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! historicalcommission@medford-ma.gov]

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

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.