As hard as it may be for more recent generations to fathom, food shortages and rationing were real concerns during the days of World War II. As a beacon of hope during this dark time, and also as a practical concern, victory gardens became a widespread phenomenon throughout the nation to help fill the gaps created by the massive resources that the military needed in order to ensure our troops were well-supplied.
Created in 1942 at the behest of the Roosevelt Administration, the Fenway Victory Gardens—located in the Back Bay Fens, a link in Frederick Law Olmsted’s historic Emerald Necklace park system that dates back to 1878—were one of 20 million such locales that provided nearly half of the country’s wartime vegetables. The Fenway version was one of 49 areas secured by the Boston Victory Garden Committee and today contains nearly 500 individual plots over its 7.5 acres.
This flourishing Eden was so treasured by those who worked its soil that, in 1944, with the war effort winding down, the Fenway Garden Society was established to ensure its continued existence. Longtime advocate and member Richard D. Parker was an instrumental leader in the organization until his passing in 1975, so much so that the gardens were officially renamed in his honor that year. Originally overseen by the Boston Parks Department, the Fenway Victory Gardens were handed over fully to the Fenway Garden Society in 1949, who has had charge of the land’s administration and maintenance ever since.
Achieving Boston Historic Landmark status in 1983, the gardens today are serviced by a diverse array of individuals and community groups, providing fruits, vegetables and flowers to its members as well as those in need. Special areas include plots for medicinal herbs, teaching gardens that host regular workshops for urban gardeners and an apiary that provides much-needed pollinators, which lies adjacent to a butterfly- and bee-friendly garden. In 2016, it was discovered that the gardens are host to the country’s northernmost Italian wall lizard population, as sightings of the non-native species were confirmed by a Harvard University scientist. On warmer days, you may even spot one of these green, white and dark brown beauties! Events take place on a regular basis, so call 857-244-0262 or check fenwayvictorygardens.org for updates.