JP History: White Stadium replaced former Olmsted building

With a $20 million plan to renovate Franklin Park’s White Stadium in the works, some people might wonder what a sports facility is doing in the middle of a park.

The location where the stadium resides is next to the remnants of the Playstead Overlook Shelter, according to Margaret Dyson, director of Historic Parks at Boston Parks and Recreation Department. The Overlook Shelter was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and was built sometime in the 1880s, according to City documents. Olmsted, a landscape architect, designed Franklin Park, as well as many other notable green spaces.

Dyson said the Overlook Shelter was used for a locker room and field house for the playing fields on the Playstead. After the shelter burned down in 1945, the locker room and field house were eventually moved into White Stadium, according to Dyson. The City built a replica of the shelter in 1998 as the clubhouse for the William J. Devine Golf Course, which is in the eastern portion of Franklin Park.

In 1947, Boston School Committee member Joseph C. White—the father of a future mayor—approached then-Mayor John Hynes with the idea of a stadium for city-wide high school football, according to Richard Heath, a former director of the Franklin Park Coalition. Heath said Hynes chose the Playstead area in Franklin Park because he would not have to buy the land.

Heath said Hynes asked the White Fund, which is named after philanthropist George Robert White, to underwrite it for $1,250,000. White was not related to Joseph C. White, said Heath. The stadium was completed in June 1949 and turned over to the School Department, which did not want it, according to Heath.

“Three months of political back and forth—and some arm-twisting, no doubt, by Mayor James M. Curley—it was finally opened on Sept. 28, 1949 under School Department jurisdiction,” said Heath.

A $45 million renovation of Franklin Park’s White Stadium into a year-round facility is being proposed by Mayor Thomas Menino and a nonprofit founded by Suffolk Construction company magnate John Fish.

[This article has been updated to reflect that White Stadium is next to the remnants of the Playstead Overlook Shelter.] 

White Stadium in Franklin Park. (Gazette Photo by Peter Shanley)

White Stadium in Franklin Park. (Gazette Photo by Peter Shanley)

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