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Franklin Park

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1884–1886, Frederick Law Olmsted; 1891, Olmsted, Olmsted and Eliot; 1910–1925, Arthur A. Shurcliff. Roxbury, Dorchester, and Jamaica Plain.

The crown jewel in Boston's Emerald Necklace, Franklin Park is the largest and finest of the parks that Frederick Law Olmsted designed for the Boston Park System. Culmination of the circuit of parkways and parks that begin at the Charles River water gate, Franklin Park represents the “country park” of Boston, rivaling Olmsted's earlier Central Park in New York and Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

Olmsted divided Franklin Park into two major sections separated by Glen Road (now Jewish War Veterans Drive) and connecting Blue Hill Avenue in Roxbury to Forest Hills Street in Jamaica Plain. To the south, Olmsted developed the Country Park, consuming two-thirds of Franklin Park for a natural valley sheltered by low hills and woodlands designed to block out the surrounding development (which has become increasingly difficult). He developed the natural topography of the open rolling farmland and reinforced the boundaries. Above Glen Road, Olmsted laid out the Ante-Park with his most formal element, the Greeting, a long tree-lined avenue leading to the Playstead, a field reserved for sports. Today, the Country Park has been converted to a municipal golf course, maintaining the open vista of Olmsted's plan but hardly the contemplative landscape he had intended. Olmsted had intended for a part of this area to be used as a zoo, and the AntePark has become the domain of the Franklin Park Zoo for native animals. Arthur A. Shurcliff developed a more substantial zoo beginning in 1912, but the major zoo expansion has occurred since the 1980s, with the Greeting lined with animal cages leading to the African Tropical Forest Pavilion (1989, Huygens and Demella) at the far end.

Olmsted carefully described his intentions in his Notes on the Plan of Franklin Park and Related Matters (1885). Here he perfected the ideals he had pursued since the 1850s, creating an environment designed to ease the physical and psychological burdens of weary urbanites. Franklin Park, despite the losses from the original design and the limitations of the city's park maintenance budgets, remains one of the supreme landmarks of American landscape architecture.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan


What's Nearby


Keith N. Morgan, "Franklin Park", [Boston, 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, 252-253.

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