Saturday, December 29, 2007

Carolina/Murphy Playground

Murphy/Carolina playground - panoramic view of ball field, 2008. (click on photo for much larger image).

Richards, L.J. 1899 (copyright © 2000 by Cartography Associates)
David Rumsey Collection

The map above shows the site of the Murphy playground between Carolina and Child streets. As you can see, it was quite different in 1899 that it is now. Verona street was opened in 1906, and several properties had to be taken to clear out the lower ballfield area - the current playground field. The Agassiz school was put in the upper field in the early 1970s. I don't know how much the rest of Jamaica Plain was served by the Murphy playground, but it was a center for activity in the South street area. In the 1960s I remember the two ballfields, basketball court, and a brick house that kept equipment for the city. In the summer there were programs for children, including crafts like gimp - do kids still make things of gimp? For some reason, I was at the playground one day and they were making gimp braids. Why do I remember that 40 years later? It's a mystery to me.

As the city filled in with housing, people became aware that the fields that children had long played in were being eliminated. Playgrounds were seen as a safe place for children to get exercise, and there was a movement to save the last open land available. The Goowdin estate between Carolina and Child streets housed the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood House, and was a logical place for a playground. Local boosters got their playground, but not without some controversy.

Boston Daily Globe April 25, 1911

Want Carolina-Av Site.

Citizens of Jamaica Plain Ask for Playground - Several Propose That Two Locations Be Bought.

The finance committee of the city council gave a hearing yesterday on a petition of residents of Jamaica Plain in relation to a playground. A large number appeared in favor of the Carolina-av site which Clarence E. Fitzpatrick informed the committee could be bought from the trustees of the Goodwin estate for its assessed valuation, about $36,300. The site includes two parcels and contains about 130,000 square feet.

Those who spoke in favor of the Carolina site were Mr Fitzpatrick, Mrs William C. Appleton of the neighborhood house, located on one of the parcels, Dr H.c. Ernst, Rev Charles F. Dole, William C. Appleton, George C. Mann, master of the Jamaica Plain high school, Gen Thomas Sherwin, C.E. Ordway, Joseph P. Lyons, Dr Hartwell of the statistics department, E.W. Clark, Mrs Adams of the Jamaica Plain Tuesday club and John T. Gibson, master of the grammar school.

Ex-Alderman Fred J. Kneeland, Patrick J. Brady, Representative William M. McMorrow, Jean J. Nickerson and John B. McGinty, spoke in favor of two playgrounds for Jamaica Plain, one on Washington st for the Forest Hills section, and the Carolina-av site.

Chairman Ballantine said the committee is satisfied a playground is necessary in that section and will appropriate money for that purpose, but that it is the duty of the park commissioners to select the site.

January 3, 1912

Wrangle Over Site.

Jamaica Plain citizen's Association Meets.

Votes for Playground at Zeno Park After Verbal Tilts.

A crowded and at times stormy meeting of the Jamaica Plain Citizen's Association was held in Eliot Hall last evening to decide on a suitable site for a playground, for which $25,000 has been appropriated by the city.

The sties in consideration were the property of the Neighborhood House on Carolina av and a vacant lot in the rear of Curtis st, Forest Hills, known as Zeno Park.

The association committee, consisting of Dr G.O.A. Ernst, Rev John A. Sheridan of St Thomas Church, William Ordway, William Appleton and Joseph Leonard, recently submitted its reports. The majority report, signed by Messrs Ernst, Appleton and Ordway, favored the Carolina-av site, while Rev R. Sheridan and Mr Leonard favored Zeno Park. This meeting was called to decide between the reports.

Dr Ernst, Edgar O. Achorn, Francis V. Walsh and others spoke in favor of Carolina av. Rev Fr Sheridan and Joseph Leonard believed that the older boys should be given a chance to use the playgrounds to keep them off the streets. Rev Charles F. Dole urged the meeting to look at the question broadly.

There was a tilt between P.J. Brady, Charmian of the Ward 23 Democratic Committee, and Edgar O. Achorn, son-in-law of Robert M. Morse. Mr Achorn questioned the right of Mr Brady and others present from Forest Hills to vote. Mr Brady replied that it was he that secured the appropriation for the playground, and that his mail was addressed to Jamaica Plain and not to Forest Hills. The question was settled by the chairman Mr Hartwell, who said that as it was a public meeting all present might vote.

Mr Achorn also accused Mr Brady of having "packed" the meeting with residents of Forest Hills, and Mr Brady replied in kind.

The vote was taken in favor of the Zeno Park site, 126 to 80. The final action rests with the Playgrounds Commission.

Boston Daily Globe Noverber 17, 1917

Pupils Parade For Larger Playground

Jamaica Plain Students in Big Demonstration

Petition Bearing 1000 Names Left at Mayor's Home

A demonstration was given last night by more than 800 boys from the Jamaica Plain high and grammar schools to show the Mayor and city officials the need of a larger playground in the district.

The lads formed a parade at the Carolina-av grounds and marched to the home of Mayor Curley.

Thomas McHugh with his fife and drum corps of 15 pieces from the High School led the march, and was followed by a second division, led by the drum corps of the Lowell School.

Many of the boys carried red torches and banners.

Mayor Curley was not at home, but a petition bearing the names of 1000 residents of the district who desire larger playgrounds was left at the house.

The petition and parade were the result of many requests by Mr T. Dearing the head worker of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood House and master of the schools.

The following lines were printed on the banners carried by the boys along the line of march: "De Cop is alright if you mind your own biz; but give us a place to mind it."

"If you'll give us a place to play near at home, we'll leave all your good green apples alone."

"Why are we the only town whose plea for playgrounds is turned down?"

"Strong armies require strong men Strong men are made on the playgrounds."

November 18, 1917

Mayor Claims Boys Insulted His Wife

Calls Parade Part of Plan to Raid City Treasury

Neighborhood House Leader Says Marchers Were Orderly

Following a demonstration Friday evening in the interest of obtaining a larger Jamaica Plain Playground by more than 500 boys of that district who marched to Mayor Curley's home and left there a petition bearing 1000 names, the Mayor last evening issued the following statement:

"The action of the directors of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood House Association, in organizing a movement to foist upon the city of Boston, at an exorbitant price, properties of questionable value in order that a certain few property owners might benefit and that an unrestricted view of the playground might be possible from the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood House, is indeed regrettable.

"That intelligent individuals, familiar with the fact that all petitions are presented at City Hall, should engage a band, print numerous banners and organize several hundred children to march to the home of the Mayor and, in his absence, insult and terrorize his wife and children, is unpardonable.

"On April 4 of the present year, a meeting was held at the West Roxbury High School to consider the question of acquiring additional land for playground purposes in the Jamaica Plain Section, and at that time I agreed that an extension of the present playground, which contains 134,159 square feet of land, would be made by me. The city in 1916 appropriated $12,000 for the grading and improvement of the Carolina-av playground, and this work has only been completed this year.

Will Not Allow Treasury Raid

"I am as desirous as any individual can be of providing proper recreational facilities for the people of Boston, and the expenditures in this direction during the past two years have been greater than in any preceding five-year period.

"It is not my purpose, however, to allow any individual or group of individuals, regardless of their station, socially or financially, to raid the city treasury for their own personal benefit, even though they cloak their real purpose with a cleverly engineered and skillfully promoted public clamor.

"Old Ward 22, which under the redistricting bill, became ward 15, and with the addition of part of Ward 23 became Ward 22, embraced a considerable portion of the Jamaicaway park lands and, in addition, the Marcella-st Playground, containing 224,200 square feet of land, to which has been added during the present year 50,636 additional feet of land on Mozart and Bolster sts for playground purposes.

"The property purchased at Mozart and Bolster sts was assessed in 1915 for $15,000 and in 1917 for $13,700. A petition was received favoring the taking of this land for playground purposes, the owner agreeing to sell it to the city for the price at which it had been assessed during 1915, namely $15,000. I informed the owner that the city would take the property in question, provided the owner, Mrs Louise W. Burkhardt, would sell the property for its present assessed valuation. to this proposition she assented, and on recommendation made by me to the Council the property in question was taken by the city.

Would Buy at Tax Value

"I am now prepared and would have been pleased to consider at any time during the past year a proposition for the taking of the properties in question provided the owners would agree to sell the same to the city of Boston at the average valuation upon which they have paid taxes during the past five years.

"It is not my purpose as Mayor to allow any individual or group of individuals, regardless of the virtue with which they may cloak the commission of a wrong act, to take advantage of the city, and if you, as a signer of one of the petitions received, are interested in promoting the public welfare and protecting the city treasury form an unwarranted raid, I respectfully suggest to you that you petition the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood House Association to urge the owners of the properties adjoining the Carolina-av Playground to sell the properties at the average valuation of the past five years. By this action you will engage in a work that is conductive to civic morality and the protection of the public treasury."

T.Deering, head worker of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood House, last evening sent a letter to Mrs James M. Curley, disclaiming any attempt on the part of the boys who paraded to intimidate her, and asserting that the boys behaved in orderly fashion.


On October 17, 1921, the playground at Carolina avenue was named for John W. Murphy, who died while serving in Europe.

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