May 7, 2020
The Fenway Victory Gardens were established in Boston in the spring of 1942 when it became clear that the nation’s food production would be unable to supply both the armed forces overseas and the general public on the homefront. Across the nation, “victory gardens” sprang up in city lots and backyards in order to combat nationwide food shortages and wartime rationing.
The Boston Victory Garden Committee secured 49 areas for cultivation, including a large plot of land bordered by the Muddy River, Boylston Street, and Park Drive, an area that would come to be known as the Fenway Victory Gardens.
The Fenway Garden Society was formally established in 1944 by those who wished to continue their urban gardening as the war was drawing to a close and victory gardens were no longer needed. Richard D. Parker, for whom the Fenway Victory Gardens are now named, was one member of this group of gardeners, and he remained an influential leader in the Fenway Garden Society until his death in 1975. The Fenway Victory Gardens were initially supervised by the Boston Parks Department, but in 1949 the Fenway Garden Society gained full responsibility of the administration, maintenance, and appearance of the garden parkland.
Today, the Fenway Victory Gardens cover seven acres of the Fens, one of six Boston parklands of the historic “Emerald Necklace” designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the nineteenth century. Now an official Boston Historic Landmark, these 500 garden plots cultivated by both individual gardeners and community organizations represent a diverse mix of ethnic groups, occupations, ages, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
The Fenway Garden Society remains in existence today. Its purpose is to maintain and encourage urban gardening in the Victory Gardens for the benefit of all the people of the city of Boston, providing a chance to work outdoors, enjoy green space, and work with nature, as well as to cooperate with the Boston Parks Department and other related government agencies, community groups, and urban gardeners in preserving, maintaining, and beautifying city park areas and other green spaces.
Masshist.org. 2020. Fenway Garden Society Records, 1944-2016. [online] Available at: <https://www.masshist.org/collection-guides/view/fa0310>.
Victory Garden planted on the Lawn of the Museum of Fine Arts in 1943. Museum employees and its Fenway neighbors planed and took care of the garden.
View of an Italian Victory Garden in East Boston, seen Edison Building at Logan Airport towards the north, c. 1940s.