Celebrating a fountain’s return in the Public Garden

On June 7th, the Friends celebrated the completion of our latest capital project, the restoration of the George Robert White Memorial fountain. Joined by many friends, including City Councilor Josh Zakim and Parks Commissioner Chris Cook, new Friends Board Chair Leslie Singleton Adam thanked the generous donors who made this restoration possible.

Special thanks to Weston & Sampson, Zen Associates, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Boston Parks and Recreation Department for their contributions to the fountain restoration and landscaping work, making this a beautiful corner of the Public Garden again.

Remembering Anne Brooke

In tribute to our wonderful late Board Chair, Anne Brooke, we also dedicated a beautiful Horsechestnut tree for her inspired leadership of the Friends and this special restoration project.

Summer Party Raises Roof and Funds for Parks

We were delighted to be joined by 170 Friends at the Rooftop of the Taj Hotel on July 22 for our second annual Summer Party. The event doubled in size from the the previous year and sold out nearly one month earlier. Thank you to our generous event sponsor First Republic Bank, and to old Friends and new who stepped out to celebrate and support the three parks we care for in partnership with the City. Read about the evening in the Boston Herald  and visit our Facebook album to view more photos.

Photos: Pierce Harman

Friends of the Public Garden Launches Tour Program

Bobby Moore (third from right) hosted a tour of the Public Garden for volunteer docents. (Photo: Caroline Phillips-Licari)

More than a dozen people have recently taken a very special interest in the Public Garden and have been studying this iconic greenspace for hours on end. What they are learning about America’s first public botanical garden is not for a class or research for a book. This studious bunch is the inaugural group of volunteer docents of the Friends of the Public Garden that will be serving as guides for a new tour program.

Walking a route that encompasses the northern half of the Garden, tour participants will gain a deeper understanding of the Garden’s special place in the history of Boston and the country. Hour-long tours will include interesting facts and anecdotes about history, horticulture, and sculpture. Casual visitors of the area are likely to find a new appreciation of its significance and neighbors who use it frequently are likely to discover at least a thing or two that might surprise them.

Docents have spent many volunteer hours learning about the Garden and working to craft their tours. In February, their training began with a Friends-sponsored lecture, Searching for the Histories of the Boston Public Garden by Boston University Professor Keith Morgan, held at Suffolk University. Friends President Emeritus Henry Lee gave a talk at the Friends office that traced the Garden’s history as well as the founding of the organization and highlights from its 45 year work in caring for the Garden in partnership with the Boston Parks and Recreation Department. Additional information sessions included trees and plantings by Friends Project Manager Bob Mulcahy; the history of the Swan Boats by fourth generation owner Lyn Paget; and the Garden’s sculpture including the Friends sculpture care program by Friends Collections Care Manager Sarah Hutt.

(Photo: Caroline Phillips-Licari)
(Photo: Caroline Phillips-Licari)

The group also attended two special training sessions. The first (pictured above) took place at the City’s greenhouses, where the City’s Superintendent of Horticulture, Anthony Hennessy and his team hosted the group. On an unseasonably cold day in March, docents were delighted to shed their coats in the 80-degree warmth of the greenhouses to learn about the plantings that would be in the Garden, and throughout the city, in the weeks to follow.

Volunteers were visibly enthralled as Anthony announced, “Right now, there are 35,000 tulips waiting to burst into bloom once the snow melts; most beds have 500 tulips, but the “footbeds” surrounding George Washington have 3500-4000 tulips in them.”

The second session was a guided tour of the Public Garden by Bobby Moore, longtime member of the Friends board and chair of the Public Garden Committee, who also owned a tour company and is an experienced guide. She recalled the years when she would take her toddler-aged children for walks through the Garden, a short stroll from her Beacon Hill home. Moore’s deep love of the Garden was palpable as she shared stories of the poor condition of the Garden in the1970s. Moore told the docents about broken fences and large amounts of litter, and of the important work of the Friends through the years to improve the Garden to where it is today.

Sidney Kenyon of Beacon Hill and Sherley Smith of the Back Bay are champions of the new docent program. They are committed volunteers with a deep love of the Public Garden. In their leadership roles, they are coordinating this inaugural class of volunteer docents that will be guiding groups throughout the summer in teams of two. The guides are eager to share what they have learned with others interested in gaining a deeper knowledge and appreciation of Boston’s special and most iconic greenspace, the Public Garden.

Register for a tour today.

Conservation Work Begins on Shaw Memorial on Boston Common

Conservator Ivan Myjer, Friends Executive Director Elizabeth Vizza,  Kathryn Greenthal; Shaw Committee member; Henry, chair of Shaw Committee, National Park Service Park Ranger Ryan McNabb, Elizabeth Stifel, Landmarks Commission, and Margaret Dyson, Parks Department
Conservator Ivan Myjer; Friends Executive Director Elizabeth Vizza;
Kathryn Greenthal; Shaw Committee member, Henry Lee; chair of Shaw Committee; National Park Service Park Ranger Ryan McNabb; Elizabeth Stifel, Boston Landmarks Commission; and Margaret Dyson, Boston Parks and Recreation Department


The Shaw Committee of the Friends of the Public Garden recently gathered at the Shaw Memorial on Boston Common to observe a project that began in September. The project is being conducted in response to a detailed report outlining the existing conditions and treatment recommendations for conservation of the stone elements of the Memorial. It is very important to comprehensively repoint all mortar joints to prevent water from entering the monument, and to remove biological growth from the stone.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s Shaw/54th Regiment Memorial, located opposite the State House, is the most acclaimed piece of sculpture on the Common. Saint-Gaudens was the foremost American sculptor of his day. After accepting the Shaw Memorial commission in 1884, he took almost fourteen years to complete the job. The enormous bas-relief depicts the mounted Colonel Robert Gould Shaw leading the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the first all-volunteer black regiment in the Union army. Colonel Shaw, together with many of his men, died at Fort Wagner, South Carolina, in July 1863. The monument was finally unveiled on May 30, 1897, with ceremonies lasting most of the day. The military parade included some old soldiers who had left for war from that very spot.

In 1980, the Friends of the Public Garden raised $200,000 to restore and endow the Memorial, which had never been maintained and was in terrible condition. The Friends also established an endowment to ensure its regular care. It was rededicated on its centennial in 1997 with General Colin Powell in attendance.

Friends 2014 Summer Party Delights


Thanks to everyone for making our Summer Party such a wonderful event, and to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel for providing a fabulous venue for it. More than 100 park benefactors turned out on Wednesday, July 23rd to support our organization and its work on Boston Common, in the Public Garden, and on Commonwealth Avenue Mall.  The event raised just under $10,000.  Learn more about our projects at www.friendsofthepublicgarden.org.

Visit our Facebook album to see more photos from the event.


Momumental Homecoming for Soldiers and Sailors on Boston Common

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A monumental milestone recently took place on Boston Common courtesy of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department.  Cranes facilitated the re-install of four larger-than-life pieces of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. The four pieces represent Army, Navy, history, and peace.  They were  were removed 10 years ago for repair and were returned to their perch on Boston Common on May 29.  Onlookers watched as they arrived by truck from Daedalus studio in Watertown where the restoration work was performed.

Designed by architect/sculptor Martin Milmore, the neoclassical Soldiers and Sailors Monument, on top of Flagstaff Hill, is a Civil War memorial in the form of a victory column. At its dedication in 1877, Generals McClellan and Hooker were among those attending, along with two Confederate officers. From colonial to modern times, the hill has been a favorite sledding place for children.

During the winter, several members of the Friends visited the sculptures at the Watertown studio to observe the work.

Restoration work will continue at Soldiers and Sailors into summer, including the replacement of pieces to four plaques at the base of the monument, as well as cleaning.

FOPG Spotlight: Robert Mulcahy

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.

Bob Mulcahy (left) with Beth Jordan, Liz Vizza, Pat McAvoy and Mary Halpin

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.