One of the oldest cities in the United States, Boston, Massachusetts, is known for its illustrious history and its avid baseball fans.
But there’s an air of mystery to this Northeast city: What many people don’t know is that Boston features a host of spectacular gardens, some of which are connected to grand homes and hidden behind high walls in the scenic Beacon Hill district. But for one day each year (the third Thursday in May), the gates are unlocked and all are welcome to participate in the Hidden Gardens Tour.
The Beacon Hill neighborhood — particularly Acorn Street — is one of the most photographed places in Boston.
Replete with brick sidewalks, cobblestone streets, gas lamps and Federal-style row houses, this corner of the city is especially quaint. The Colonial-era charms of this neighborhood have attracted a handful of famous U.S. residents, including writer Louisa May Alcott, U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy and actress Uma Thurman.
However, the spaces nestled behind many of the neighborhood’s historic homes were not always the lovely enclosed gardens they are today. In the 19th century, they featured outhouses, laundry lines and trash pits. But in 1928, a group of Beacon Hill residents banded together to form the Beacon Hill Garden Club, a group dedicated to beautifying their backyards with urban gardening.
Boston’s Beacon Hill district is home to dozens of secret gardens.
However, the spaces nestled behind many of the neighborhood’s historic homes were not always the lovely enclosed gardens they are today.
In the 19th century, they featured outhouses, laundry lines and trash pits. But in 1928, a group of Beacon Hill residents banded together to form the Beacon Hill Garden Club, a group dedicated to beautifying their backyards with urban gardening.
One of club’s first projects was starting a garden tour, a tradition that lives on today. “Beacon Hill is known for its historic architecture, brick sidewalks and charming townhouses, but what is less well known are the gardens behind these brick walls,” said Amy Wilson, the club’s communications chairwoman.
For its 86th annual tour, which was held on May 21, 2015, participants paid to walk through the picturesque neighborhood and 12 private gardens, raising roughly $60,000 that was distributed to the city’s greenhouses, public schools and charities.
Once a year, Beacon Hill’s gardens open to the public during the Hidden Gardens Tour.
The gardens featured in the annual tour belong to members of the Beacon Hill Garden Club.
Every year, the club’s leadership chooses an interesting mix of 12 members’ gardens that can be explored while touring Beacon Hill. "Each garden is unique and reflects the style of the homeowner. Often you enter the garden through the home, which is a great chance to really experience and see how our gardens are an extension of our homes," Wilson said. She added that the 2015 tour was especially exciting because five new gardens were on display.
If your trip to Boston doesn’t coincide with the annual Hidden Gardens Tour, Beacon Hill Garden Club's president Leslie Adam recommends visiting the Public Garden and the Boston Common. She also suggests visiting the Rose Kennedy Greenway, calling it “an amazing urban garden.” “It’s this enormous, beautiful space,” Adam continued. “It has something for everyone.” Located northeast of Beacon Hill, this conversion of an elevated highway into parks and gardens — named for Rose Kennedy, mother of the 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy — spreads out nearly 2.5 kilometers. Stroll along the Rose Kennedy Greenway and you’ll discover scenic fountains, captivating public art displays and even a selection of food trucks should you want a snack.
If you aren’t able to visit during the Hidden Gardens Tour, spend some time in one of Boston’s many public green spaces, such as the Rose Kennedy Greenway.