Book celebrates Franklin Park’s history in pictures

“Do I have memories of Franklin Park? One day my mother, Mary Callahan, who worked at the golf pro shop, met my father, John Burke, where he worked at The Refectory, which our family owned. The result was me! I owe my existence to Franklin Park.”

Last Monday Gerry Burke, owner of Doyle’s Café in Jamaica Plain, welcomed fellow Franklin Park enthusiasts to a book signing party for “Franklin Park,” the latest paperback issued by Arcadia Publishing, the leading publisher of local and regional history in the United States.

While Arcadia already has three “Images of America” titles devoted to Dorchester (two by historian Anthony Sammarco [1995 and 2005] and a postcard history by Dot Historical Society president, Earl Taylor [2005]), this is the first work dedicated solely to the city’s biggest open space.

“Franklin Park” was compiled by Julie Arrison, who got her graduate degree from Northeastern University’s public history program. She chose over 200 vintage photographs and documents to illustrate the park’s first century.

“The earliest images,” she says, “are undated photographs from the construction of the park in the late 1880s, showing the blasting of rocks and quarries and the road construction. The latest picture is of a kite festival from the 1980s.

“But my favorite picture is the one on the cover. It’s from the summer of 1913 showing spectators enjoying the Bear Dens, which are now called The Ruins.”

(Arrison’s research into the Franklin Park Bear Dens has been published as a Historic American Buildings Survey.)

The book’s images come from the private collections of local residents, as well as the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site Archives and the Boston Public Library Print Department. In addition, material from the Franklin Park Coalition (FPC) documents the dramatic transitions through the decades in the neighborhoods around the park.

Arrison hopes her work will “provide a reference for park users that is historically accurate, comprehensive and captivating and which will continue raising interest in the park’s history.”

Monday’s book launch was just the beginning of Arrison’s efforts to promote the park and her book. She’ll be giving a free noontime brown-bag lunch talk at the Massachusetts Historical Society on July 29. Keep checking for date announcements for other events planned at the Franklin Park Golf Clubhouse, Jamaicaway Books and elsewhere.

Half of the profits of the book will be donated to the FPC, which assists with advocacy, park maintenance through a network of youth and volunteers, project management and programming. Available at area bookstores or through Arcadia Publishing at (888)-313-2665 or