Last updated 28 December 08.

Repair, Protection and Restoration of Fairview Observatory

Fairview Observatory (known as Fairview Pavilion or Halfway House) is in Hubbard Park, Meriden, Connecticut.

Fairview pavilion in 2006

  • History of Hubbard Park
  • Fairview from Early Postcards
  • Fairview, 2006
  • Other Built Features of Hubbard Park
  • Maps
  • Preserve, Protect and Restore Fairview
  • Fairview Updates
  • Acknowledgements
  • Email, including "Fairview" in the subject line, if you have information, questions or comments on Fairview.

    History of Fairview in Hubbard Park

    During the late 1800s Walter Hubbard was motivated to acquire and protect land for the purposes of a non-commercial park. He assembled hundreds of  acres of Hanging Hills woodland and mountain acres in northwest Meriden and took a personal interest in designing and financing the structures and landscapes that are enjoyed to this day.  Fairview Observatory was built on Fairview Point (elevation 500 ft) as one of many pleasure structures specified and paid for by Walter Hubbard (1823-1911). Most were completed soon after 1900 when Hubbard Park was formally donated to the City of Meriden. In 1997 the Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places (Hartford County) as a significant example of architecture and engineering. Over the past few years, the City of Meriden has committed important resources toward rehabilitation of Mirror Lake, the focal point of  the Park, and the many water features leading therefrom. However, in 1971 Fairview became isolated from the Park with the opening of Interstate 691. 

    Back to Top Fairview from Early Postcards

     Fairview became a destination for family outings. The footpath and drive must have been maintained, for carriages were photographed at Fairview and early visitors appear to be well dressed. Several postcards from these early years show large groups and small, children and adults, posing in their Sunday best at Fairview. From their dress it is difficult to believe they took the Mirror Lake footpath, but rather strolled up Cliff Drive.

    Postcards made their appearance in 1904 and Fairview, among other built features of Hubbard Park, was a frequent subject.

    Fairview with Castle Craig, 1900.

    This early image shows the relatively treeless landscape surrounding Fairview. White-painted pillars support the roof structure and Fairview is clearly an 'observatory'. Visitors enjoy an unobstructed view of Castle Craig and Mirror Lake, and as reported in newspapers of that period, City Hall clock.

    The photographer probably didn't notice Fairview among the tree branches in this winter photo, taken from West Main Street (then named Waterbury-Meriden Turnpike). The white supports are barely discernible in closeup.

      Fairview zoom from West Main Street, 1900.

    Fairview from West Main Street, 1900.

    Steps to Fairview

    Fairview must have been a very attractive destination for even its approaches became postcard subjects.

    Steps to Fairview, about 1900. These steps and handrail were possibly on the path departing from the Spring House immediately north of Mirror Lake. This departure, and the spring, were disrupted by Interstate 691 and today the path begins north of the parking lot. Today's path makes for a very challenging climb. No evidence of steps or handrails is visible.

    Drive to Fairview (Cliff Drive).An easy walk, or possibly carriage ride was possible via Fairview Drive (Walter Hubbard's 'Cliff Drive'). The Drive headed west from Reservoir Road, passed the reservoir outlet shed and skirted Merimere Reservoir. This level portion of Fairview Drive is good condition today but deteriorates once it heads uphill.

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    Fairview with Castle Craig at Far Left, 2006This 2006 photo shows Fairview (elevation about 480 ft) with Castle Craig (platform elevation about 1010 ft) visible at the far left. Wood shingles have been replaced with asphalt shingles. In several places original beaded sheathing has been replaced with available materials. The masonry base has lost its mortar cap in places. Several base stones have been removed.

    Rafters exposed at West edge.

    Fairview approaches have suffered with time. No longer can visitors in street shoes comfortably make the walk and the number of visitors must be quite low. On several lengthy visits over the past four years no more than ten individuals in total were met in the Fairview area.As of January 2007 sheathing and shingles have been shorn from the westerly roof edge and a hole had been punched through mid-roof.  Debris  litters the inside area and decades of trash make the interior inhospitable.

    Former location of two vertical supports.Three vertical supports have been lost; one of which has been replaced.  It is in this area that the masonry cap has been lost. Thanks to a robust design, the roof shows only minor sag in that area. A larger problem arises from the twisting forces that may render the laminated beam unsalvageable.

    Thirty-six rafters.Thirty-six rafters rest on circular plate giving the appearance of a circular roof. Conical roofs are prone to instability under asymmetrical loading so the centre (king?) post and six radiating beams may provide stability under snow loading.

    Saw kerfs for lamination technique.The laminated circular plate beam comprises ten 1" x 10" planks fastened into a 10" x 10" beam having a 24-ft diameter. Some trim boards have been removed, exposing the kerf technique for laminating circular beams. Loss of roof material over the decades has allowed water to enter, rotting the laminated beam.

    Water-damaged laminated beam.


    Unmanaged growth surrounding Fairview has blocked views of both Castle Craig and Mirror Lake.

    View north to Castle Craig.                                                                           View south to Mirror Lake.

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    Walter Hubbard's Plan

    Trevor King's Hiking Map
    Trevor King's hiking map.  In 2004 Eagle Scout Trevor King mounted permanent map boards showing the Hubbard Park hiking trails. Certain features have been annotated for orientation purposes and Castle Craig and Fairview paths have been accentuated for present purposes. Today's Path to Fairview is an adventurer's shortcut. It is difficult to believe that the "Steps to Fairview" could have been on this path but circumstantial postcard and map evidence seem to insist. The Metacomet Trail  (Metacomet (1639-1676)  known as 'King Philip')begins at the ridge of the Hanging Hills and continues to the Massachusetts border.

    The shortest, and very difficult, path to Fairview runs westward from Notch Road just north of the parking lot. Before Interstate 691 was in place, this path began immediately north of the spring house.

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    Preservation, Protection and Restoration of Fairview.
    Fairview still offers shelter (roughly halfway between Mirror Lake and Castle Craig) and would be a very practical attraction if seating were added. Line-of-sight exposure, together with an increase in visitors would create an effective natural surveillance over Fairview. A striking aspect of early Fairview is the full exposure to public view both from Castle Craig and Mirror Lake. One can imagine visitors making agreements to wave from Fairview to friends atop Castle Craig or picnicking around Mirror Lake. Natural surveillance is a recognized deterrent to vandalism and was likely an accidental consequence the Fairview 'observatory'.

                                                                                                            Fairview from Castle Craig, early 1900s.

    1900 View from Castle Craig

    1900 Fairview zoom view from Castle Craig

    Around 1900 newspaper articles mention that the City of Meriden was unable to offer wood-cutting licenses, apparently intended for needy families, as  there were no standing trees in the City. That may be the reason Hubbard Park has few trees in early photos. Once under the terms of Walter Hubbard's gift, trees were perhaps protected from cutting. Consequently,  natural surveillance has been compromised by tree growth, to the extent that Fairview today is not visible from Mirror Lake and barely visible from Castle Craig in winter. Compare with the original view above.                                                                           
                                                                                                          Fairview from Castle Craig, January 2007.

    2006 View from Castle Craig

    2006 Fairview zoom from Castle Craig

    How should Fairview be brought back? First, preserve what remains. Second, protect from vandalism. Third, restore to original condition with original materials and techniques.

     Preserve Add temporary supports, patch holes in roof, replace missing sheathing with plywood and replace missing shingles. Add center support and centering boards.  Unskilled volunteers and a modest materials budget (perhaps $2,000) will preserve Fairview for future restoration. 
    Protect Re-establish natural surveillance. Remove smaller trees adjacent to Fairview and small trees and brush on south slope. Remove nearby tools of destructive behavior such as dead tree limbs. Encourage visitors with marked walking paths, a clean interior and an opportunity to sit.  Permission to remove trees and bushes, volunteer labour and the cost of robust seating (maybe $2,000) will protect Fairview through natural surveillance.

    Restore Use original materials to repair laminated beam, replace central post, replace damaged rafters, recap wall and replace missing stones, replace lost sheathing, cover roof with wood shingles and replace the roof ornament. Skilled carpenters and masons plus a significant materials expense (say, $30,000) will result in a complete restoration.

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    Fairview Updates.

    26 Jun 1998   Meriden Record-Journal: "Hubbard Park Landmark in Disrepair"

    Hikers Norm Zimmer and Frederick Carlberg feel Fairview has lost its luster because of
    vandalism, fires and littering. However, neither Meriden Police nor Parks and Public Works
    have received reports of vandalism.
    15 Jan 2007 Meriden Record-Journal: "Local & State" (title unknown)
    Pictorial on Hubbard Park, including disrepair state of Fairview.

    26 Jan 2007   Meriden Record-Journal: "Hubbard Park's Halfway House in Need of Repairs"

    Tom Cadden recalls his high school experiences at Fairview. Tom DeLuca recalls that Fairview was completed in 1899 by Cornelius Kooreman as the second Hubbard Park structure. Mayor Mark Benigni offers support for repair of fairview.

    29 Jan 2007   Meriden Record-Journal, Editorial: "Halfway House"

    Tom Cadden applauded for leadership role in restoring Fairview.

    5 Feb 2007  Meriden Council Minutes: "Resolution to establish a committee for the repair of Fairway(sic) Pavilion"

    Committee members: Thomas P. Cadden, Clayton Randall, Thomas Kronenberger, Jake Arkenbout, Dan Roberts, Joseph Carabetta, Jr., Howard Logan, Jr.,Eddie Siebert, Jim Fredricks, Henry Benoit, Leonard Rich, Dommie Bernetti, David Luft, Anthony D. Tomassetti, City Council Liason and Mark Zebora, City Staff Liason.

    8 Feb 2007  Meriden Record-Journal: "Pavilion Project off to a Fast Start"

    City Council approves 12-member committee to take charge of Fairview restoration without cost to the City. Conservation Commission will be approached in regard to removing tree overgrowth surrounding Fairview. Call to Wilcox Class of '58 to support Fairview restoration as part of its 50th anniversary.

    1 Mar 2007 Meriden Record-Journal, D.James' Letter to the Editor: "ATVs: get tough!"

    Recalls restoration work done a few years ago and gives concern that today's use of Fairview is not much different from those of Mr. Cadden's "hide-a-way heydays. ATVs give ready access to Fairview and exacerbates rate of destruction. Urges legislators to "get tough"; control ATV ownership and trail access rather than waste resources in recovering from damages.

    23 Mar 2007 Meriden Record-Journal: "Contractors Group Hopes Project Will Spark Resurgence"

    Noting their gavel is modelled after Castle Craig, the Meriden Contractors Association, have offered labor towards Fairview restoration.

    11 May 2007  Trees were cleared from the area immediately surrounding Fairview. Four photos follow:

    Castle Craig from Fairview.                                                                           Mirror Lake from Fairview. Mirror Lake from Fairview, after tree removalCastle Craig from Fairview, after tree removal


    Fairview from Castle Craig, after tree removal

    From Castle Craig, Fairview is again a focal point and an enticing hiking destination.

    Fairview from West Main Street, after tree removal

    After many years of concealment, Fairview's  roof is again visible from West Main Street. This photo was taken from the pizza shop entrance, probably the site of Craig Loch Manor that closed permanently after 1976 and 1977 fires.

     Perhaps a few more trees will be sacrificed to further improve surveillance and encourage visits to this special structure. 

    18 June 2007  Meriden Record-Journal:  "Hubbard Park gets needed attention"

    Fairview and its environs are being improved. Fairview is being completely renovated to its original condition by volunteers who hope their work will be finished by July 4th. The State of Connecticut is going to paint the I691 footbridge that leads to Fairview from the west.

    August 2007 Meriden Record- Journal video: "A Different Vantage Point: Meriden and Wallingford from the Sky"

    A glimpse of newly-exposed Fairview Pavilion is seen in this excerpt from David D'Addario's video posted at Interstate 691 is approached from the south and Fairview and Castle Craig soon come into view.
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    October 2007   Fairview now stands out nicely in the Fall colors. The roof has been stripped of asphalt shingles and sheathing patches and starter wood shingle courses appear as bright rectangles.

    Fairview from Castle Craig Oct 07

    Beam laminations have been replaced using vintage techniques, roof patches have been replaced with sheathing close to the original and replica extensions have been spliced onto damaged rafters. Three missing vertical supports have been replaced with steel posts as have the four beams lost from the center post.

    Restored Laminations Oct 07

    Radiating Beams Replaced Oct 07

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    26 January 2008

    Volunteers must have taken a winter break as no new restoration work was noted since an October visit. There was no evidence of new damage to Fairview. Partial credit, at least, must go to CPTED in practice (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design). An essential CPTED principle is to place an asset in public view and certainly removal of obscuring trees has accomplished that, at least with respect to the view from Castle Craig. As a Meriden Record-Journal editorial(28 Sep 07) pointed out " one is attempting to clear a view downwards (toward Mirror Lake) ..." Though some trees have indeed been removed south of Fairview, those remaining are set in a terrain much more challenging than that towards the north.

    Details of one rebuilt laminated beam section and of the original rafter apex (with embedded pull-top can) are given here, and a winter visitor is shown at the west entrance to give a sense of Fairview's scale.

    Laminated beam patchesApex for 36 RaftersHuman scale

    29 December 2008

    Removing trees to the south of Fairview has greatly improved the view of Meriden and the Sleeping Giant. The roof has been completely reshingled, missing stones have been replaced and the entire stone base has been protected with a cement cap. One of the collar beams remains missing and it appears that eight of the twelve support posts have been temporarily surrounded with rough planks.  The Congratulations to the volunteers and City staff who recovered this grand structure for future visitors.  Debris was cleared from the floor to expose the probable mounting posts for "Globe Hy-Power Binoculars", installed around 1933.  

    All in order again. But look! Cinder block chunks have                 Sleeping Giant from Fairview.  One 'original' post and one 'protected' post              Fairview from West Main Street.
    already appeared on the rooftop!                                                 are visible as is the restored cement cap.                                                                       
    Fairview after much restorationView toward Sleeping GiantFairview from West Main Street


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    Thanks to Dan DeLuca, Jan Franco and the Meriden Public Library, Bill LePage, Allen Weathers and other Meriden Historical Society volunteers, Chris Bourdon of Meriden Parks and Public Works and Thomas Kronenberger for sharing their archives, experience and enthusiasm. I have done my practical best to present matters of fact and I am responsible for errors and omissions. Comments on errors and content, as well as opinions on Fairview restoration, are welcome.

    Hank Benoit.

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