The history of the CP&GC’s interest in engaging in the the City of Cambridge goes back well over 100 years. Founding CP&GC members were eager to enhance their own gardens as well as neighboring community green spaces and so the club’s efforts can be traced to many important open public spaces around the city. Among them are Cambridge Common, smaller squares and parks; public schools and street trees throughout Cambridge; as well as to properties such as Chilton House, owned by community nonprofit organization. The City’s many historic houses and gardens have long been a focus for the club and recently the club has recently developed a richer relationship with Historic New England and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.
The Cambridge Committee on Public Planting and CP&GC
The success of early work at Fresh Pond Reservation led CP&GC members to think citywide. In the ’70s, two activist members proposed and established the Cambridge Committee on Public Planting to advise and support the city in improving public planting. Serving as the Committee’s first chairs, they advocated for a city arborist and a client street-tree program. When the city’s first arborist was hired, the club was supportive by funding the DPW’s first water tank, providing contributions for client street trees, and supplying hand-held computer (novel then) for a street-tree census. Since the creation of the Committee in 1979, a succession of club members have given their time serving members and as chairs. Today, the Committee has a diverse membership open to all interested Cambridge residents. The expertise of club members is a significant resource as the City maintains existing public plantings and considers new ones.
Trees for Cambridge
The citywide focus of CP&GC’s tree planting is underscored by a list of Cambridge parks that have received CP&GC’s attention and funding since the 1960s: Cambridge Public Library Park, Garden Street Glen, Gold Star Mothers Park at Gore Street, Longfellow Park, Raymond Street Park, Winthrop Park on J.F.K. Street, the pocket park at Craigie and Brattle streets, and the Cambridge Common. The club has planted trees at various public schools: Graham and Parks, Harrington, and provided funds for tree planting on streets throughout the City.
Gardening at Historical Houses
The club has also long given its energy and funding to gardens at two of the City’s historic houses – the Cambridge Historical Society’s Hooper-Lee Nichols House and the Washington Headquarters–Longfellow House. Most recently, it has added the garden of Historic New England’s Cooper-Frost-Austin House, the oldest house in Cambridge, to its project list.
The Works Committee of CP&GC meets regularly to discuss project ideas suggested by club members and others. The committee’s meetings are a forum to examine conservation and rehabilitation work in the City, both current and in a planning stage. (Given the engagement of club members on the Cambridge Committee on Public Planting, the Fresh Pond Advisory Committee, and various DCR stakeholder groups, the committee finds a lot to consider.) Project proposals are taken to the club’s Executive Committee and then to the club as a whole for approval and funding.
The club is currently working with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation to support the renovation of the Lowell Memorial Park at Fresh Pond Parkway. Encouraged by CP&GC’s interest, DCR has completed a cultural landscape assessment of the site and is working to renovate the brick wall that defines two borders of the greenspace. The club is supporting DCR’s transformation and remediation of parkland along Greenough Boulevard, and rehabilitation of the remaining eight acres of Charles River marshland, Hell’s Half Acre. Looking to the future, the club hopes to undertake more initiatives with the DCR, which owns many acres of Cambridge land along its parkways.
A newer CP&GC initiative is the documentation of notable Cambridge gardens for the Archive of American Gardens at the Smithsonian Institution. The club has completed documentation of three meritorious gardens, and is currently working on two more to be completed in 2017.
Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site
Massachusetts Horticulture Society
Mystic River Watershed Association
EkOnKar Singh Khalsa, Executive Director
Schlesinger Library on The History of Women
Tower Hill Botanic Garden
Worcester County Horticultural Council
Katherine Abbott, Executive Director
The Trustees of Reservations
Barbara Erickson, President and CEO
Resources—City of Cambridge
Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager
Lisa Peterson, Deputy City Manager
City Council Office
Cambridge Historical Commission
Charles Sullivan, Executive Director
Jennifer Letourneau, Director
Owen O’Riordan, Commissioner
David Lefcourt, City Arborist
David Webster, Superintendent of Parks and Urban Forestry