Franklin Park’s history is filled with remarkable stories — about people, landscape features and park activities. During World War II, there was a camp for Italian prisoners of war in the park who tended large Victory Gardens. In the 1960s Duke Ellington opened the Elma Lewis Playhouse in the Park on July 4th weekends. The Minute Men from Dorchester stopped at what is now called the Resting Ground (also the Shattuck Picnic Grove) on their way home from the battle at Lexington. Ellicott Dale was home to lawn tennis courts. The old photos show ladies playing in their long skirts.
Did you know that Scarboro Pond in Franklin Park is not a natural body of water? The water is pumped via underground pipes that come all the way from Jamaica Pond. Or did you know that Franklin Park is the first place a golf ball was hit in this country? A Scottish friend of George Wright mailed him a club and a ball. Mr. Wright thought the “country meadow” in Franklin Park would be a perfect spot to try it out. At that time, he had to hit around the sheep that were “mowing” the meadow grasses.
Instead of just reading about the park, come join a Franklin Park History Tour this spring. Led by local historian and Images of America: Franklin Park author Julie Arrison, and sponsored by the Franklin Park Coalition, each tour will feature a different area of the park. Wandering over the old stone bridges and along curving woodland paths you’ll learn about the genius behind park architect Frederick Law Olmsted’s designs and their continued relevance today for urban dwellers seeking respite.
The first tour, on Saturday, April 16 at 10 a.m., begins at the Williams Street entrance in Jamaica Plain on Forest Hills Street. The three-part series continues with a different tour in May and the last tour in June. For meeting locations and more information, go to www.franklinparkcoalition.org.