Urban Art Park Will Transform Grounds of Lyman Allyn Museum in New London

Rendering of planned great lawn, sledding hill and "Vitale Walkway" set in a pollinator meadow at Lyman Allyn Museum (Courtesy of Lyman Allyn Museum)


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NEW LONDON — Construction will soon be underway to transform the grounds of the Lyman Allyn Museum into an urban art park that will include a grand lawn, waterfall, pond, sledding hill, walking trails and pollinator gardens.

“From the beginning, when I got here, it was clear that the building was gorgeous but the surrounds were a little bit left to their own devices. Early on we decided, wouldn’t it be nice to renovate the grounds and make it look nicer?” said Sam Quigley, director of the museum since 2014. 

The museum was awarded $1.6 million from Connecticut’s Community Investment Fund, for this phase of the project. In 2023, the museum received $1.1 million from CIF and $500,000 from the Good to Great Program.

Quigley said the original 1926 grant from Lyman Allyn’s daughter, Harriet Upson Allyn, was to create a park and a museum that would be free to all the residents of the City of New London. 

“It was interesting that she specified a park first and then a museum, but not the other way around,” Quigley said. “It gave a reason to build upon that vision.”

Quigley said where there now exists a gravel parking lot in front of the museum, there once was a great lawn, and that the property extended further down the hill before Route 32 was built in 1971. The museum was designed by architect Charles A. Platt, and opened in March 1932. The landscape architect, Ferruccio Vitale, was credited with working on the National Mall in the Washington D.C., 

“We’re just trying to recreate what had been there initially, or at least an impression of it, and put the beautiful architectural gem of the building in the proper context with a great lawn, reminiscent of the big 800-foot mall that had been here before,” Quigley said. 

Below the mall, a sledding hill will empty out into the “Vitale Walkway” that will wind through a pollinator meadow. 

“Advocacy for better stewardship of our environment is a big part of our agenda here. A pollinator meadow directly made with wildflowers and flowers that will attract birds is an important part of [our design],” Quigley said.

A pedestrian entry to the park will be also created at the lower tip of the property for people arriving on public transportation, by foot or by bicycle. 

Landscape architect Brian Kent, principal at Kent+Frost, who researched the historic plans of the 12-acre site, created an “ecologically purposeful” waterfall that will flow into a filtration pond on the site.

Rendering showing upcoming construction at Lyman Allyn Park (Courtesy Kent+Frost)

The museum will be open during construction. A new parking area will be built at the north side of the museum.

Quigley said that the master plan also includes future plans for an open air theater and a terraced garden that will serve as seating for the theater audience, development of the McCourt Family 911 Memorial Garden, and a New London artists sculpture garden — projects that will require separate funding in the future. 

He said the idea is to create a park for the community with an eye toward the future. 

“What we’re doing here is sort of setting the table, it’s taking care of some of the very major crying out needs, but then there is still more room for other areas to be added on,” he said.
“We expect to break ground in late May or early June and open the park in the summer of 2025.”