John Charles Olmsted and Charles Eliot of the firm Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot established this park in 1895 as part of the Hartford Park System. Shortly afterwards the Olmsted Brothers firm began designing the park’s circulation system and executing a planting plan. Initially named South Park, the 200-acre landscape was renamed Goodwin Park in 1900 after the Hartford Park Commissioner Reverend Francis Goodwin. The park’s initial Picturesque design consisted of both woodlands and meadows. Its most significant feature was the 90-acre Great Meadow, a gently sloping lawn left unmown and surrounded by native tree groves. East of the meadow, a river was dammed to create an irregularly shaped four-acre pond. Recreational elements, including a wading pool, outdoor gymnasium, and children’s play area, were nestled within the park’s wooded edges. A carriage concourse was established on an overlook at the park’s Maple Avenue entrance. A system of curvilinear carriage roads encircled the meadow and connected it to the park’s other features. In 1906 a nine-hole golf course was laid out upon the meadow, followed by another nine holes in 1911. The meadow served as an airfield during the 1920s and in World War II. In 1927 an additional 37 acres were added to the southeast corner of the park, used to extend the golf course by another nine holes and introduce a second pond.
Surrounded by residential neighborhoods, the park retains much of the original Olmsted Brothers design. The 27-hole golf course extends nearly a mile down the center of the park from north to south. Wooded parkland encircles the course, buffering other recreational features, including a swimming pool, tennis courts, a basketball court, and play area. Paved vehicular drives and two walking trails wind through the trees connecting the various park features to the surrounding street grid. In 2018 a restaurant was placed on the overlook at the Maple Avenue entrance.