This month the Friends completed its $4 million project to revitalize Brewer Fountain Plaza and the surrounding parkland on Boston Common near Park Street station. The City led the effort to restore the fountain, which was re-dedicated in 2010. The Friends launched a companion project to revitalize the plaza and entire parkland leading up to the State House and along Tremont Street, which over the years had fallen into a state of disrepair. This multi-year effort implemented by the Friends is the largest single project undertaken in the 44-year history of the nonprofit’s work in caring for the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall in partnership with the City’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Over 260 individuals, foundations, and corporations contributed to this community effort.
In warmer months, café tables and chairs, piano music at lunchtime, a reading room, and quality food have made this one of the most popular outdoor gathering places in the city for residents and visitors. Highlights of the project include granite paving, refurbished grass areas, and the addition of 44 new trees. Other improvements include irrigation to sustain prime grass areas; improved lighting; new curbing; repaved walkways; and better drainage. The final piece of the project along Lafayette Mall restored roughly 350 feet of historic cast iron fencing to the Tremont Street park edge for the first time in more than 100 years, between Park Street Station and West Street. The original fence was removed in 1895 for subway construction.
Summer days are lively on Boston Common, and the Clover Food Lab truck regularly attracts dozens of lunchtime diners to Brewer Fountain Plaza. Soothing sounds of trickling droplets of fountain water blend with piano music, performed by Berklee College of Music students, to create a seasonal backdrop worth savoring.
Securing a shaded table and chair under an umbrella, there temporarily for day use, is a fortunate find as the lunchtime crowd settles in, yet few know that the truly premiere seating is actually located a few feet away on the perimeter of the granite plaza. The inside track on the 10 benches, so-called “seats of honor,” is that they, and the nearby benches on the Liberty Mall path, are part of a select set of Boston Common benches available for permanent sponsorship. There is no term limit on sponsorship. Each bench has a plaque that identifies its sponsor or a person being celebrated in some way.
As the $4 million restoration of Brewer Fountain Plaza comes to a conclusion this fall, a time capsule will be buried that includes names of all donors of this project. The deadline for donations to be included in the time capsule that will be buried to commemorate this project is Monday, September 15th. There is only one bench in the “seats of honor” area available for sponsorship, and three on the Liberty Mall path.
Sponsoring a bench not only supports the care and maintenance of America’s first public park, it is a way to have a dedicated seat there 365 days a year, even if it is in name only. For information on sponsoring these last available locations, please call 617-723-8144 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The sounds, sights and scents of the season make Brewer Fountain Plaza a popular gathering spot for spring and summer once again. If you have been following the evolution of this area in recent years, you are probably aware that a $4 million renovation project by the Friends has transformed it from a once deteriorated space to a destination of choice for residents, area workers, and anyone looking for a fountain-side retreat in a spectacular outdoor venue. You may have read about the project in our recent blog post What’s Happening on Brewer Fountain Plaza and will be happy to know that the tables, chairs, music, reading room, and Clover Food truck are all back on the plaza ahead of schedule. As for the construction happening just a few feet away, it is where the final phase of the restoration project is taking place. Thank you for your words of appreciation for this project and for your patience as we complete it. If you are interested in receiving updates on Brewer Fountain Plaza and other Friends activities, please sign up for our email newsletter and other alerts, and follow us on social media.
Students from Emerson College recently made a field trip to the offices of Friends of the Public Garden. The group met with executive director Liz Vizza for a brief overview of the history of the parks, significant pieces of sculpture on display, and challenges associated with caring for these historic parks and their art.
Vizza explained the importance of collaboration with the City of Boston and how the public-private partnership makes it possible for the parks that the Friends works to maintain – the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall – to be well cared for, and in some cases enhanced significantly. When she asked the students how many of them had visited the Brewer Fountain Plaza in warmer weather most nodded in the affirmative. The Boston Parks & Recreation Department restored the fountain in 2010. The Friends of the Public Garden launched a privately funded, $4 million companion project to revitalize the plaza and the parkland leading up to the State House. Vizza cited the project as an example of the positive things that can happen when the public and private realm work together to restore a significant piece of public art and create a vibrant public space, and said it’s a win-win for residents, visitors, the parks and art!
The Friends of the Public Garden has received several major matching challenge pledges that will spearhead a campaign to raise the additional $850,000 it needs to complete its Brewer Fountain Plaza Project on historic Boston Common and to pay for 2013 plaza operations.
Anne Brooke, President of the Friends, said challenge pledges of $200,000 each have been made by the Lynch Foundation and Barbara and Amos Hostetter. An additional $250,000 has been pledged by the Friends’ Green and White Ball Committee.
“We are enormously grateful to the Lynch Foundation, the Hostetters and the Ball Committee,” Ms. Brooke said. “Thanks to their leadership and generosity every dollar contributed will generate matching gifts totaling more than three dollars, up to $200,000. It’s a three-to-one match.”
Phase one of the $4 million Brewer Plaza Fountain Project was completed in 2012. It transformed the southeast corner of the Common at Park and Tremont Streets, creating a vibrant downtown gathering spot with café tables and chairs, quality food, lunchtime piano music, chess and checkers, a reading area, and summer jazz concerts.
The final phase will include restoring the historic iron fence along Tremont Street, creating a landscaped edge to separate the park from the busy street and further enhancing this green oasis in the heart of the city.
Founded in 1970, the nonprofit Friends of the Public Garden works with the City of Boston to preserve and enhance Boston’s first public parks – the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall. For additional information about the Friends and how you can support its work go to friendsofthepublicgarden.org.
Robert Mulcahy has been a dedicated member of the FOPG team for nearly ten years now. This week we wanted to put Bob under the spotlight and ask him a few questions. We discussed his history with Friends as well as his ideas for our future.
What is your role in the Friends of the Public Garden Organization?
I was hired as a project manager, mostly for projects dealing directly on the grounds of the three parks (The Boston Common, The Public Garden, and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall), capital improvement projects, the Brewer Fountain as an example, our tree inventory and yearly pruning work and disease control, soils and turf work, etc. I work with other committee chair people, like the Commonwealth Avenue Committee, the Common Committee and the Public Garden Horticultural Committee. I also work with an outside team of consultants that act as our eyes and ears on many projects.
When did you first become involved with FOPG?
I first became involved almost a decade ago, working with the city of Boston in the Parks and Recreation Department. I was a project manager for the George Francis Parkman trust fund, overseeing a portion of the funds money and setting up maintenance-contracts. Two of the parks, the Common and the Public Garden were beneficiaries of the fund and through them I started working with Henry Lee and understanding the role the Friends play in the city of Boston.
What do you think your biggest accomplishment has been during your work with FOPG?
I truly don’t think I accomplished anything just yet. I was delighted and honored to receive this job and be able to follow in the footsteps of what people like Henry have done over the last 40 years. Anything I have accomplished has been from those who came before as well as with the help of the professionals I am working with every day.
Any project that didn’t go as well as hoped?
In a way, all of them. Certain aspects of each project gets you frustrated and in a bind. You get frustrated with yourself, or the vendor. There’s nothing specific, but each project has its own quirks and challenges that you need to deal with and work through.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for FOPG moving forward?
The biggest challenge is well, not really a challenge, but we’re helping oversee these wonderful properties, and as the organization has grown the leadership aspect has changed, like with Henry Lee’s retirement. So keeping open communication and relationships with the other vested people, agencies and organizations in Boston remains very important. To continue fundraising and promoting the stewardship of these great properties and to continue to bring everyone together to improve the parks the way the public wants them to be improved.
What do you see as the FOPG goals for the future, any big projects?
We do have a bigger project coming up, phase 2 of the Brewer Plaza reconstruction project. If everything goes as planned, we should be breaking ground by fall 2013, which would be a big accomplishment for the organization and bring a multi year project to a close. Another big project is in the Public Garden, and doing a redesign, essentially a beautification project on the Boylston street border using existing plants. Every year tree work is a huge part of who the organization is and what we do. Especially protecting the beautiful community of elm trees in all three parks from Dutch Elm Disease. Finally, we’re working to try to understand the soil and underlying soil structure and how we can improve that to improve the overall health of the trees.
With the ALB Seminar coming up tomorrow we thought it would be fun to share some facts about the trees that will be saved when we can properly identify and eradicate the threat posed by this invasive insect. Hope you enjoy our tree trivia and that we see you tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at the Franklin Park Golf Course Club House for a free information session about how you can save the trees we love so much.
Did you know that every year, the Boston Common receives their Christmas tree from Nova Scotia? It serves as a thank-you to the Boston Red Cross and Massachusetts Public Safety Committee, which provided relief efforts in the province after the Halifax Explosion in 1917.
When the Brewer Fountain Plaza re-opened this May, the improvements included an additional 32 elms surrounding the fountain area in the Boston Common.
In its native China, a redwood tree can grow up to the size of a ten-story building. We are lucky to have a Dawn Redwood in the Public Garden!
The willow tree in the Boston Public Garden has served as an iconic subject for thousands of artists, photographers and tourists throughout the years.
During the American Revolution, the Sons of Liberty gathered under one of the largest trees in the Boston Common to protest Great Britain’s eradication of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The tree became the Liberty Tree. When British loyalists eventually cut it down, the Sons re-named it the Liberty Stump.
The Boston Public Garden contains hundreds of different types of trees. Some are native to the Garden and others have been brought in from exotic locations around the world.
The Boston Common possessed the first tree-lined pedestrian mall on its Tremont Street side.
Did you know that the Boston Common and Public Garden are on a list of the best parks in the world by the Project for Public Spaces?
Many of the trees in the Boston Common have Latin-based names. It was once expected that proper Boston schoolchildren knew both the Latin names and the English translations for the trees.
As always, we’d like to thank the Boston Parks and Recreation Department and our arborist Norm Hellie for all their hard work in maintaining the trees we love in the Public Garden and the Boston Common.