New Bedford’s Buttonwood Park Was Designed to Break Down Class Barriers
In the late 1970s, I moved to New Bedford after being hired as the new morning guy on WNBH. The great folks at the radio station welcomed me and put me up in an apartment directly across the street from the Seaport Inn, but back then it was called The Skipper.
I made time to read about the local history and the stories of New Bedford's international fame. That's about the time I discovered that Buttonwood Park was designed by the Frederick Law Olmsted Landscape Architecture firm.
I became a fan of Olmsted, after discovering who he was and why he designed open spaces that welcomed all people.
Charles Eliot is credited for preparing the Buttonwood Park preliminary plan, in partnership with the Olmsted firm. It's not surprising that in the same city that carefully used houses as stations of the Underground Railroad as a timeout on the escape route, years later would create a blooming park, not as an oasis for the upper class, but a neighborly and congenial space for all families that began where the sidewalks ended.
The design of an Olmsted park played a major role in the development of future parks, to experience a place of beauty, relaxation and recreation regardless of genealogy. Olmsted was a fierce proponent of the idea that his parks would serve everyone equally.
The Olmsted brand has been one of the most important building blocks in the development of public parks and urban planning across the country. New Bedford can be proud that his designs have left a lasting legacy here that will be seen for generations to come, if the people are told the history.