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George A. Parker
1853 - 1926
Inducted October 1988
"When you are in a park, all that you see is in the park."
Born a country boy in Fitzwilliam, NH, George Amos Parker attended a “country school” until the age of 11 or 12. During his teenage years, he worked at a country store, area farm, and chair factory. At age 19, he had saved enough money to enroll in classes at the Massachusetts Agricultural College in Amherst. In 1876, he graduated and pursued a career in landscape architecture, with his fi rst professional job as head gardener at Vassar College, New York. Over the next two decades, Parker held landscaping, planning, and development appointments for public and private estates throughout the Midwest and New England area, including the famous summer home “Gray Gables,” of President Grover Cleveland.
Parker was hired in 1896 as superintendent of Keney Park in Hartford, Connecticut. Superseded by Theodore Wirth, he was appointed in 1906 as Hartford’s superintendent of parks and served until his retirement in 1926. Parker developed one of the finest park systems of his time. He believed that parks provided households a place to socialize within their communities. Hartford’s park system is recognized for creating the first municipal rose garden in the world (1903) and for its early development of a municipal golf course, attractive facilities, game courts, and playfields.
First Municipal Rose Garden in Elizabeth Park, early 1900s.
National Recreation and Park Association (July 1, 1998). As ever yours, Dad.
While working in Hartford, Parker sensed the lack of opportunity for professional fellowship in the newly emerging park field. Parker helped organize a group of park superintendents in the New England region to form the first professional organization in the park and recreation field. The group’s initial meeting was in 1898 and from this meeting, the New England Association of Park Superintendents came into existence. This early organization evolved into the American Institute of Park Executives (AIPE), which guided the park movement in America until 1965. That year, AIPE joined with four other national organizations to form the National Recreation and Park Association.
Parker poured his own money into publishing and distributing the association’s bulletins. He encouraged his fellow members to write and share their knowledge and experience with one another. These early bulletins were the beginning of what is now Parks and Recreation magazine.
During an interview in 1906, he stated, “I have visited more than 1,400 parks in the United States, and am acquainted with their history.” At the time there were only 3,500 parks in the country. Distinguished as one of the foremost nineteenth century park executives; Parker’s vision and foresight helped develop and enhance the park profession. He may have been known as one of the great networkers of the field.
Adapted from: Hartsoe, C, Sanders, D & Bridges, M (eds) (2009), Profiles in Leadership: Robert W. Crawford Recreation and Park Hall of Fame. National Recreation and Park Association and American Academy of Park and Recreation Administration.
- Alderman adopt minutes on death of G.A. Parker. (1927, February 15). The Hartford Courant.
- Baldwin, P.C. (1997). Off the street: Reforming the use of public space in Hartford, 1850-1930. Unpublished master’s thesis, Brown University, Providence, RI.
- Butler, G.D. (1965). Pioneers in public recreation. Minneapolis, MN: Burgess Publishing Company.
- First vacation in forty years. (1919, July 16). The Hartford Courant. 20.
- National Recreation and Park Association (July 1, 1998). “As ever yours, dad.” Parks & Recreation, Centennial Celebration Issue.