West Haven’s Savin Rock Museum sets hours for its first summer without the late Harold Hartmann
The Savin Rock Museum and Learning Center has set new hours for the summer season, but that’s not the only thing that will be different there this summer.
This will be the museum’s first summer without Harold Hartmann, its longtime curator and the former maintenance chief for the old Savin Rock amusement park’s Savin Rock Park Company.
Hartmann, also a U.S. Navy veteran of both World War II and Korea — who led a more colorful life than most people — died on May 6 at age 96.
For years, Hartmann — in whose name the fountain in nearby Old Grove Park is dedicated — was a living historical connection to the old amusement park for visitors to the museum, located on the first floor of the Savin Rock Conference Center at 6 Rock St.
He often could be found sitting just inside its entrance, always available to answer people’s questions about the amusement park, which closed for good on Sept. 21, 1966. The museum opened in 2008.
“He’s just going to be missed. He was a virtual encyclopedia about Savin Rock,” said city Commissioner of Human Resources Beth Sabo, who worked with Hartmann on the museum. “He knew all the history ... He knew all the nuances ... He truly was a treasure.
“He truly will be missed by all of us,” Sabo said. “He had a sense of humor, he had a sense of charm to him...
“Harold in some respects, from a Savin Rock standpoint, was really bigger than life,” she said. “He worked down there along with his brothers, growng up. He was the head maintenance person.”
Sabo recalled that when the museum was first being put together and the city got the Six Flags Magic Mountain to loan the museum a horse from the original Savin Rock carousel, which was sold to Magic Mountain when the park closed, Hartmann was there to unpack it.
“The day that we opened up the box, he reached inside the box and felt the horse ... and knew exactly that it was the Silver Fox ... and immediately he started to cry,” she said.
Hartmann recognized which horse it was even before he saw it and was touched “that it had come home,” she said.
Sabo also recalled that in addition to all he did for the museum, Hartmann used to tend to both the Old Grove Park fountain and the Lone Sailor Monument “as if that statue was created specifically for him,” she said.
The museum, which also chronicles other aspects of West Haven’s 370-year history, including its fire service — which fought many a fire down at Savin Rock — is open 1-4 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays through Aug. 30.
Admission is $4, or $2 for adults 60 and older and children under 12.
The Savin Rock Museum displays artifacts from the old Savin Rock amusement park Engine & Hose Company 1, which provided its fire service, as well as Colonial pieces.
The museum also has a theater and learning center with exhibits, events and displays on notable city figures, including 1933 Miss America Marian Bergeron and World War II Medal of Honor recipient William A. Soderman.
The gift shop sells official Savin Rock memorabilia. Call museum volunteer Norma Kahl at 203-934-7234 to arrange a private tour for 10 or more. For information, call the same number and leave a message.
Hartmann was born in New Haven on March 10, 1922, to the late Raymond F. Hartmann Sr. and the late Kathleen Eileen O’Sullivan Hartmann, and was a graduate of St. Lawrence School (1936) and West Haven High School (1941).
His greatest pleasure was serving the people of West Haven, according to his New Haven Register obituary.
Hartmann began work for the former High Standard Manufacturing Company in Hamden in 1940 as a machine operator. He later retired after 40 years as a general superintendent. He also worked for Hayes International Association in Simsbury for three years as vice president of operations as well as the former Valley Services in Simsbury as general manager for three years.
Meanwhile, Hartmann was in charge of all the repair work for the the late William Levere’s Savin Rock Park Company for more than 30 years, often working on jobs with his brothers George and Earl.
He joined the U.S. Navy in 1942 and was stationed aboard the USS Santa Fe CL 60 in October of 1942, according to the obituary. He traveled more than 221,000 miles in the Pacific Ocean fighting the Japanese. He earned 14 battle stars on the campaign ribbon and also two stars on the Philippine liberation.
The Santa Fe set a record for major fighting ships which has not been broken to this day. That record is spending 25 months in the front line combat starting out in the Aleutian Islands to the South Pacific all the way island hopping up to Tokyo.
Hartmann was released to the reserves in the 1946 and was again called for duty in Korea in 1950 for two tours of duty, then released again in 1952.