Hatten Park proposed to National Register
New London committee talks historic designation
By Scott Bellile
A proposal to submit Hatten Park to the National Register of Historic Places could help secure grants and tax credits for the city’s largest outdoor recreation space.
New London Parks Director Ginger Sowle on Feb. 7 encouraged the Parks and Recreation Committee to pursue the National Park Service’s honorific designation.
“I think this is really timely right now,” Sowle said at the meeting, pointing to upcoming projects to improve Hatten Park’s historic stone fence, stadium and shelter restrooms.
City Hall would work with New London Public Museum to apply, presenting research on Hatten Park’s history to the State Historic Preservation Officer.
Then the Wisconsin Historic Preservation Review Board would determine whether the site is historically significant enough to advance to the National Park Service for further review.
If successful, Hatten Park would become eligible for state and federal tax credits and grants to be applied toward property repairs and renovations, according to Elizabeth Hilton, National Register coordinator for the Wisconsin Historical Society.
“The work does require pre-approval from the SHPO and the Park Service before the work starts, so all work must meet the Secretary of the Interior’s standards, which are just design-sensitive guidelines to help guide you so you can fix up your building in a historic manner,” Hilton told the committee.
“Substantial changes” that affect a National Register property’s historical character or disturb ground — for example, etching words into stone walls or removing tennis courts – require approval from a compliance officer, Hilton said.
Despite the prospect of such oversight, city council members in attendance appeared receptive to trying for a spot on the National Register.
“It sounds like it’s moving New London forward,” BaLynda Croy said.
Hatten Park’s history
The 120-acre Hatten Park opened in 1936. President Franklin Roosevelt’s Work Projects Administration funded the construction project as an employment opportunity for local men during the Great Depression. The estate of local lumberman William Hatten donated $10,000 to the undertaking.
“Not every town has a distinctive park … from the WPA from the ‘30s and ‘40s,” Hilton said. “You know, it really adds a lot to the character of your town, and it helps to preserve your community’s history.”
The committee took no action but will revisit the topic if the Hatten Stadium Foundation votes to join City Hall in the effort.
Sites named to the register are eligible for more financial benefits when a nonprofit organization partners with a municipal government than if that government goes at it alone.
New London does not have a site on the National Register yet, but the Park Service is slated to announce its decision on Thern Farm’s application this summer.