Stanley Quarter Park
New Britain, CT
History ~ Memories ~ Photos
History and Photos
Alan Dul has done a lot of research on this lost area, and all of the history below is from his report. In addition, all of the photos are courtesy of Jon Regan, taken in March of 2006.
The report below is based on information obtained directly from the New Britain Herald using the dates indicated below. Not all of the information is verbatim, but no changes have been made to the context of the newspaper articles. The information has been provided just as it appeared in the articles. This is intended as a “snapshot” of the Ski Tow history only. Other information was provided in the articles, but had little if anything to do with the ski slope. If exact information is needed, the microfilm history is available from the New Britain Public Library using the dates indicated below. The history below is not conclusive; this was as much history as I was able to obtain to date. I have endeavored to keep factual information and personal accounts separate. If anyone has further information, especially photos, I would be grateful!!
•October 9, 1963, Page 21: The building of a ski area is considered for A.W. Stanley Park in the vicinity of the old Stanley mansion. Commissioner Richard D. Harris authorized to get an estimate of the cost, and a special meeting may be called when the estimate is available.
•December 28, 1963, Page 1: Stanley Quarter Park is being readied for a Ski Slope. The city would like to have it in operation before the end of the winter, says Park Commissioner Richard D. Harris. Mayor Thomas J Meskill Jr. and members of the New Britain Ski Club are working hard toward its completion. The location will be south of Blake Road and east of McClintock Street. As work continues, Harris envisions a slope of 900 to 1,000 feet in length, with an 11% grade. A rope tow will be installed powered by electric motors which the Park Department uses for pumping operations in the summer. Already, a path has been cleared for the rope tow. Next Monday, Park Department employees will begin clearing the hundreds of trees for the ski area. Lumber will be saved for fires at the city skating areas, says Harris. The area should be cleared of stumps within a month. “Then, if we get a good heavy snow, New Britain will have its ski slope” said Harris. Eventually, Harris said, instructions may be offered at the site, the same as the programs conducted in Newington and Bristol. (Note: the information I have at this time is that the completed slope was 850 feet in length.)
•January 3, 1964, Page 1: A photo was provided on the front page of the New Britain Herald showing the area being cleared of trees, however it was very grainy and difficult to distinguish any detail. No reference points can be seen, therefore, I did not include it in this report. No additional text was provided with the photo.
Looking down from the top.The one slope appeared to have been recently cleared of a tangle of saplings, vines and underbrush that I'm sure existed as this hill hasn't been used for skiing in 25+ years. The one open slope was medium in width at the top and widened as you approach the bottom, with nice variations in terrain. There was also existing evidence that this hill was once lighted for night skiing.
1964, Page 21: The Ski Slope will be opened as soon as there is a good snow
fall, the Park Board announced last night. Fees are as follows: Adults, $1.00;
Children 15 and under, $0.50; Saturdays and Sundays, Adults $1.50; Children
under 15 $0.75. At present, there will be daytime skiing only, but plans are
being made to install lights. Park officials were informed that it needed
permission from the Common Council to establish and enforce rules and
regulations for the Slope’s operation. It was recommended that frequent checks
by park policemen was the only practical approach to the “malicious damage” that
has occurred through the city parks. (Note: the text seems to imply that the Ski
Slope will be in operation, and accessible to the public before formal rules and
regulations are in place!)
•January 10, 1964, Page 7: There is a planned special meeting of the Common Council’s Ordinances and Salaries Committee Wednesday night, per Chairman James J. Mulligan. If approved, the Ordinance will authorize the Park Board to establish rules and regulations for all city parks, but would be particularly aimed at the activities in and around the proposed Ski Area for Stanley Quarter Park.
•February 20, 1964, Page 37: The Ski Slope opened officially last Monday (2/17/64). “Blue skies, packed powder and comfortable temperatures” are reported. The happiest man is Commissioner Richard Harris, whose plan only took three months to complete. “His enthusiasm for the boards (skis) is surpassed only by his enthusiasm for future expansion of the area – new trails, instruction for children, housewives, and businessmen”. “Snowmaking equipment next?” Rudy Brandt will be in charge of the Ski Patrol and first aid. The tow will operate daily from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., snow conditions permitting.
•December 24, 1964, Page 16: The purchase of inexpensive snow making machines is being considered by the Park Board for the Ski Slope, to allow for the Slope’s continuous operation during the winter, per Director Kenneth E. Schlosser. Koss Electrical Co. of New Britain is completing installation of electrical power for the tow lift and lights.
•December 20, 1965, Page 4: Director of Parks Kenneth Schlosser said a new ski rope was cut by vandals during the weekend. Such vandalism “…continues to plague park officials.” Park vandalism is costing $10,000.00 to $15,000.00 annually. “The department does not have this kind of money to make the necessary repairs”, He said.
•November 29, 1966, Page 5: Board of Finance yesterday gave the Park and Recreation Commission permission to draw $6,000.00 from its park improvement fund to build a parking lot near the Stanley Quarter Park Ski Area. “Now the Commission, which had not asked to build the lot in the first place, is searching for sufficient funds in its improvement budget.” The Board action is the result of Common Counsel Resolution favoring the project with strong backing from Mayor Paul J. Manafort. “Final approval to any building plan must be given by the Commission which is expected to look closely at the project because it apparently could only be accomplished by taking funds earmarked for other park improvements.”
(Note: When I began to visit this area of the park in 1970±, there was already a parking area in place at the top of the slope. It is not clear whether the above article is referring to this parking area, or if a different, additional area was planned. If the latter was the case, it is not clear to me where this parking area could be placed, since the neighborhood has lots of housing in the vicinity. The only other option I could think of would to be the clearing of more trees to expand the current parking area.)
Looking down rope tow line.The remains of the rope tow are slowly being reclaimed by the elements and the efforts of the parks department. To date, only two two guide towers remain standing. The engine, rope and drive system components where not to be found.
•March 11, 1964, Page 3: A very short article reports that “Ski Slope receipts will be used for maintenance and improvements of the facility” per Common Council resolution.•January 30, 1973, Page 1: The city’s Ski Slope opens today, and will continue as long as conditions permit, from 1:00 to 9:000 p.m. daily, according to Brian M. Desmond, Park and Recreations Commission Chairman. The Ski Area opening was delayed because of vandals cutting the ropes on the ski tow. Also, Desmond warns that strong measures will be taken against snowmobilers who attempt to use the Stanley Quarter Golf Course, or any other park area. Considerable damage was done in the past at the course, and now a park patrolman will be asked to make periodic checks.
•January 25, 1974, Page 8: The Ski Area was not opened this season, “and unless the city gets a good storm, it won’t open this year”, according to Parks and Recreations Director Paul A. Ryiz. “Immediately after the first heavy snow storm of the year, the city had rain and freezing rain”, he said, “which left an icy crust, dangerous for skiers. We have no snow making equipment and no crushers. We debated after the big snow whether to open, and we night have been a little slow because of our concern on the energy crisis. But the ice made us decide against opening. It was just too dangerous. At the bottom of the slope there is a little area where water always gathers, and then it becomes ice. There isn’t enough room to stop, and it just becomes too dangerous.” In past years, he noted, the department has been criticized for not opening because vandals cut the tow rope. Some have said the ropes should be taken down at night. “It takes 3 to 4 hours to put the rope back up”, Ryiz said, “making it impractical to do daily…and expensive in terms of man hours. A cable could not be used”, he said, “because it might twist and cause hand injuries.”
•January 29, 1974, Page 3: “Ski Two rope cut once again” (headline title for the article) A brand new, $380.00 nylon tow rope at the city’s Ski Tow Area has been cut once again by vandals, according to Paul A. Ryiz, Park and Recreations Director. Ice storms following the only good snow storm of the year prevented opening of the ski area so far this winter. Now the vandalism could hamper another effort if more snow falls, Ryiz says, since it costs $40.00 to splice the rope and about 3 to 4 hours to put it back up. Early this winter, he added, an electric box was stolen.
This is the last newspaper article regarding the Ski Slope that I was able to find. It would seem as if the Ski Slope closed in 1975 or 1976. I returned home from military service in January of 1977, to find the area overgrown with small trees, having two or three foot trails leading from top to bottom. It would seem at this point that the two main reasons for the closing would be vandalism and “uncooperative weather”. I remember the 1970s as having many winters where there would be repeated snowfalls, and then an ice storm would follow. The ice which covered the snow would often be thick enough to stand on without breaking! This would obviously be a problem for the skiers! With lack of income from the lift fees, and great cost of the vandalism, the town officials probably thought that this area was no longer financially viable by the mid-1970s, forcing its closure.
I remember this park from my youth. I discovered this park somewhere around the summer of 1970 or 1971. That would make me 15 or 16 at the time. I was surprised and delighted by the view! From the top, I was able to see not only to the bottom, but also clear into Newington! I recognized the Veteran’s Administration Hospital, and I was able to see traffic on the nearby roads. I was surprised that this area, not having many people around, had such a well-manicured lawn! The grass was very well maintained! I remember lying back on the grass, by bicycle just behind me, warm summer breeze, just enjoying the sight of the blue skies, white clouds, and peaceful afternoon! In the autumn, the foliage was gone, and the view got even better! Not only could I see Newington, but as the sun set behind me, I saw the gold of the sunset reflecting off of the hospital’s windows! Even more of the roadways could be seen, and I watched the traffic going back and forth. Being born and raised in New Britain, I was not used to such scenic views! This quickly became one of my favorite spots!
I remember that Blake Road led to the top of the ski area parking lot. At the time, it was in fairly good condition, but it looked as if it had been there for many years. White lines marked off the parking areas for the cars. The paint was quite faded at that time, and I thought that this ski area must have been completed in the late 1950s. (Not correct, as I learned.) From the parking lot, as I looked off to my left (facing downhill) I saw a sign attached to the pine trees. It was square, painted white (plywood??) with black block letters saying “SKI TOW”, one word above the other. To my right I could see several blue-painted automobile rims attached to what looked like short telephone poles, about 10 or 12 feet from the ground. I did not see any rope attached, but learned later that vandalism was a big problem for the park. In the parking area, to my right, close to the woods was a concrete-block building, now empty. I learned later that this is where an electric motor and controls were housed for the operation of the rope tow. Next to this building was the entrance to a dirt trail leading into the woods. This trail would take you across the park’s woods, then if you turned left, another trail would lead downhill to the bottom, into the park proper. This made for GREAT bicycling adventures on that “Schwinn Sting Ray” - the grandfather of the BMX bikes of today.
At the bottom of the slope, the woods began, and there was a trail leading from Blake Road through the bottom of the Ski Slope, further into the woods, leading to the aforementioned trail which led to the park. One thing that struck me was the idea that there did not seem to be much “stopping room” at the bottom of the slope. The hill seemed steep, and only leveled off where the trail went through the area. Not being a skier, I don’t know how much room is needed, but I could imagine kids and trees in a painful embrace during the winter!! I suppose that hay bales, or some other restraint system was used. Perhaps the woods were cleared farther back at some time in the past. Speculation only.
|In 1974, I joined the military, and did not return until 1977. By then, the area was in great disrepair, overgrown by trees, and having only two or three foot paths leading from the top to the bottom. Very disappointing!! I moved to western Connecticut during the 1980s, and lost track of the park. I returned in the 1990s, to find it even more overgrown. The photos above show the area around 2006. These photos show that someone decided to remove the trees; what I experienced was a more substantial overgrowth that what is shown in the photos. I visited the park last November, and see that there is no distinguishing between the ski area and surrounding woods. I can no longer see into Newington at all! The parking area is now used by the DPW as an area to store mulch, sand, dirt, etc. I guess it’s true….”You can’t go home again!”|
Dorval, who originally pointed out this area to NELSAP:
"From the late 60's until the early 70's, the town operated a large rope tow slope on Blake Rd, adjacent to Stanley Quarter Park. It was one long wide slope, and for a period of time I served as Ski Patrolman for the area, while growing up. It was lit at night, back when we got lots of snow, it was the place to go."
Lou Bazarnik: I remember when it opened - there was a small group of us - where are you Carole Prendergast? and this little slope was our best laugher. I was used to ski Vermont whenever I could and run up to Mt Tom, Mohawk or Satan's Ridge for regular routine skiing during the week. Each of these hills along with doses of Okemo (remember the POMA Lift there?) kept me pretty ski happy. I joined the NB Ski Club and met some great people. When the "slope" opened we started to use the place as our own snow playground. I know it sounds stupid but the "slope" provided us Newbritainites with gobs of fun. There was a heated trailer type building at the top. You bought a ticket, laced your boots, waxed your skis, said your hellos' and looked down the LIGHTED slope! It was truly a sorry slope - you were able to make 3 to 4 turns - not too hard because you may come to a stop. Yes we had lights! The lights purposely highlighted the little bumps and shadows made them look like big moguls from the "top." The average run might have taken a minute if you really wanted to stop and check out the views from the top of this mighty slope! AND there was the rope tow. Since no one seemed to use the slope - the rope tow was often frozen to the ground. OH forgot about that - we had to help the NB Official with chopping duties to make the tow usable. So thanks again for the remembrance.
D. Parker: I remember spending many great days skiing at Stanley Ski Area and I to was a ski patrol there... my parents would drop my sister and myself there and for 50 cents a piece we could ski. It was only one hill but for a kid it was great. I even remember skiing thru the woods there too because someone had made a trail. I remember many times on the ropetow your woolen mittens or hat would stick to the rope tow and you would have to pull hard to get them off before you got to the top of the hill. If I remember correctly there was a trailer at the top of the hill were you bought your tickets. I think we were there on the very first day it opened. At the bottom of the hill they used hay bales as a barrier and I can remember many beginner skiiers hitting them because the couldnt stop. Thank you so much for this site it has brought back many fond memories of a childhood long gone.
This was a town owned slope
with a rope tow. Probably about 100 vertical foot rise. About 700 foot
long. Not sure when it opened but closed around 1972 when vandals cut
the rope and the town decided to not replace it. It was located on
Blake Rd. in Stanley Quarter park, it also bordered A.W. Stanley Park,
named after the founder of Stanley Tools who lived there years ago. The
town parked a small
construction site trailer in the parking lot for a warming hut. I remember an old friend who was a year or two older than I was, but a much more experienced skier, acted as the "ski patrol". He wore a city workers orange safety vest and his duties seemed to be limited to spacing out people on the rope as it would stall from being overloaded sometimes. His name is Norman Dorval.
Does anybody else have any more information? Please let us know!
Last updated: Jan 29, 2015
Head back to Lost CT Ski Areas
Head back to the Main Page