Walking Boston’s Emerald Necklace, #1

Scarboro Pond, Franklin Park

I wanted to follow the course of the Muddy River, a body of water that rises in Jamaica Pond and makes its way the Charles River in the Back Bay part of Boston, serving as a border between Boston and Brookline for part of its course.

The Muddy River is also an integral part of Frederick Law Olmsted‘s Emerald Necklace, and since the Emerald Necklace really begins at Franklin Park (the “jewel” of the Necklace), I began my walk there. While I wanted to follow water, I didn’t initially think there was a water connection between Franklin Park and the beginning of the Muddy River in Jamaica Pond.

But there is. When Franklin Park was being designed in the 1890s, a number of Bostonians signed a petition requiring a body of water be included in the park. John Scarborough owned seven acres of land that became the pond. According to Julie Arrison, author of Images of America: Franklin Park (Arcadia Publishing), “Excavation of Scarboro Pond began in June, 1892. The pond was designed with islands for waterfowl habitats. Water in the pond was meant to come from natural sources within the park and the 851,000-gallon Hagbourne Hill Reservoir, completed in 1896.” (p. 40) She also writes, “When Scarboro Pond was built, it was engineered to be filled with eight feet of water in the summer to accommodate boats and fishing. In the winter, the water was lowered to four feet to allow the water to freeze faster and make it safer for skaters. The water was regulated from an outlet near Morton Street. John Pettigrew ordered the removal of this pumping station, which rendered the Scarboro Pond system inoperable.” (p. 29)

That pumping station was connected to Jamaica Pond by a system of pipes that were never used, so far as we know. According to The Heart of the City website, “John Pettigrew, who was Parks Superintendent in the late 1800s and early-1900s, removed the pumping station at Wards Pond because he didn’t like its appearance. As a result, not enough water could be pumped into Scarborough Pond and the water system of the Franklin Park Plan was never fully realized.”

So there was, in effect, a water connection between Franklin Park and the Muddy River. It was never used for aesthetic reasons? Hmmm. Do any pictures of this offending structure exist today? And as to what condition those pipes that were to carry water to Scarboro Pond are in today, no one knows.

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