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John R. Shelburne Center, 2700 Washington Street

by Andrew Hatt, Northeastern Public History Program

During the redevelopment of the Washington Park area of Roxbury beginning in 1960 and ending in the mid-1970s, Washington Park itself was rehabilitated. In a joint venture between the Boston Parks Department and the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the expansion of the original 1867 Washington Park began on April 16, 1970. Ten acres of facilities was added to the site along with new playing fields at a cost of $1 million. Flat space originally cleared for new homes and streets at the base of the original park were turned into softball and football fields. Additionally, tennis and basketball courts were created along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, as well as a playground at Walnut Avenue. Fay, Spofford and Thorndike, with Jerry Spencer acting as the landscape architect designed the park area and playing fields.

In addition to the playing fields and open space, the area also featured a recreation center and a gymnasium along Dale Street that was designed by William Nelson Jacobs. The recreation center was ultimately named in honor of John R. Shelbourne, who for many years was the youth director of the Robert Gould Shaw Settlement House in the South End. The gymnasium was recently renamed in honor of Alfreda Harris, who was a founder and former administrative coordinator of the Shelburne Recreation Center. Prior to the redevelopment of Washington Park, the Melnea Cass Pool and Rink was constructed on the site in 1968. Designed by the engineering section of the Metropolitan District Commission (the Division of Conservation Resources as of 2002), the Melnea Cass Pool and Rink was the only facility to be funded and managed by Commonwealth in the urban renewal area. The land it was built on was also eventually transferred to the Commonwealth as well. Unfortunately, the facility has fallen into disuse and the rink has not functioned for many years.

Information provided by the Boston School Committee in the brochure “Welcome to a Meeting of the Boston School Committee.”

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