Community input wanted in Bussey Street renaming initiative

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

A working group comprised of residents that is endorsed by local electeds and organizations is leading the charge to rename Bussey Street and seeking community input to help determine its new name.

Bussey Street is named after Benjamin Bussey, a Revolutionary War veteran, and merchant who left land he owned in Jamaica Plain to Harvard University, which eventually became the Bussey Institute and Arnold Arboretum, according to a document on JP Centre/South Main Street’s website detailing the renaming initiative.

However, the abovementioned document states that Bussey’s legacy “was complicated by some of his wealth deriving from the profits of trade in products produced by enslaved people in the American South and the Caribbean.”

The working group, which rose in June of last year, has worked to learn more about the street renaming process, developed criteria for a new name, and much more since then.

Through their work, the group developed five criteria for the street’s new name, with the first — the new name having a direct association with the Arboretum land — holding the most weight.

Other criteria included the new name having a story “meaningful and consistent” with today’s values, being a member of an “under-represented community,” whether that be currently or historically, having “accomplished or achieved something of value which had a positive impact on society,” and that a potential name already honored in the city would have lower priority.

In addition to the criteria created by the group, the Public Improvement Commission also has requirements for street renaming, which were taken into account.

According to the aforementioned document, these requirements include, “If the proposed name is for a person, the nominee cannot be living,” and “The proposed name cannot be identical to any other street name in the entire city, regardless of suffix (e.g., St., Ave.) that includes non-persons, as well (e.g., Oak or Walnut Street).”

Eventually, names were proposed, and a list that at one point had 20 names has since been whittled down to five finalists. “All met the first and most important criterion of having a direct association with the Arboretum land,” reads the document.

The finalist names include Cuffe, Dick Welsh, Flora, Margaret Fuller, and Shiu-Ying Hu.

To learn more about each finalist, visit, which contains a document with biographies of each.

For those looking to provide feedback on the names, visit The deadline to submit comments is April 27th at 11:59 p.m.

Regarding the next steps in this process, the document indicates that the community input will be shared with the Arboretum and the Parks Department, the abutters of Bussey Street, who would then petition for the street renaming.

The document reads, “The Arboretum and the city Parks Department, who will consider the advice provided by the community and will consult with the city councilors in choosing the new street name to submit to the Public Improvement Commission.”

“The Commission will hold its own hearing on the petition to help guide its own decision-making process.”

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