Thursday, January 17, 2008

Franklin Park - Against and For

These two articles give some of the back and forth over the development of Franklin Park. You can see what the area looked like both before and after the park was founded in the these linked maps from 1874 and 1884 from the Jamaica Plain Historical Society web site.

Boston Daily Globe March 24, 1886

Franklin Park Betterments.

Public Hearing in the Council Chamber Yesterday.

The committee on claims gave a public hearing yesterday in the Council chamber on the subject of betterments assessed on account of laying out West Roxbury, now Franklin Park. There was a large attendance of interested persons. Nearly every seat in the chamber was occupied, the seats of Councilmen Lee, Dugan and Foss being filled by three ladies.

Alderman Hart, chairman, called the committee to order at 2:16 p.m. There were present Aldremen Hart, Sullivan and Freeman, and Councilmen Blume, Regan and Brown of the committee, and Corporation Counsel Nettleton. Thomas P. Proctor appeared for the Milton heirs of the petitioners.

After the reading of the petition, Richard Olney stated that he appeared on behalf of William Minot and others. He made an opening statement to the effect that he appeared, not as a particular representative of any one or several persons, but for all the persons assessed. He thought it would be a scandal to let the big fish escape and the little ones suffer. Most of the cases were in court. He thought some action should be taken to do away with the assessment. Unless it was so done, the city would be unable to collect more than a small portion of the betterments.

M.D. Ross called attention to Mr Olmsted's report and exhibited surveyor's plans to show that a new park road, designed to go through the place, destroyed six building lots and wiped out one house altogether. He did not complain of this, but he wanted to show how hard it was for him to sell his property under the existing uncertainty.

L. Foster Morse, a real estate broker, testified that the taking of the park for a public playground injured every estate bordering on it. With all due respect to Mr Dalton, he thought there was not a park betterment assessed that could be collected.

William Minot Jr., said the whole question of betterments was an experiment. The rise in value of Back Bay land was largely due not only to the park but to the improvements in health and sewers. The city had made a jump in the dark and trusted to time to show a betterment.

William P. Carter, a farmer, testified to the nuisance caused by stealing by visitors to the park. He owned six acres on which the betterment was $300. He would not sell his land less than $2000 an acre, because it cost him that much. The land in the neighborhood could not increase much, as the city had established a pauper institution and a small-pox hospital within three minutes walk. Milton A. Kent and A.T. Calder testified to the same effect as Mr. Carter and other witnesses.

Mr Olney stated that Mr. Bowditch had sold property for $19,000 since the park was laid out, for which he refused $23,000 some years ago. Mr Olney then read a communication from Hon. Marshall P. Wilder, who said the estates were not bettered by the park. He claimed that as his property was devoted to experimental agriculture in the testing of fruits for the benefit of the whole country, and would never be sold for house lots, it ought not be taxed. The petitioners put in the following figures collected by real estate men in regard to fifteen estates charged with betterments. There were 118 acres in all. The park assessment was $30,321; the betterment was $30,642. Between 1883 and 1885 the assessors books show that seven of these estates were not increased at all. The remaining were increased and two decreased. The total increase is $20,100. The park commissioners' estimated increase is $61,842; of these six estates one was $11,700 more than half the total increase.

A letter was read from Samuel Bradstreet and the hearing was adjourned to Friday, March 2d, at 1:30 p.m.

May 30, 1886

The Park Is For The People.

Franklin Park, is the sun shines today, will be visited no doubt by thousands of people from the crowded districts of Boston Proper. Monday and Tuesday, the columns of those of our contemporaries who make it their mission to air the grievances of well-to-do grumblers will bristle with letters complaining of their "vandalism." We shall be told about "the mob," and how it damaged the park, tearing the trees to pieces, despoiling them of their blossoms and playing havoc generally. All of which will be untrue, so far as it represents the frequenters of Franklin Park as in any sense a rough or disorderly body of people, while as to the flower-picking accusation it is simply trumpery impertinence. The West Roxbury lands have been bought by the people of Boston for the people of Boston's use and pleasure. As yet they are not laid out, nor cultivated, nor policed. They are in a wild state of picturesque natural beauty. The people have a right to flock there on Sunday, and to every well-ordered mind it is a positive pleasure to see the happy throngs of hard-working men and women strolling over the green fields, with groups of delighted children, from the city streets where grass and the blossoms of the orchards, are never seen. They have not, so far, been guilty of any disorderly conduct, though it is no doubt true that they have gathered bunches of lilacs, a few boughs of hawthorne, a handful of apple blossoms, or made up boquets of wild flowers, daisies, buttercups and clovers to carry back as souvenirs of their outing and light up their humble homes in the heart of the city with a little color from the country. Why not? Where is the kindly-disposed person who grudges them this little gratification? One of Boston's ex-mayors, commenting on the recent ridiculous complaints on this score, says: I rejoice that the Franklin Park lands are not yet laid out in apple-pie order, and it does my heart good to see the thousands of city people roaming at will over them every Sunday, and enjoying the full liberty of them. The blossoms will soon fade and fall away, and if they are picked to carry back to the city homes where flowers are so rarely seen, I don't see why there need be any fuss made about it." The truth is Franklin Park is serving its purpose as a public breathing space and pleasure ground for the people very admirably. But some folks will never feel happy about it until it is all fenced in, gravel-walked, flower-bedded and lawn-mowered, with an iron sign-post put up every few rods -- "Keep off the grass" -- and a policeman at every corner to see that nothing is touched.

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