In the years following the Civil War, Elizabeth Jarvis Coltwidow of legendary arms inventor Samuel Colthad emerged as one Hartford’s most influential civic leaders. Already heavily involved in the business of the Colt Firearms Manufacturing plant, she also was an
art patron, charitable entrepreneur, philanthropist and is responsible for some of the most handsome architectural structures in the city.
In 1874, it was on a portion of Armsmear, her extensive estate, that she leased land to Morgan Bulkeley for the purpose of constructing a ball field and grandstand as a home for his base ball team, The Hartfords. It was the beginning of base ball as a paid professional sport rather than social activityand Hartford had one of only eight charter teams in the inaugural year of the National League.
The ball field was on Wyllys Street adjacent to The Church of the Good Shepherd. It was enclosed with a wooden fence and held a pavillion with seating initially for 500, ultimately expanding to seat 2,000. It was the first to have a press box, with a Western Union telegrapher sending out the score inning by inning. It boasted tiled bathrooms with attendants, and ample room around the field for carriages, trolleys, brass bands and food vendors. So admired was it, that the manager of Boston’s National League team once offered $200,000 to Bulkeley to move the field to Boston!
It was here that The Hartfords faced rival teams from around the region; and that Mark Twainwho was a regular at the ball parkfamously had his silk umbrella stolen by a youth and subsequently ran an ad in The Hartford Courant offering (tongue-in-cheek) a reward for the youth’s hide.
In 2013, the Friends of Vintage Base Ball commemorated the original site with granite markers at each of the bases plus pitcher's box. In 2018, we will embark upon a more permanent physical representation of the site, which is the oldest extant ballground in the country. Please join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on the developments!
The names and logos of Friends of Vintage Base Ball® and Coltsville Vintage Base Ball League®
are registered trademarks and may not be used without written authorization.
Names and logos including Friends of Vintage Base Ball, Coltsville Vintage Base Ball League, The Alert Fire Hose Company, Billy Barnie's Blue Boys,
The Charter Oak of Hartford, The Nutmeg BBC, Crank's Call, Handlebar Hooch, Kayo's Kola and Pops' Pop are trademarks of the Friends of Vintage Base Ball, Inc.