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Celebrate Robbins Gardens: Listen to history; go beyond it

The echoes of the Olmsted family call Arlington to a garden party on Friday, June 17, from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
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Of course, the Friends of the Robbins Town Gardens have sent the invitations. Go. Learn more about the wondrous floral space between Town Hall and the Robbins Library.

Hear live music from the What She Said Band

Feast on food from Blue Ribbon Barbecue and Jose's Torta Mexicana. Sip beer, wine or nonalcoholic refreshments.

Buy tickets here >> 

I did, for my wife and me. All net proceeds from the party will go toward continued restoration and maintenance of the garden.

Olmsted echoes

As you enjoy yourselves, be aware of the history enveloping you in this walled enclave: 200 years ago Frederick Law Olmsted was born. As described in this Boston Globe retrospective, the genius of reshaping public spaces founded U.S. landscape architecture, whose defining works include Boston's "Emerald Necklace," the U.S. Capitol grounds in Washington, D.C., and New York’s Central Park.

After his death in 1893, the Brookline-based Olmsted firm carried on, its work including the 1939 update of the Winfield Robbins Garden.

Among other things, you can see Olmsted's plans for the garden here >> 

A centerpiece of the garden is Cyrus Dallin's "Menotomy Indian Hunter." That work, reflecting the sculptor's Utah roots and sympathies for Native Americans, takes you back to its creation, in 1911.

The next year, architect R. Clipston Sturgis was commissioned by the Robbins sisters, Ida and Caira, to design the Amos Robbins Memorial Town Hall and the Memorial Town Garden. According to an 2018 report before the garden received an upgrade, "All of the elements of the water features that exist today, including the spring (pool), the upper pool, the ripple, and lower pool, were designed by Sturgis."

What Sturgis designed, Olmsted updated and then, using a Community Preservation Act grant, the town improved. Read the 2018 report here, showing how the garden grew through history >> 

Move beyond history

History records what humans have done -- for good or ill -- at various points in time. The danger: History's story can deaden a place, embalm it in mere facts.

Let the handsome stone walls that guard the Robbins Town Gardens embrace Arlington's history, but let them also welcome a multiplicity of voices.

Let's celebrate a future garden with folk and rock and jazz. With dance. With art and film.

May 31, 2022: Garden party Friday to benefit florescence near Town Hall


This perspective was published Tuesday, June 14, 2022.

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