed park, including the Museum of American Art and a spectacular view of the city from atop the hill.
    • Little Poland Red Loop is a 1 ½ mile walk from downtown to Broad Street’s “Little Poland” neighborhood and back. Features industrial origins of the city, Little Poland bakeries and restaurants, and Sacred Heart Church.
  • While formal programming of these walking tours is scheduled for Spring of 2017, docent-led tours have grown organically from community leaders and institutions – which include leaders from the New Britain Industrial Museum, City staff, Greater New Britain Arts Alliance, and others.

Funding

  • Total project budget was $331,000. New Britain received a $110,000 Preserve America grant from the National Parks Service, which was matched by the City of New Britain.
  • Design, fabrication and installation of the signage cost $111,000
  • The in-kind contributions, however, were invaluable. Research, copy writing and graphic design expertise were provided by numerous partners, including the New Britain Industrial Museum, CCSU Public History class, the City Historian, Polonia Business Association and multiple “Little Poland” and Broad Street organizations, and New Britain Sports Hall of Fame.