Archives Guide ~ Parks and Recreation Department (4400)

Historical note

Power to establish parks in the City of Boston was granted by the Commonwealth on May 6, 1875, subject to acceptance by the people. This act was accepted by a vote of the citizens on June 9, 1875. The first Board of Park Commissioners was appointed on July 8, 1875 and confirmed on July 15, 1875. Chapter 10 of the Ordinances of 1912 merged the Park Department with the Public Grounds, Bath and Music Departments, under the name of Park and Recreation Department. In 1920, the Cemetery Department was merged with the Park Department, the latter title being substituted for Park and Recreation Department. On May 1, 1954, the department was renamed the Parks and Recreation Department.

The Boston Parks and Recreation Department provides residents and visitors with clean, green, safe, and accessible open space in more than 2,200 acres of park land throughout the city including parks, playgrounds, athletic facilities, city squares, urban wilds, street trees, three active cemeteries, 16 historic burying grounds, and two golf courses.



4400.001 Legal records 1880-1992 (Bulk, 1885-1960) 4 record cartons, 1 flat box and 2 flat files

Scope and Contents note
Records documenting various park projects of the Boston Parks Department from the 1880s through the early 1970s. Includes land takings, deeds, land transfers, sales of land, leases, as well as other legal agreements between the Boston Parks Department (or its predecessors) and government entities (including local, state, and federal), private citizens, corporations, and other businesses. In addition, there are a number of plans for various projects including blue prints, engineer drawings, and maps.

Finding Aid


4400.002 Proceedings 1875-1963 with gaps 4 microfilm reels

Scope and Contents note
Microfilm copies of proceedings of Parks Commission, 1875-1963 with gaps. Original records remain in the custody of the Parks and Recreation Department. Includes summary minutes of the meetings of the Parks Commission.


4400.003 Photographs 1965-1984 9 document cases

Scope and Contents note
Photographs documenting improvements to parks, 1965-1984.

Finding Aid


4400.004 Plans 1886-1964 (Bulk, 1910-1940) 273 plans

Scope and Contents note
Boston Parks Department Engineering Division plans. Includes plans produced for Boston Common, Fens, Airport, Commonwealth Avenue, Franklin Park, Copley Square and other projects.



4400.005 Annual reports and publications 1875-1993 57 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Includes copies of annual reports for the years 1875-1877, 1881, 1885, 1887, 1889, 1892, 1894-1895, 1907, 1910, 1938-1954, 1956-1966, 1968-1970, 1972-1974, 1984 and 1989;  "Notes on the Plan of Franklin Park and Related Matters", 1886; "Preliminary Report of the Board of Commissioners of the Department of Parks with Plans and Estimates for a Zoological Garden at Franklin Park and an Aquarium at Marine Park", 1910; "Special Report", 1925; "Future Parks, Playgrounds and Parkways", 1925; and other publications produced by the Parks Department. Annual reports can also be found in the City Documents series.



4410 Cemetery Division

Historical note
By Chapter 375 of the Acts of 1897, the Mayor was authorized to appoint a board of five trustees, subject to confirmation by the Board of Aldermen, to have charge of Mount Hope Cemetery and all other burying grounds owned by or in charge of the City of Boston.

Mount Hope Cemetery was bought by the City in 1857 for $35,000 and additional land has been purchased since. It is situated on Walk Hill Street. The Board of Trustees was first appointed under the ordinance passed December 21, 1857.

All burying grounds which were formerly under the control of the Board of Health were transferred to the jurisdiction of the Cemetery Department. They included the following: Benington street, East Boston, 157,500 square feet. Bunker Hill, Charlestown, 48,202 square feet. Central, Boston Common, 60,693 square feet. Copp’s Hill, Charter and Hull streets, 89,015 square feet. Dorchester North, Upham’s Corner, 142,587 square feet. Dorchester South, Dorchester avenue, 95,462 square feet. Eliot, Washington and Eustis streets, 34,830 square feet. Evergreen, Commonwealth avenue, Brighton, 604,520 square feet. Fairview, Hyde Park, 50 acres. Granary, Tremont street, opposite Bromfield street, 82,063 square feet. Hawes, Emerson street, near L street, 11,232 square feet. King’s Chapel, Tremont street, near School street, 19,344 square feet. Market Street, Market street, Brighton, 18,072 square feet. Mount Hope, Walk Hill street, 117 acres and 36,536 square feet. Phipps Street, Charlestown, 76,740 square feet. Rainsford Island, 43,560 square feet. South End, Washington and East Concord streets, 64,570 square feet. Walter Street, Walter street, Roslindale, 35,100 square feet. Warren, Kearsarge avenue, Roxbury, 54,400 square feet. Westerly, Centre street, West Roxbury, 39,450 square feet.

In 1920, the Cemetery Department was merged with the Park Department, the latter title being substituted for Park and Recreation Department. On May 1, 1954, the department became the Parks and Recreation Department.

The Cemetery Division is responsible for providing burial services for City of Boston residents. The division manages burial records for over 250,000 gravesites and maintains approximately 200 acres of cemetery land. The three active cemeteries are Mount Hope Cemetery, Fairview Cemetery and Evergreen Cemetery.


4410.001 Annual reports and publications 1879-1912 12 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Includes copies of annual reports for the years 1900-1904, 1909-1910, and 1912; Reports on Intramural Internments, 1879 (City Documents 47, 96 and 110 of 1879); "Report of Special Committee of Common Council in Regard to South Burying-Ground on Washington Street", 1883; "Copy of Inscriptions upon the Granite Stones in the Kearsarge Avenue Cemetery, 1890; and "Historical Sketch and Matters Appertaining to the Copps Hill Burial-Ground", 1901. Annual reports can also be found in the City Documents series.


4410.002 Maps and plans circa 1899-1999 90 plans

Scope and Contents note
Plans of Mt. Hope Cemetery, Evergreen Cemetery and Fairview Cemetery.  Includes general plans, burial plans, memorial plans and building plans.  Also includes plans for several of the following Historic Burying Grounds: Bennington St., Central, Copp's Hill, Dorchester North, Dorchester South, Phipps St., and Westerly.

Finding Aid


4410.003 Proceedings 1865-1897  3 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Includes minutes of the Board of Trustees of Mt. Hope Cemetery from 1865-1897.  The first volume of the minutes which covered 1857-1865 is missing.


4410.004 Correspondence 1897-1911 with gaps 4 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Four volumes of correspondence of the Cemetery Department.


4410.008 Cemetery Division microfilm circa 1852-1980 60 reels

Scope and Contents note
Microfilm of interment cards, lot plans and lot index cards for Mt. Hope Cemetery, Evergreen Cemetery and Fairview Cemetery and interment cards for Historic Burying Grounds.

Finding Aid


4411.001 Mount Hope Cemetery records 1876-1952 with gaps 22 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Includes burial permits and orders from 1926-1952, foundation orders from 1905-1939, orders from 1903-1939, records of permits from 1876, deeds 1929-1939, lot sales from 1917-1936 and receipts from 1930-1936.

Finding Aid


4412.001 Evergreen Cemetery records 1881-1967 with gaps 9 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Includes burial and permit records; lot sale records; financial records; and cash records.

Finding Aid


4413.001 Fairview Cemetery records 1892-1950 with gaps 6 record cartons 

Scope and Contents note
Includes burial permits from 1892-1951 and foundation orders from 1928-1939.

Finding Aid


0414.001 Historic Burying Grounds burial permits and orders 1876-1948 with gaps 3 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Burial permits and orders for Bennington Street, Bunker Hill, Central, Copp's Hill, Dorchester North, Dorchester South, Eliot, Phipps Street, South End, Walter Street and Westerly burying grounds.

Finding Aid 



4440 Public Baths

Historical note
Public Baths were first established in Boston in 1866 under the control of a Joint Committee of the City Council. Chapter 214 of the Acts of 1874, "An act to authorized cities and towns to erect and maintain public baths and wash-houses," was accepted by the City Council on January 2, 1875. By an ordinance passed December 27, 1879, the Committee on Bathing was discontinued and the baths were put in the care of the Board of Health. A new city department of Public Baths was created by ordinance passed in 1898. Chapter 10 of the Ordinances of 1912 merged the Park Department with the Public Grounds, Bath and Music Departments, under the name of Park and Recreation Department.


4440.001 Superintendent's record of the number of bathers 1866, 1868-1876 5 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Includes records for Arch Wharf, 1866; Dover Street Bridge, 1866; Cambridge Bridge, 1866; East Boston, 1866; and Cabot Street Bath, 1868-1876. Record includes date, number of bathers by time of day, and weather.



4440.002 Publication 1899 1 volume

Scope and Contents note
"Free Municipal Baths in Boston" by William I. Cole published in 1899.