History: A Healing Landscape

Environmental and Social History of the Site of the Boston Nature Center
Expanded 2nd Edition

What was here before the Boston Nature Center? You may know that this land was once occupied by the Boston State Hospital. But how did it get here, and what was here before that? How have humans changed this place over time? And how has the land affected the people who have lived, worked, and played here?

To help answer these questions, the Boston Nature Center, with the help of Mass Humanities, embarked on an extensive history project to tell the diverse and rich story of the land we now steward.

First published in 2013, A Healing Landscape: Environmental and Social History of the Site of Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center by Scholar-in-Residence Steven Pavlos Holmes, PhD, tells the stories of the people who have lived and worked on the land over the past two centuries—including early farming families, a Revolutionary war soldier, pioneering birdwatchers, the residents and staff of the Boston State Hospital, and, of course, the Clark Cooper Community Gardens and Mass Audubon. 

Now, the expanded Second Edition (2016) features 34 pages of new material on the geological origins of the land, 10,000 years of Native American history, and the lives and work of farmers at the Boston State Hospital. Copies of the printed book are available at the BNC Gift Shop, or you can download a free PDF from the link on the right side of this page.

In addition to the book, you can follow the area’s transformation through the following “exhibits”: