This Place in Time

A Brief History of the Site of the George Robert White Environmental Conservation Center

Click on the map images below to see larger versions.

The place where the George Robert White Environmental Conservation Center (GRWECC) now sits was originally part of a gentle, even slope from the top of Wellington Hill down to the wetlands of the Canterbury Brook. A red star marks the approximate spot on this map, made by T.B. Moses in 1873.
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, this land was owned and farmed by Isaac Williams and his descendants. In this 1835 plan of the farm, the red star again indicates the approximate location of the GRWECC today - near the pathway on which the family would walk from their house by the “town road” (now Harvard Street), across the “mowing & tillage” lot to Canterbury Street, and from there to Forest Hills and Jamaica Plain.
In 1871, the “mowing & tillage” lot was sold by the Williams family to Forest Hills Cemetery, as indicated in this 1884 atlas by G.W. Bromley. The cemetery stripped topsoil from the property for use in landscaping and for covering graves.
In 1894, the city-owned Boston Insane Hospital was relocated from South Boston to the farm formerly owned by Nelson Pierce, off Walk Hill Street. The hospital’s farm buildings were located about where the GRWECC is today, as shown in this 1905 Bromley atlas.
The hospital was placed under the control of the Commonwealth in 1909, and was expanded greatly in the 1920s and 30s, as shown in this 1938 aerial photograph by the United States Geological Survey. Notice also American Legion Highway, completed in 1932. The site of the future GRWECC was situated between the east wing of B Building and A Building.
This 1995 aerial photo by the Boston Water and Sewer Commission shows part of the Clark-Cooper Community Gardens (upper left) near the hospital buildings.
The site in 2001, after most of the hospital buildings were demolished... 
…and in 2003, after completion of the George Robert White Environmental Conservation Center.