Franklin Street Park – Cambridge Parks – An Urban Oasis

Entrance to the Franklin Street Park in Cambridge Mass

Entrance to the Franklin Street Park in Cambridge Mass

Franklin Street Park on Franklin Street in the Riverside neighborhood of Cambridge Massachusetts is a lovely and unusual pocket park.  Measuring just 4400 sq.ft. the park is similar in size to the city house lots that line the street.

Before Franklin Street Park was rehabbed in 2003 it was a dark, gloomy space covered in large part with paving. The city held a number of meetings to solicit feedback from Cambridge residents about what they hoped the park would become. Goals in the reconstruction of the park included increasing safety, adding more natural elements in the park, adding play areas for kids, and making the park wheelchair accessible.

In 2004 the American Society of Landscape Architects’ magazine Landscape Architecture awarded the park an “Editors’ Choice” designation.

Today the park is a treat to discover.  From the granite entrance gate designed by Boston sculptor Murray Dewart to the unusual metal dome that seems to rise from the ground at the back of the lot – this park is full of surprises.

The park is green, lush and serene. There are places to sit, a water feature, and kid-friendly spaces.  That mysterious metal dome? It’s meant to be a space for kids to play and is surrounded by plastic grass.

The City of Cambridge’s Community Development Concept Plan in Spring 2002 gave this vision for the park project:

“The concept is to create an exciting and unique enclosed public open space that residents will discover and enjoy. A space for quiet reflection, reading a book, playing a game or watching a child play… A space with beautiful plantings, shade and visual interest… an urban oasis…”

A visit to Franklin Street Park confirms that the city has achieved its goals – the park is indeed an oasis – and a beautiful space to while away the afternoon.

Here are some more photos of Franklin Street Park:


This is the second in a series on Cambridge parks.  Here’s more:

The Smallest Park in Cambridge


Categories: Living Here
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Cambridge Parks – Do You Have A Key to the Smallest Park in Cambridge?

Taylor Square - The Smallest Park in Cambridge

Taylor Square - The Smallest Park in Cambridge

Cambridge has a wonderful variety of parks and playgrounds.  In the city every bit of green space is greatly appreciated. In the first in a series highlighting some of the parks around Cambridge we’ll check out the smallest park in Cambridge MA.

Cambridge’s Smallest Park

This tiny little park is  just a block from my Cambridge real estate office in front of the Engine 8, Ladder 4 Fire Station at the busy intersection of Huron Ave, Garden Street and Sherman Street.  Inside the locked gate of this grassy mini park – just 57 square feet in size – is a flag pole and a granite bench.

When I first heard about this park in miniature I thought it was some sort of exclusive park for neighbors – similar to locked parks for residents in the South End or Beacon Hill in Boston. 

Because the park is indeed locked – and some people received keys to the park in the mail.  Another real estate agent in my office knew someone who had received one of the mysterious keys.  What was his secret?  How did he score a key? 

Taylor Square – It’s Not Just a Park – It’s Art

Copy Me Keys at Taylor Square

Copy Me - Taylor Square Park Bench

When I took a closer look at the park and saw the bench pictured at right I realized something more was going on.  Inscribed on the granite bench are two keys – one says “Taylor Sq”, the other “Copy Me”.  Perhaps this wasn’t the exclusive private park I imagined it to be. Perhaps it was something more.

Sure enough, with a little bit of poking around online, I discovered that the park is indeed an art installation.  Envisioned by artist Paul Ramirez Jonas as a communal space, 5000 keys designed by Jonas were mailed to people in Cambridge.  Keys are also available at the Fire Station.  People are encouraged to copy the keys.  According to Jonas, “Taylor Square belongs to the public. It is closed, yet simultaneously open, re-emphasizing that the ownership of public space resides in the public itself.”

Did the artist successfully convey his message?  I’m not so sure given what I thought and felt about the park before discovering its secret.  But a park with a secret – and a message – is a good thing.  I’m going to go and ask a fireman for a key – and make a lot of copies!

A Cambridge fireman waters Cambridge's smallest park
A Cambridge fireman waters Cambridge’s smallest park


More local interest:

Categories: Living Here
Comments: Please leave a comment. Your opinions welcomed.

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