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This blog is a place for dialogue on issues and actions relating to Boston's unique built environment and the preservation and continuing evolution of historic resources within it. My goal, as the Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, is to post timely, relevant and thought-provoking intelligence, ideas, and insights that will engage conversations, inform our actions, and broaden perspectives on preservation.

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Greg Galer, Executive Director, Boston Preservation Alliance

Executive Director

AllianceViews Blog

A collaborative renaissance on Columbus Avenue

Childe Hassam Park, The South End

October 18th, 2015  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

The following is part seven of a series of posts that provides a behind-the-scenes look into each of the ten projects that will be honored at the Boston Preservation Alliance’s 2015 Preservation Achievement Awards.

After East


Ask anyone – space in Boston these days is limited and therefore precious! One group that understands this especially well is the Friends of the Childe Hassam Park, the neighborhood group behind the transformation of a corner lot on Columbus Avenue in the South End. Once home to a gas station during the 1960s, then a playground, the site was eventually underused and locked up. So it stayed until about fifteen years ago, when a number of nearby residents decided that it was time to put the lot to better use. In 2000, the group that would later become known as the Friends of the Childe Hassam Park was born.

According to Michael Scanlon, who serves on the Friends’ Board of Directors, the group considered a number of different themes and ultimately decided on the arts that had taken place in the neighborhood. “As it happens, during the time that impressionist painter Childe Hassam was in Boston, he lived in the Albemarle Hotel and his famous painting, Rainy Day, Columbus Avenue, is of one of those triangle parks,” Scanlon explained.

The Friends group collaborated with the City of Boston’s Parks and Recreation Department to arrive at a design that captured the artistic spirit of the work of Childe Hassam, while including plant life that could be feasibly maintained over the long term and features that would complement the tiny park rather than overwhelm it. Using the ornamental fencing found throughout the South End as inspiration, the project team developed custom-detailed cast iron fencing and gate, which features the letters “C” and “H” at the entryway.

IMG_7142We’ve noted before that the treatment of open lots that once housed buildings – so called “missing teeth” – requires sensitivity to adjacent structures and community needs, as well as a keen design sensibility. Through a collaborative effort, the creation of Childe Hassam Park has done just that – contributing to the vibrancy of the surrounding area. Leslie Fanger, a landscape architect at BSC Group, who worked extensively on the project, expressed a similar sentiment: “For the South End, it’s filled a cavity,” she said. “If you head down Columbus Ave, each park has its own flavor. It’s a really great walk

If you walk for a mile, you’ll come across four parks. The South End does a great job of taking things that are derelict and turning them into something useful, and that’s very evident along Columbus Avenue.”

Scanlon added that the completion of this park was a cooperative effort. “What stands out to me is that we’ve been able to bring a lot of different constituencies together to do this, and that’s important. We’ve had board members from the businesses along Columbus Avenue, those who were gardeners, from communities in the South End. It’s been a pretty diverse group of people and I think it’s great to see people working together.”

For additional information about the Childe Hassam Park, click here.
For additional information about the Preservation Achievement Awards, click here.

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