In the early 1990's, the Harkness mansion and grounds had fallen into general disrepair. The grounds were open, but the mansion was crumbling and the gardens had reverted to weeds. Governor Lowell Weicker threatened to bulldoze the facility ... a threat taken seriously by friends and neighbors of the park.
An activist group formed in 1992, and the Friends of Harkness Memorial State Park, Inc. was born. Volunteers began working with DEP staff in the gardens, the greenhouse, and on small carpentry projects around the park. They raised money one square foot at a time with the Adopt-A-Bed program and restored the East Garden according to the historic plans of landscape architects Beatrix Farrand and Marian Coffin. Once finished, this garden stood as an example of what a restored estate would mean to citizens of the state and provided leverage to those in the group lobbying the legislature for funds.
In 1997, a $3.8 million restoration of the mansion and gardens was undertaken by the State of Connecticut. Today, a unique public~private partnership continues. The Friends work closely with park staff to support and enhance the visitor's experience and to ensure that this marvelous estate will be enjoyed by future generations.