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. (Zoom details are at the bottom of this post.)

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 HistoricalCommission@Medford-MA.gov 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 HistoricalCommission@Medford-MA.gov.

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

Join Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/93589556215

Meeting ID: 935 8955 6215

May Meeting

Our May meeting will be a virtual meeting, via Zoom. Both Forest St and a house on Pleasant St are on the agenda.

The agenda includes instructions on how to login. While Zoom-Burnout is real, you might consider logging in, saying hello and then just listening in to the meeting while you tidy up from dinner.

April Meeting

In accordance with City Hall’s physical distancing policies, our monthly meeting for April was cancelled. It has been quiet – we have had no new applications for demolition, but our chair, Jen Keenan is still responding to all incoming inquiries and correspondence.

Our CPA and survey projects are, so far, ongoing – in fact, we were awarded a grant from the Masssachusetts state Historical Commission to continue the work of surveying and documenting the historic properties in Medford’s neighborhoods. Our focus in the upcoming year will be the Medford portion of Winter Hill, on Medford’s southern border with Somerville.

Jen has also checked in with all members and we are all doing as well as could be expected.

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.

March Agenda

Another light agenda for March! With no new demo review cases, we have more time to work on other things: our Preserve Medford projects, our Survey and Planning work and our Site Review comments for large-scale redevelopment in Medford.

In the service of increased transparency, we ask that, starting this month, anyone with items for the agenda contact us on or before the Monday one week prior to our regular meeting. This will allow us to get all business into the published agenda in a timely manner. Our meeting dates are the second Monday of every month, so the deadline for inclusion on the agenda is simply the first Monday of the month.

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Comments on 280 Mystic Ave

The 40B development proposed for Mystic Ave has been getting a lot of attention, and public comments have been extended for two weeks. Please contact the Office of Community Development with yours! To read ours, click below –

Because the project is 40B, Combined Properties can, effectively, bypass the demo review process of the Historical Commission. The MassDOT Sign Shop might not look like much now, but the building is older than 75 years and it’s a solid brick building, where fabrication work – for signs used on our roads state-wide – was done for many years.