Sometimes a bit of serendipity helps in historic preservation work. While in the early stages of researching the historic significance of the Upham’s Corner Comfort Station in Dorchester, an article in the Boston Globe came out about resurrecting the plan for redeveloping ColumbiaRoad in Dorchester, once envisioned as the “final jewel in the Emerald Necklace”, as part of the Boston 2024 bid for the Summer Olympics.
In 1897, Boston’s Emerald Necklace designer, Frederick Law Olmsted, laid out a plan for a grand boulevard connecting Franklin Park to Marine Park. Olmstead sought to connect Roxbury to the ocean in South Boston with as gracious and grand a parkway as his design for the Back Bay Fens and Arborway. His proposal renamed Columbia Road to “Dorchesterway” and established a coastal road named “Strandway” (now known as William Jay Day Boulevard). This would have completed his vision for a contiguous parkway transportation and recreation system through the neighborhoods of Boston.
This got us thinking. Could there have been any indication in the 1897 Olmstead plan for Columbia Road that anticipated the 1912 Comfort Station? A relatively quick search for the Columbia Road plan on the internet unearthed gold. Not only did we find the plan but sure enough, and to our great delight, we found a subtle yet distinct hint of a landscaped node where the Comfort Station now sits, along the boundary of the Dorchester North Burying Ground, now a Designated Boston Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
As HBI pursues the preservation, repurposing, and redevelopment of the Upham’s Corner Comfort Station into the Bike Kitchen, circling back to the early vision Olmstead had of Columbia Road as a significant transportation and recreation link through the Boston provides added strength to idea of the Comfort Station as a modern day transportation and recreation node focusing on cycling.