The Public Garden was established in 1837, when philanthropist Horace Gray petitioned for the use of land as the first public botanical garden in the United States. Gray helped marshal political resistance to a number of Boston City Council attempts to sell the land in question, finally settling the issue of devoting it to the Public Garden in 1856. The Act establishing use of the land was submitted to the voters on 26 April 1856 where it passed with only 99 dissents.
In October 1859, Alderman Crane submitted the detailed plan for the Garden to the Committee on the Common and Public Squares and received approval. Construction began quickly on the property, with the lake being finished that year and the wrought iron fence surrounding the perimeter erected in 1862. Today the north side of the lake has a small island, but it originally was a peninsula, connected to the land. The site became so popular with lovers that John Galvin, the city forester, decided to sever the connection with the land.
The 24 acres (97,000 m2) landscape, which was once a salt marsh, was designed by George F. Meacham. The paths and flower beds were laid out by the city engineer, James Slade and the forester, John Galvin. The plan for the garden included a number of fountains and statues. The first statue erected was that of Edward Everett by William Wetmore Story in November 1867 on the north part of the Garden near Beacon Street. The bronze statue of George Washington by Thomas Ball which dominates the west side of the park was dedicated on 3 July 1869. The signature suspension bridge over the middle of the lake was erected in 1867.
Originally, the Charles Street side of the Public Garden (along with the adjacent portions of Boston Common) was used as an unofficial dumping ground, due to being the lowest-lying portion of the Garden; this, along with the Garden's originally being a salt marsh, resulted in this edge of the Public Garden being "a moist stew that reeked and that was a mess to walk over, steering people to other parts of the park". Although plans had long been in place to regrade this portion of the Garden, the cost of moving the amount of soil necessary (approximately 9,000 cu yd (6,900 m3), weighing 14,000 short tons (13,000,000 kg)) prevented the work from being undertaken. This finally changed in the summer of 1895, when the required quantity of soil was made available as a result of the excavation of the Tremont Street Subway, and was used to regrade the Charles Street sides of both the Garden and the Common.
The Public Garden is managed jointly between the Mayor's Office, The Parks Department of the City of Boston, and the non-profit Friends of the Public Garden.
It was designated a Boston Landmark by the Boston Landmarks Commission in 1977 and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.
Literature, art, and film
- In the E. B. White novel, The Trumpet of the Swan, Louis plays his trumpet in the Public Garden.
- Robert Lowell wrote a poem entitled "The Public Garden".
- Robert McCloskey wrote Make Way for Ducklings, a children's story about a family of ducks and their journey to the Public Garden.
- Scenes from the Public Garden have been painted by notable artists including Edward Brodney.
- An iconic scene in Good Will Hunting takes place in the Public Garden, on a bench near the Duck Pond. That bench has been memorialized since the death of Robin Williams.
Together with the Boston Common, the parks form the northern terminus of the Emerald Necklace, a long string of parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. While the Common is primarily unstructured open space, the Public Garden contains a lake and a large series of formal plantings that are maintained by the city and others and vary from season to season.
During the warmer seasons, the 4 acres (16,000 m2) pond is usually the home of one or more swans and is always the site of the Swan Boats, a famous Boston tourist attraction, which began operating in 1877. For a small fee, tourists can sit on a boat ornamented with a white swan at the rear. The boat is then pedaled around the lake by a tour guide sitting within the swan.
The current pair of swans are mute swans named Romeo and Juliet after the Shakespearian couple, however, it was found that both are female.
The Public Garden is rectangular in shape and is bounded on the south by Boylston Street, on the west by Arlington Street, and on the north by Beacon Street where it faces Beacon Hill. On its east side, Charles Street divides the Public Garden from the Common. The greenway connecting the Public Garden with the rest of the Emerald Necklace is the strip of park that runs west down the center of Commonwealth Avenue towards the Back Bay Fens and the Muddy River.
Permanent flower plantings in the garden include numerous varieties of roses, bulbs, and flowering shrubs. The beds flanking the central pathway are replanted on a rotating schedule throughout the year, with different flowers for each season from mid-spring through early autumn. Plantings are supplied from 14 greenhouses the city operates at Franklin Park for the purpose.
The Public Garden is planted with a wide assortment of native and introduced trees; prominent among these are the weeping willows around the shore of the lagoon and the European and American elms that line the garden's pathways, along with horse chestnuts, dawn redwoods, European beeches, ginkgo trees, and one California redwood. Other notable trees include:
Statues and structures
Several statues are located throughout the Public Garden.
- Located at the Arlington Street gate is the Equestrian Statue of George Washington, by Thomas Ball in 1869, which faces Commonwealth Avenue.
- Just north of the Equestrian Statue is Mary E. Moore's "Small Child Fountain".
- John Quincy Adams Ward's "Good Samaritan" Ether Monument commemorates the first use of ether as an anesthetic.
- Just north of the "Good Samaritan" is Daniel Chester French's memorial to the Boston philanthropist George Robert White entitled "The Angel of the Waters", created in 1924.
- The first statue in the Garden that was made by a woman was Anna Coleman Ladd's Triton Babies Fountain on the east side of the garden. Though some people think the children are a boy and girl, they are in fact her two daughters. It was acquired by the garden in 1927.
- Bashka Paeff's "Boy and Bird", in the fountain on the west side of the garden, was made by a Russian immigrant who did the model of it while she was working as a ticket taker at the Park Street Station of the MBTA.
- Lillian Saarinen's fountain piece, "Bagheera", a dynamic statue of the panther from Kipling's Jungle Book, is nearly hidden by a tree.
- A set of bronze statues based on the main characters from the children's story Make Way for Ducklings is located between the pond and the Charles and Beacon streets entrance.
- At the east gate on Charles Street is a bronze statue of Edward Everett Hale by Bela Pratt in 1869.
- Along the south walk in the park is a statue of Wendell Phillips (1811–1884), an orator and abolitionist.
- Colonel Thomas Cass, commander of the 9th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry which served in the American Civil War is also memorialized on the south walk.
- Next to the statue of Cass is Thomas Ball's statue of Charles Sumner, a senator from Massachusetts during the Civil War era.
- The walk also has a statue of Tadeusz Kościuszko, a Polish citizen who fought in the American Revolution as a Colonel.
- The bridge crossing the lagoon, designed by William G. Preston, opened in 1867. It was the world's shortest functioning suspension bridge before its conversion to a girder bridge in 1921. Its original suspension system is now merely decorative.
- In July 2004 a memorial was dedicated to the 206 people from Massachusetts who died in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It is located just inside the Public Garden, at the corner of Arlington and Newbury streets.
Care and upkeep
The park is maintained by the City of Boston, which in 2005 spent $1.2m to keep up its three parks. The city's efforts are supplemented by a charitable organization known as the Friends of the Public Garden, also known as the Rose Brigade. The charity helped finance the repair of the Ether Monument in 2006, and hires specialists to help care for the trees and bushes. Volunteers meet regularly to prune and maintain bushes. Financial support also comes from private sources such as the Beacon Hill Garden Club.
- List of botanical gardens in the United States
- List of National Historic Landmarks in Boston
- National Register of Historic Places listings in northern Boston, Massachusetts
- Stevens, Charles W. "Boston Public Garden". New England Magazine. Boston: Warren F Kellogg. pp. 343–356.
- "Boston Public Garden, as it should be". Gleason's Pictorial. Boston, Mass. 4. 1853.
- Edwin G. Heath. From Round Marsh to Public Garden. The Bostonian, v.2, no.6, 1895.
- Friends of the Public Garden
- Public Garden. Fodors.com. May 22, 2005.
- The Swan Boats of Boston - The Public Garden. May 22, 2005.
- Photos of the Public Garden
- CelebrateBoston: Boston Public Garden
- City of Boston, https://www.cityofboston.gov/landmarks/publications/ Boston Landmarks Commission]Booston Public Garden Study Report