Pinebank memorial opens quietly

August 14, 2009
By

John Ruch

Web Exclusive

PONDSIDE—The new memorial to the former Pinebank mansion at Jamaica Pond opened quietly last month, with a Boston Landmarks Orchestra (BLO) concert serving as its unofficial, unannounced debut.

The loss of the city-owned, historic 1870 mansion to neglect, which led to its 2007 demolition, was hotly controversial. There will be no official opening ceremony for the memorial, which consists of a low brick wall and granite pavers outlining the mansion’s foundation, according to Margaret Dyson, the city’s director of historic parks.

Sitting atop the promontory that overlooks the pond on the northern end of the pond, Pinebank predated the Emerald Necklace park system. During its last 30 years, it was abandoned and fenced-in, with the area around it overgrown and largely unused.

Now, aside from the low-key memorial, the area is a large green space known as the “Great Lawn” in promotional materials. The two giant sycamore trees that once flanked the mansion are now fully accessible. On a recent afternoon visit, the Gazette found the Great Lawn drawing visitors—a woman sitting on one of the new benches, a father and son checking out the Pinebank memorial.

The July 26 BLO concert, held on the new Great Lawn, included a tip of the hat to the park’s history. It featured the premiere of a piece called “The Story of Frederick Law Olmsted,” a tribute to the designer of Jamaica Pond Park and the entire Emerald Necklace. Dyson estimated the concert drew 300 to 500 people.

The memorial is not quite done yet. The stands for three signs about Pinebank’s history and the park system are in place, but the actual signs are not yet installed. (Temporary paper versions were pasted on for the concert.) The graffiti-resistant signs should be in place within a few weeks, Dyson said.

Also still to come is a restoration of the little-known set of stone stairs leading from the promontory to the pond. The stairs have been there for years, but they originally came from the Beacon Hill mansion of Declaration of Independence signer John Hancock.