Guide to the Collection
This collection consists of the records of the Fenway Garden Society, a Boston based non-profit membership organization founded in 1944 that manages the oldest continuous victory garden in the nation, the Fenway Victory Gardens, for the Boston Parks and Recreation Department. The records include administrative and financial records, correspondence, publicity and event materials, publications, project proposals and reports, garden plot maps, and ephemera.
The Fenway Victory Gardens were established in Boston in the spring of 1942 when it became clear that the nation's food production would be unable to supply both the armed forces overseas and the general public on the homefront. Across the nation, "victory gardens" sprang up in city lots and backyards in order to combat nationwide food shortages and wartime rationing.
The Boston Victory Garden Committee secured 49 areas for cultivation, including a large plot of land bordered by the Muddy River, Boylston Street, and Park Drive, an area that would come to be known as the Fenway Victory Gardens.
The Fenway Garden Society was formally established in 1944 by those who wished to continue their urban gardening as the war was drawing to a close and victory gardens were no longer needed. Richard D. Parker, for whom the Fenway Victory Gardens are now named, was one member of this group of gardeners, and he remained an influential leader in the Fenway Garden Society until his death in 1975. The Fenway Victory Gardens were initially supervised by the Boston Parks Department, but in 1949 the Fenway Garden Society gained full responsibility of the administration, maintenance, and appearance of the garden parkland.
Today, the Fenway Victory Gardens cover seven acres of the Fens, one of six Boston parklands of the historic "Emerald Necklace" designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the nineteenth century. Now an official Boston Historic Landmark, these 500 garden plots cultivated by both individual gardeners and community organizations represent a diverse mix of ethnic groups, occupations, ages, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
The Fenway Garden Society remains in existence today. Its purpose is to maintain and encourage urban gardening in the Victory Gardens for the benefit of all the people of the city of Boston, providing a chance to work outdoors, enjoy green space, and work with nature, as well as to cooperate with the Boston Parks Department and other related government agencies, community groups, and urban gardeners in preserving, maintaining, and beautifying city park areas and other green spaces.
The records of the Fenway Garden Society date from 1944-2007 and consist of four cartons and one rolled container. The bulk of the records date from 1970-1989.
Included are rules and by-laws, election records, membership lists and application records, newsletters, event calendars and fliers, newspaper clippings, committee and treasurer's reports, and non-Fenway Garden Society publications and printed material. Open letters and announcements to gardeners about upcoming events and general meeting and election information are included in this collection. A plaque presented to the Fenway Garden Society on its fiftieth anniversary by the mayor of Boston in 1992, and one rolled container of landscape plans and drawings of the Emerald Necklace and surrounding gardens from a 1991 improvement project are also included in the records. Administrative records, specifically meeting minutes and correspondence regarding project and activity planning, gardening rules, society regulations, garden maintenance and clean-up information, and application and plot renewals status make up the bulk of this collection.
The Fenway Garden Society records were deposited at the MHS by the Society in March 2008.
Detailed Description of the Collection
I. Administrative records, 1944-2007
This series consists primarily of meeting minutes and membership records. Rules and by-laws, election records, and various committee reports and records are also included in this series.
A. Officer, member, and application records, 1944-2006
Included in this subseries are yearly summaries of the Fenway Garden Society's events and activities of officers that highlight the main activities and leadership of the FGS for that year. The officer and member records consist primarily of annual lists of members, officers, and their contact information. A membership/plot assignment calendar is also included in this series, as well as membership and renewal applications and application instructions and procedures.
B. Meeting agendas and minutes, 1944-2007
Included in this subseries are the agendas and minutes of the FGS's general and executive board meetings. Both administrative and financial matters are discussed at these meetings, as well as upcoming events and event planning, various project proposals, maintenance issues, election and membership issues, and financial reports from the treasurer pertaining to account balances and budget information.
C. Rules and by-laws, 1947-2006
Included in this subseries are the regulations of the Fenway Garden Society, which include both rules and guidelines for gardeners and the FGS's own constitution and by-laws. Also included are drafts, revisions, and proposed amendments to the constitution and by-laws.
D. Election records, 1947-2006
Included in this subseries are the annual election records of the FGS's officers and directors. Election ballots are found in this subseries as well as nominations for officers, tally sheets of votes, and announcements to FGS members regarding the election and its results.
E. Community and garden records, 1945-2006
This subseries consists of maps of garden plots and plot statistics, such as the number of "old" versus "new" gardeners, number of multiple plot holders, and available plots. Also included are crime statistics and a map of crime incidents in the West Fenway area as compiled by the West Fenway Police/Community Crime Panel in 2006. Lists of FGS Garden Awards winners, such as Best Established Garden, Best Flower Garden, Best New Garden, and Most Improved Garden are also found in this subseries. Questionnaires and data summaries from a 1972 survey sent to gardeners about their participation in meetings, programs, and opinions on gardening and membership issues are included, as well.
II. Financial records, 1947-2006
This series consists of statements of financial condition, treasurer's reports, budget reports, a dues receipt, service invoices, and society event expenses. Seed order forms from the Massachusetts Community Garden Seed Program are included, as well as service invoices for water pipe maintenance.
III. Correspondence, 1945-2007
This series consists primarily of correspondence between officers, members of the Fenway Garden Society, and members of other organizations and societies regarding such matters as application status and plot renewals, officer and election issues, activities and event planning with other groups and organizations, and administrative and financial aspects of FGS events and programs. Open letters and announcements to gardeners from FGS presidents and officers regarding upcoming events, general meeting agendas, garden maintenance, and election information are also included in this series.
Items from this series are restricted to researchers at this time due to their sensitivity. Stored in a narrow box at Ms. N-2283.
IV. Publications and publicity, 1945-2007
This series consists of publicity material in the form of newspaper and magazine clippings. Publications created by the FGS, such as gardening tips and newsletters for gardeners, as well as event fliers, calendars, and printed material about the FGS are found in this series. In addition, a 50th anniversary plaque presented to the FGS by the mayor and commissioner of Boston in 1992 is included.
V. Project, grant, and program records, 1971-2006
This series consists of grant, project, and program records spearheaded by the FGS, submitted to the FGS by other groups and organizations, or indirectly involving the FGS. Since the Fenway Gardens are part of the Emerald Necklace, several of these programs and projects directly concern the FGS, although the FGS may not have played an active role in the organization of actions of these programs. Papers from the Olmsted Heritage Landscape Act and Preservation Program, Back Bay Fens Preservation maps and plans, and petitions against the Fenway Park Expansion project are included in this series, as well as an undated FGS oral history project transcript and papers relating to the Richard D. Parker dedication and renaming ceremony. Also included in this series is one rolled container of drawings and site layouts for the 1991 Victory Gardens, Back Bay Fens, Emerald Necklace, and Parks Plans for Improvements.
Located at Ms. N-2283 (OS).
VI. Non-Fenway Garden Society papers, 1960-2007
The papers of this series include publications and printed material not produced by the FGS, but by related organizations and groups such as the Boston Urban Gardeners, the Boston Park Rangers, and the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. The French language newsletters and pamphlet of the gardening society Association Des Jardins Ouvriers Strasbourg-Ouest are included in this series. Events and events fliers not created or organized by the FGS are also included, as well as recipes and miscellaneous printed material.
Fenway Garden Society records, Massachusetts Historical Society.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.