History of the Artifacts

In 2019, the Friends of the Hyde Park Library received community preservation funds to transform an unused area of open public space at the Hyde Park Library into a passive park incorporating artifacts of historical significance to the local community.

Transportation

In 1835, the Boston and Providence Railroad Company laid tracks through Hyde Park toward Boston. By 1845 there was an unofficial stop at what is now considered downtown HP. A station was built at track level in the late 1850’s . As industry, business and the population grew, railroads expanded for both personal travel and for quicker and wider distribution of manufactured good. In the 1890’s the New York, New Haven & Harford Railroad (NYNH&H RR, or New Haven for short) acquired most of the routes in southern New England.

1881 Blueprint of Hyde Park Railroad Station area. Credit: Archives & Special Collection, University of Connecticut Library

Because of this growth and potential, Hyde Park’s selectmen and the Businessmen’s Council negotiated with the New Haven to finance a larger station. After many delays, including Hyde Park’s annexation to Boston in 1912, the station opened on April 14, 1914.

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The station was built of steel and stucco, had a tiled roof with ornamental trimmings and a figure of Mercury, the Greek god of transportation and commerce, at each upper corner.

The Hyde Park Gazette-Times reported on April 15,1914 that “The new building is one of the finest and most modern along the New Haven Road. It is finished in cement and marble with aluminum filled woodwork. Passengers can remain in the upper waiting room and see the approaching train in ample time to descend to the lower level. As the new station forms a bridge spanning the tracks it relieves what has been a long continued inconvenience by enabling passengers to cross from one side to the other while sheltered during the inclement weather.”

Credit: Archives & Special Collections, University of Connecticut

Railroad service declined in the Twentieth Century with the expanded use of airplanes, automobiles, and other forms of transportation. Railroad companies reduced losses by discontinuing lightly used routes, closing stations, and doing minimal maintenance on stations still open. By 1973, the waiting room and ticket office of the Hyde Park station were closed and there were only 2 inbound and 3 outbound trips on weekdays. At that time, unused stations across the country were being demolished with little or no consideration for historic preservation. (Notes from Thomas J. Humphrey).

The station was razed on July 9, 1974. Thanks to the efforts of then HP resident Edward Gonski, two of the figures of Mercury were salvaged and donated to the Hyde Park Branch of the Boston Public Library where they have lain for more than 45 years.    

With help from project management staff at the Boston Public Library, and Daedalus Inc., architecture conservators, the figures of Mercury made from concrete and red sandstone were cleaned, stabilized, and installed in the garden.

Vicky Gall and Bob Smith at the workshop of Daedalus, Inc.

All photographs of artifacts cleaned and installed in the garden with CPA funds were taken by Jim LaFond-Lewis.

Education

Also included in the historic garden is a granite foundation stone from a school in the Most Precious Blood Parish. The main school, St. Raphael’s, was completed in 1888 and was across the street from the church on Maple Street and Oak Street.

In 1895, Thomas Corrigan built the foundation for a 4-room satellite parish school, also named St. Raphael’s, on the corner of Washington Street and Foster Street. Foster Street was later renamed Chittick Road to recognize Monsignor James J. Chittick for his service, love, and generosity to the community. It is believed that he purchased the land for the school from donations received from grateful parishioners upon his return from convalescence.     

Atlas of the town of Hyde Park, Stadley & Co., 1899

In 1920, the name of this school was changed to St. Catherine’s, in honor of Mother Catherine Spaulding, the Superior of the school’s teaching order of nuns. In 1954, it was renamed St Pius X School, transferred to that parish, and eventually demolished in 1966.

Sanborn insurance map of Hyde Park. Exact date unknown, but sometime after 1920. Changes were taped over instead of redrawing the entire page.

The foundation stone from St. Catherine’s was saved from demolition by Attorney William Slattery Sr., an alumnus and a committee member for the school’s 50th anniversary in 1946. The stone was donated to the Hyde Park Historical Society by Virginia Foley, a student at St Catherine’s.

Thomas and John Corrigan were brothers who immigrated from Ireland and settled in the area in the 1870’s. They began as laborers and their business grew into separate contracting companies. They owned numerous properties and built hundreds of foundations in the Hyde Park area, including in Corriganville, so named because of their work in the area and the property they owned in this sparsely settled part of town.

Thomas Corrigan was a generous contributor to the church during and after his life. He was proud of his heritage and very content with his life in America. He was often heard saying that America was the greatest country on earth. This sentiment is evident in the carvings on the foundation stone. Described as folk art, the flag and maple trees are symbolic of the area and country he loved.       

     

Sometime before the Spring of 2021 benches will be added to the area.

If you would like a briefer pdf pamphlet about this project send an email to: friendshplibray@yahoo.com