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Fresh Pond Parkway

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1899, Olmsted Brothers.

The oak-lined Fresh Pond Parkway runs from the Charles River to Fresh Pond, a Cambridge reservoir that Olmsted, Olmsted and Eliot began converting to park use beginning in 1894. The parkway divides the development of former Tory estates along Brattle Street from the Larchwood subdivision laid out by Pray, Hubbard, and White in 1914 west of the parkway. At the intersection of Brattle and the parkway, two nearby neighbors speak to the range of architectural forms here. Behind a serpentine brick wall at 17 Fresh Pond Parkway stands an 1838 farmhouse that was expanded by Hartley Dennett as a residence for Harvard President Charles W. Eliot upon his retirement in 1909. For the next owner, Joseph Everett Chandler remodeled the house in 1927 as a typical Colonial Revival residence. Across Fresh Pond Parkway at number 36, Charles R. Greco designed his own residence in terra-cotta blocks covered with stucco and ornamented with arbors and trellises covered with vines. West of the Greco house, the Larchwood subdivision provides a catalogue of early-twentieth-century domestic design, with the colonial and Georgian forms still predominating.

While working on his own and later as a partner in the firm of Olmsted, Olmsted and Eliot, landscape architect Charles Eliot (son of Harvard President Charles W. Eliot) provided the guiding hand for the early activities of the Cambridge Park Commission. Eliot began his local landscape work at the Longfellow Memorial Park (see BS7; 1887) on Brattle Street. In 1893, he was invited to inspect Fresh Pond, acquired by Cambridge to preserve its water supply, as a possible site for a public park, and made the following observations in his response: “On the west is Fresh Pond, with an area of one hundred and fifty-five acres. Along the whole length of the southern boundary of the city stretches the Charles River … Here is a total of eight hundred acres of permanently open space provided by nature without cost to Cambridge. . . . If Cambridge is to invest money in public recreation grounds, a just economy demands that such money shall first be placed where it will bring into use for public enjoyment these now unused and inaccessible spaces with their ample air, light, and outlook.” Through the efforts of the Cambridge Park Commission and the Metropolitan Park Commission, for both of which Eliot served as landscape architect, all of these spaces were brought into the public domain, although not all before his premature death from spinal meningitis in 1897.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan


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Keith N. Morgan, "Fresh Pond Parkway", [Cambridge, Massachusetts], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Massachusetts

Buildings of Massachusetts: Metropolitan Boston, Keith N. Morgan, with Richard M. Candee, Naomi Miller, Roger G. Reed, and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, 357-358.

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