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No. 343: Library at Franklin Park
Postcard #343

Postcard. Caption on front: The Library, Franklin, Park, Boston, Mass. Postally unused. On verso: No. 1062. Made in Germany, Reichner Bros. Boston, Munchen, Leipzig

 Yes, this was the refectory, it was demolished in 1975. This is first reference I've seen to its becoming a library - which may be a lesser known fact, or perhaps a mis-labeled postcard. The location, which Olmsted called Refectory Hill, is at the Blue Hill Avenue entrance, across Peabody Circle from the zoo.

Reading from the Franklin Park Master Plan 1991, quoting a letter from F.L. Olmsted to the architect Edmund March Wheelwright, Februrary 17, 1894: "...the building was to be 'subordinate and auxiliary to the design of a larger work [referring to the park], as a staircase or a balcony or a porch would be to the general design of a building....This refectory building is a minor part of the park; a piece of furniture, as it were, of the park.'

The building that was designed and constructed did not conform to this sentiment, and was one of the few structures in the entire Boston park system that displeased the Olmsted firm. It was an elaborate two-story Italianate building out of character with its rustic surroundings."

Ellen J. Lipsey
Executive Director
Boston Landmarks Commission

The Refectory was taken down in the 1970s I believe. It was located
just to the left of the main entrance on Blue Hill Ave. There's a
little hill there. I'm not sure if the Library was the same building.
I think so. It does look similar. If so, the view you showed would be
from the street that cuts through the park and brings traffic out
onto Blue Hill Avenue, kind of a big rotary right at the main
entrance to the Zoo. The Refectory had a side entrance, a service
entrance I think, on the left, on a lower level, coming in directly
from Blue Hill Avenue. I believe you can still see the curb cut and
driveway cut into the hill just south of the main entrance to the Park.

One of the first projects that I worked on at the BRA in 1973 was an
unsuccessful attempt to use the anticipated Zoo renovation as a
catalyst for economic development on Blue Hill Avenue. We tried to
find a way to get the Refectory saved and the buildings across Blue
Hill Avenue economically connected to a more heavily attended Zoo,
obviously without success.

Bob Rugo

It is the same building as the refectory and no, it was not at the Overlook ? it was right at the Peabody Circle / Franklin Park Zoo entrance at Blue Hill Avenue. If you drive into the park from Blue Hill Ave., the Zoo entrance is on your right and up the rise is Refectory Hill where the building was located. I see the old stone entrance just down from the park entrance towards American Legion off Blue Hill and often wonder if this was a driving entrance to the Refectory. It looks like a submerged road ? very typical of Olmsted designs ? like in Central Park, he wanted no roads to jar the eye, but for people to have sweeping views of landscape.

Christine Poff

That's the Refectory. I remember it in the early 70s burned out, but the walls were still in good shape. It was located where the vacant lot is now along Blue Hill Ave, to the right of the exit route that goes to Glenway Street. Also, there is a dead end street that comes off Blue Hill Ave., just south of there and is surrounded by stone walls that I believe went to the back entrance. The Refectory was a cause for the new preservation movement in Boston, and there were efforts to save it, and it was being watched by preservationists. Amazingly, the Kevin White administration allowed it to be demolished early on a Saturday or Sunday morning so that the preservationists couldn't stop it. I believe there was an article in what I believe was called "Drumlin", the newsletter of the Boston Preservation Alliance on the demolition of the Refectory.

Bill Walczak

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Created: July 26, 2003   Modified: August 30, 2005