City and WHALE plan memorial park gateway to Washington Square

June 9, 2014

Washington Square Park PlanThis summer the City and WHALE will partner to honor the Washington Square neighborhood through the creation of a beautiful green space at One Washington Square that will act as a Gateway to the historic neighborhood just south of the downtown.

The conceptual park design was prepared by Mary Rapoza, Director of Parks, Recreation and Beaches and WHALE as part of a collaboration with NeighborWorks of Southern Mass. A community memorial to Tom Lopes—a well-known and respected community leader and state representative—will be a key element of the Gateway Park.

The park design has been thoughtfully planned to honor the former Victorian Mansion that graced the site and was lost to arson in 2009. The plan is anchored by a central lawn with a bluestone edge that outlines the footprint of the original house and includes a pergola and gazebo placed in the original location of the iconic front porch of the house creating a signature design feature on the site and a place for neighbors to gather.

WHALE will also work with the National Park Service to develop an interpretative element on the site that tells the story of historic structures that suffer long years of neglect and often end with demolition as a result. This story of the consequences of delayed action may help to bring awareness to other endangered properties.

WHALE’s original intention was to restore the historic house, however, the fire damage was too severe and the building had to be razed. Because WHALE has fully documented the original house through complete measured drawings and historic and contemporary photos an effort to accurately reconstruct the house according to National Park Service standards was undertaken. However, economic conditions have made such a project financially infeasible in the current housing market.

“One Washington Square is an important entry to one of New Bedford’s most historic neighborhoods, an area where WHALE has been doing historic preservation work for some years. WHALE is committed to creating a welcoming and appealing gateway for the neighborhood, and we are excited by the new park plan, the collaboration with the City of New Bedford and NeighborWorks, and the opportunity to honor Representative Tom Lopes”, explains Wendy Nicholas, President of WHALE.