Thomas Brooks Park: Update 2.0!

Have you seen all the amazing work happening at Thomas Brooks Park on Grove Street? If you have not been down this historic street in a while, drive by as you’re in for a treat! Progress is moving right along with the restoration of Pomp’s Wall and the Fieldstone Wall. Here is a quick summary of what has happened in the last two weeks.

Pomp’s Wall:

The lower portion of Pomp’s wall has been restored. The wall is laid in Flemish Bond, a decorative brick pattern that can now be seen clearly. Much of the wall is original 18th century brick and the mason is doing everything he can to preserve the hand made features. The far end, which was ready to topple over, is on its way to being reconstructed. The bricks were stored to document their exact location so the wall will be rebuilt exactly as it was.

Fieldstone Wall Restoration:

The contractors are moving right along with the rebuilding of the granite wall that borders the remainder of the park. We are pleased with the progress to date. They have laid more than one hundred feet of stonework in the past week and that is impressive.

We have received several calls and emails pertaining to access openings in the park. Rest assured that there will be plenty of access points along the length of Grove Street. These have been strategically mapped out with assistance from our landscape architect, the Department of Public Works, City Engineering/Traffic Department and the on-site contractor. Some entrance points are being moved to ensure the safest crossing area and site lines for pedestrians when crossing the street. If your favorite access point has been closed off, it is very likely that there will be a new opening created close by!

Do look for the openings, such as this one opposite Laird Road. We will mark them with signage and crosswalks in the next phase of work. We look forward to your ongoing support for the restoration efforts in Thomas Brooks Park! If you are interested in being on our email list, please do not hesitate to send us an email to sign up at

September Decisions

Here’s a rundown of the wide variety of decisions and discussions this month.

The Historical Commission had previously determined that the house at 16 Foster Court is historically significant; we will vote on whether it is also preferably preserved at a special meeting, currently scheduled for October 3.

We also voted to lift the demo delay at 130 Boston. This property was found to be Preferably Preserved earlier in the year. We tabled the release of the demo delay at 20 Otis Street.

We reviewed the submission of an application for a demolition permit from 8 Hamlin Street; a vote on whether it is Historically Significant will take place next month.

In addition, property at 80 Canal was determined to be NOT Preferably Preserved, and the property at 11 Orchard was determined to be NOT Historically Significant. These applicants will be granted their demolition permits.

We did not receive an application for 31 South Street, which was on the agenda, so we were unable to proceed with review.

And finally, we determined the Shiloh Baptist Church of West Medford to be Historically Significant. This designation will support their application for Community Preservation funding.

Thanks to everyone who took part in the meeting. If you have items for next month’s agenda, PLEASE send them to us via email ahead of time.

Volunteers Wanted for Archaeological Dig!

Channel Your Inner Indiana Jones!

The Medford Historical Commission is seeking 20 volunteers to participate in an archeological dig at Thomas Brooks Park.

Participants must be a minimum of 18 years old and be available during the week of June 6th, with potential spillover into the week of June 13th. Participants will work 1 full day, Monday-Friday from 8am-4pm with a 30 minute lunch break. All volunteers must participate in a 1 hour orientation on the morning of Day 1.

If there are more than 20 volunteers, a lottery drawing will be held and participants will be assigned a day. If you are unable to work your assigned day, another volunteer will be chosen.

Digging will take place during inclement weather. Volunteers do not need to bring any equipment but must wear close-toed boots/shoes with good ankle support. Flip flops are not allowed. Participants are welcome to bring their own gardening gloves and/or knee pads. Volunteers must provide their own lunch and water.

If you are interested, please email the Medford Historical Commission at

Spring Decisions

We have spent the spring making the usual determinations, as redevelopment continues to affect all of Medford’s neighborhoods. Here’s a summary, though more info is always available in our agendas & minutes.

202 Middlesex Avenue

Found historically significant at our October 2020 meeting, and preferably preserved at our March meeting. Between October 2020 and March 2021 the building’s owners reconsidered their plans and the building changed hands.

104 Harvard Street

Found historically significant at our March meeting, and preferably preserved at our April meeting.

34 Linden Avenue

Found NOT historically significant at our April meeting.

174 Fulton Street

Found NOT historically significant at our April meeting.

This spring we’ve also been making two other kinds of decisions regularly, and we’ll try to post more about those soon, but, in brief,

A) We have been working with the Building Department to review permits for projects that involve large scale exterior renovations & rehabs, or partial demolitions – to make sure that true “demos” do come before us. And . . .

B) We’ve been officially designating public buildings throughout Medford “historically significant” so that their stewards can apply for Community Preservation Funding from Preserve Medford, to preserve the historic beauty and detail of these buildings. These public buildings – all of them prominent neighborhood landmarks – have included the Chevalier Theatre on Forest Street, as well as the Curtis Tufts School in South Medford, the Groundskeepers’ Buildings at Oak Grove Cemetery, and fire stations throughout Medford. We have also deemed the tennis courts at Dugger Park part of a historically significant landscape – for similar preservation purposes.

Follow us, and Preserve Medford, for more on this process and to show support for historic preservation in your neighborhood.

Curtis Tufts School, Main Street, Medford

Public Comment, Please!

With your input, we want to make the restoration of Thomas Brooks Park and the Old Slave Wall a beautiful and meaningful addition to Medford’s historic landmarks.

MHC is seeking your comments in advance of our upcoming Zoom public meeting, which will be held on June 2, 2020. [Edited to add – this meeting has been held, but we still welcome your comments as the planning process continues!]

Project Overview

The Medford Historical Commission was awarded a generous grant from the Medford Community Preservation Commission to hire a consultant to develop a master plan for Thomas Brooks Park. This six-acre wooded landscape is located in West Medford, on Grove Street, and bordered by the Lowell Branch of the MBTA Commuter Rail tracks. It is currently a passive recreation area, and has a rich history that is greatly obscured. This project seeks to bring to light that history and implement select improvements over multiple years. 

The Brooks Family and The Old Slave Wall

Thomas Brooks Park is one of the few remaining sites associated with the Brooks Family, a lineage which has existed in Medford for more than three centuries. The namesake of the parcel erected his house in the eighteenth century behind a well-crafted brick and sandstone wall. This wall is attributed to a slave named Pompeii, who utilized clay from the grounds to craft the masonry necessary to divide Grove Street from Brooks’ private driveway. The wall is important to preserve as one of two extant period reminders of the lives and work of enslaved people in our community. Maintenance of the wall is, in fact, a condition set by the Brooks’ heirs upon their donation of the parcel to the City, in 1924, for use as a parkland. The family later donated Playstead Park, portions of Oak Grove Cemetery and, finally, their West Medford estates. The Shepherd Brooks manor is likewise a city landmark and is managed in partnership with the Medford-Brooks Estate Land Trust (M-BELT). 

Present Conditions

Currently, the park is hardly noticeable to motorists, bicyclists or pedestrians. Debris, overgrown trees, and brush restrict access to the green space. The fence along the Commuter Rail line is damaged in several places. Visitors desiring to view the Old Slave Wall and its marker must stand in the roadway and risk injury from oncoming traffic. In order to address these issues, the Commission is working to review existing conditions, work with the neighbors and develop a master plan for the parcel in order to restore this important historic landscape. The plan will encompass the entire parcel and focus schematic efforts on the development of access to the wall, its condition, care and maintenance. The Commission intends to seek Community Preservation funds for this work with additional efforts to follow in subsequent years.

Plans and Designs

To date, our consultant has made excellent progress on preliminary designs.

Hedlund Design Group, LLC, a landscape architecture firm from Arlington, MA, was selected for their expertise in municipal parks and culturally sensitive locations. The team includes nationally recognized individuals who provide additional relevant knowledge in the fields of masonry and archaeology. The team has been hard at work, developing a concept for the park. A public meeting was held in November 2019 and they have taken critical feedback and implemented it within the latest proposal.

Documents for Your Review – DRAFTS

We would appreciate all written comments to be sent in no later than June 1, 2020. Comments can be emailed to or via hard copy to the Medford Historical Commission, c/o Denis MacDougal, Room 205, in Medford City Hall.

If you have any questions in regard to this project, please do not hesitate to contact us at

Topic: Medford Historical Commission’s Zoom Meeting
Time: Jun 2, 2020 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 935 8955 6215

New Trees for Old

Our historic landscape restoration in the Victorian-era portion of Oak Grove Cemetery is one of the current Community Preservation projects funded by a Preserve Medford grant. This week, we went with an arborist from a local landscaping company to survey dead trees, stumps and the empty spaces where trees once stood, and to make a plan for what could be replaced and when.

[ Our goal, to replace dead and dying trees in Rock Pasture of the Oak Grove Cemetery, has been merged with the ongoing work of TreesMedford, who have also applied to the Community Preservation Commission/Preserve Medford for support to undertake a large-scale, professional tree survey in the cemetery, a preliminary phase to further landscape restoration there. ]

Brooks Park Presentations

If you missed our November info meeting about the Brooks Park, or if you just want to take in all that information more slowly, we now have the presentation slides available to share!

Here they are, in PDF form – Brooks Park Info Meeting Presentation Slides

brooks house wall.png

Maps, and the history of the property’s ownership and uses, were discussed by landscape architect Peter Hedlund.

Richard Iron, a masonry preservationist gave an analysis of the present condition of the Old Slave Wall (with photos), and some general history of bricks and brickmaking in New England (with bricks!).

Finally, the archeological potential of the site was discussed by Suzanne Cherau, a Senior Archeologist and Principal Investigator from the Public Archeology Laboratory.

The videos of each presentation are coming soon – the audio is helpful to listen to as you flip through the slides.

Hustle-Bustle of the (Application) Season

Here’s a link to the Medford Community Preservation Committee’s brand-new Community Preservation Plan. It’s a fascinating read whether or not you can make the next meeting – on Monday, Nov 27, 7-9 PM, at the South Medford Fire House.

If you or a group you know is working on a CPC application that is related to historic preservation here in Medford, and you’d like support from the Historical Commission, drop us a line. We’re busy brainstorming and drafting applications right now too!