This post is part of a series about the process of nominating my neighborhood for the National Register of Historic Places. To see all of the posts in the series, click here.
I have a new guest post up at the Boston Preservation Alliance’s AllianceViews Blog. Check it out here.
It’s about Brophy Park, a small park in my neighborhood that seems to have an identity crisis. In many ways, it feels like an ordinary neighborhood park – there are benches, a drinking fountain, and a spruce tree that the neighborhood decorates with lights every Christmas. It’s a popular spot for dog walking – if you google “Brophy Park,” one of the first results is the park’s Foursquare page, which describes it as a “dog run.”
Even though it feels like a small, neighborhood park today, it turns out that Brophy Park has a more complicated historic identity. Originally named Belmont Square, it was designed 180 years ago not as a public park, but as a private garden square, a concept that came to Boston by way of London. Today, this history has largely been forgotten, and most Bostonians outside of East Boston aren’t even aware that Belmont Square exists. In fact, if it weren’t for the efforts of East Boston residents over the years, it’s unlikely that Belmont Square would have survived at all. Head over to the AllianceViews Blog for the full story.
Today, Belmont Square’s ambiguous identity has left us with a series of unresolved questions. Should the city manage Belmont Square as one small piece of a larger network of city parks, or does the square’s identity as a historic, urban landscape merit special treatment? Should decisions about the square’s future be made by residents through consensus, or should the city dictate changes to the square, as it has done in the past? And what should we even call this space – Brophy Park or Belmont Square? East Boston is in the middle of the biggest building boom the neighborhood has experienced in over a century. As the neighborhood changes around Brophy Park, finding answers to these questions will become crucial to preserving the square’s historic character.