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Back Bay Fens – City Council Funding

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From: Frederick Law Olmsted and the Boston Park System by Cynthia Zaitzevsky (Recommended Reading)

“The (Parks) commissioners’ report was widely read, and their recommendations were resoundingly endorsed at a public meeting held at Faneuil Hall in June, 1876.

Nevertheless, the report languished in the City Council for over a year. The sticking point was the commissioners’ request for an appropriation for almost $5 million for land with the city raising the funds by issuing bonds.  Like the country as a whole, the city had been in a depressed financial condition since the crash of 1873, and in Boston the situation was aggravated by the economic repercussions of the Great Fire of 1872. Furthermore, the City Council was considering another large loan for a new sewage system.  The two projects appeared to be competitive, and the sewage system the more urgent.

In July 1877 the City Council finally voted (2/3 required) an appropriation of $450,000 to be used for the purchase of no less than one hundred acres of land for the park in the Back Bay (Fens). The appropriation was very meager for a park this size, and many people felt that the council had deliberately made it insufficient, hoping to kill the whole park scheme.

When the commissioners were finally able to begin surveying and negotiations in 1877, their severely limited appropriation forced them to buy land in the least promising parts of the extremely unpromising site, and they ended up with a park that curved in the direction of Brookline rather than leading directly to Parker Hill and Roxbury.

At Mr. Olmsted’s suggestion, the Muddy River Improvement was substituted for the Parker Hill Park.”

Featured Image: The Old Post Office (built 1871) had two statues, Labor and Science, by Daniel Chester French, located 100 feet above Congress Street flanking the huge two-story entrance.  When the building was demolished in 1929 the statues were moved to Franklin Park. Read more in The Statues of D.C. French from the Old Boston Post Office at Franklin Park by The Jamaica Plain Historical Society (Excellent Article with Pictures).

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