Identified as an exemplary urban renewal project when it was completed in 1964, the 3.8-acre roof garden in downtown Hartford was part of a six-building, three-block replacement of the Front Street neighborhood. Stuart Dawson, Don Olson, Masao Kinoshita, and Dick Rogers of Sasaki, Dawson, & DeMay developed the design with Charles DuBose laying out the master plan. Among the first corporate roof gardens constructed after World War II, it consists of two main plazas situated on top of two, four-story parking structures that rise one story above ground. Stairs from the surrounding streets and an elevator from the parking garage below provide access to the roof garden.
The two plazas, connected by an elevated bridge across Kinsey Street, serve as a multi-use pedestrian mall, civic space, and events venue. The northernmost plaza, reminiscent of an Italian piazza with its 40-foot-tall granite clock tower and patterned brick paving, is surrounded by towering glass and concrete buildings. The adjacent mound garden provides an organic response to the city’s grid, where irregularly-shaped knolls planted with clipped lawn, evergreen groundcovers, and weeping willows are edged with low concrete walls. The larger, more rectilinear south plaza is dominated by a central fountain. Here, water cascades from upright granite slabs into a raised square pool wrapped with stone seating. The four corners of the plaza are occupied by honey locusts planted in circular planters and laid out in gridded rows. Peripheral gardens with small pools are planted with rhododendrons, crab apples, and evergreen shrubs and trees.