At the outset of 2020, the Friends kick off our 50th Anniversary with a community breakfast. At the event, the recently signed Memorandum of Agreement was announced. This landmark document signifies the beginning of a formal partnership with the City to care for the three parks.
More than 1,250 adults and children experience the magic of ice skating on the Frog Pond at Free Skating with Friends. Surrounded by the sights and sounds of the city, the free skate time and rentals (and cookies and cocoa!) are enjoyed by all.
As the number of Coronavirus cases rise, Boston and the Commonwealth go into lockdown. The Friends office closes, and the staff begins working remotely. Events are cancelled, and the parks and the city become eerily quiet. Social distancing begins.
Boston begins to adapt to life in a pandemic. The parks become a refuge as people learn to safely enjoy the outdoors in a time of uncertainty. The City and Friends install signage throughout the parks, encouraging users to follow CDC guidelines and social distancing protocols. The tulips bloom and a beautiful spring begins in the parks.(Photo by Jack Cohen)
Duckling Day goes virtual. Meanwhile, the Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial Restoration project proceeds at full speed in real life. Interpretive signage is installed around the site, designed to be a museum without walls. Friends President Emeritus Henry Lee comes out to take a look.
The issues of racism and violence against the Black community take center stage on the Common as the city and the nation grapple with the death of George Floyd. In the aftermath of the protests, a number of monuments are damaged, but the the Friends and the city’s Graffiti Busters work quickly, with help from many in the community, to restore the park and sculptures. The Friends publish a statement of solidarity.
Summer weather brings many (masked) residents and visitors to all three parks. Making History @ Home provides a virtual take on our traditional program for Boston schoolchildren, bringing the history of the parks and the city to families via free online resources and video content. Liz Vizza writes a Boston Globe op-ed about monuments and their meaning.
The Friends celebrates its 50th birthday. The Partnership to Renew the Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial hosts the first virtual Community Conversation, with more than 1,000 individuals joining The Power of Public Monuments in a Time of Racial Reckoning on Zoom and Facebook. The memorial’s bronze bas relief is dramatically hoisted and removed from the restoration site, headed for conservation. After water quality issues, the Public Garden lagoon is drained and refilled. Liz Vizza is elevated to president of the Friends.
The winning photographs from the 50th Anniversary Instagram Contest go up around the three parks, with 10 stunning images featured on banners stretching from the Kenmore block of Commonwealth Ave to the Common. A virtual BioBlitz continues. The Friends is honored to be one of the winners of the Olmsted Preservation Award, recognizing organizations dedicated to the preservation and promotion of cultural landscapes.
Voting Rights is the topic for the second Community Conversation. The Commonwealth Avenue Mall gets a fresh coat of lime. The Friends host a virtual Members Reception and the public input phase of the Boston Common Master Plan continues virtually. Fall colors come alive, turning the parks into a spectacle of reds, oranges, yellows, and greens.
A rare early snowfall drops nearly a foot of snow, creating unusual scenes of autumnal greens, reds, and oranges coated in white. Our Colors of the Season is published, offering an interactive year-round look at nine different Public Garden flora. The findings of the virtual Open House #3 of the Boston Common Master Plan are released.
Festive holiday lights are installed throughout the parks. Boston’s official Christmas tree arrives on the Common from Nova Scotia, with extra precautions taken to continue this annual tradition during COVID-19. The Commonwealth Avenue Mall statue lighting continues, with design work beginning for the Sarmiento statue.