A short history of the Chestnut Hill Reservoir and the Community Gardens
In 1865, the state Legislature authorized the construction of the Chestnut Hill Reservoir.
From 1868 to 1870, gatehouses and a roadway around the reservoir were added, which allowed for recreational use. As Commonwealth Avenue and Beacon Street were developed, the reservoir became more accessible.
In 1893, the reservoir was designated as a public open space. When the Metropolitan Water District was created in 1895, the Chestnut Hill Reservoir fell under its control.
In 1919, the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) was formed. From 1928 to 1929, the MDC erected a fence around the reservoir to protect it as a drinking water supply. Because of public interest in using the land, however, the MDC created a new walking path outside of the fence.
In 1961, the MDC built the Reilly Memorial Rink and Pool.
In 1942, Victory gardens were started to grow household produce during World War II. One was formed at Chestnut Hill Reservation, but in the late 1970s, they needed to be relocated from their home at the corner of Chestnut Hill Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue. Norman Weinberg, a legislator at the time, found them a new home along the reservoir. "The people came to me and they wanted a place, and I got them a place," he said. Since that time, the neighborhood gardeners have continued to use the land.
In 1977, $1.5 million was spent on renovating the reservoir reservation.
In 1989 and 1990, parts of the Chestnut Hill Reservation were added to the National Register of Historic Places and named a city of Boston Landmark. Also in 1990, it was decided that the reservoir only be used as an emergency water supply.
In 2003, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) was formed and took control of the reservoir. Since then, more land has been opened for recreation.
The Chestnut Hill Reservoir Community Garden
The Chestnut Hill Reservoir Community Garden (CHRCG) was originally established as a WWII Victory Garden, at the corner of Commonwealth Ave and Chestnut Hill Ave, back in 1942 before its relocation to the permanent site.
The Honorable Judge Norman S. Weinberg was able to raise funds to have the Garden relocated to its current location bordering the Chestnut Hill Reservoir when it was going to be closed after the land was sold to a developer, who built the Reservoir Towers. The CHRCG was established at its new location by the reservoir in 1977 as the only independent community garden in Boston at the time.
The CHRCG was created to foster a sense of community in the neighborhood through the communal and continued maintenance and cultivation of the garden throughout the years.
The Chestnut Hill Reservoir Community Garden faced challenging months when the DCR unveiled a Resource Management Plan for the entire Chestnut Hill Reservation, which cited the garden in a section titled "Non-Historic Additions", in April 2006. With overwhelming support from the gardeners, non-gardening residents, and the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), the proposed plan was overturned.
The Honorable Judge and Mrs. Norman S. Weinberg along with the CHRCG Advisory Committee (CHRCGAC) helped establish the Garden. The Honorable Judge Weinberg then contacted Boston City Councilor Mark Ciommo to coordinate the effort to install a permanent water source. The BWSC installed the water meter in August 2016.
A bronze engraved plaque honoring the Judge and Mrs. Norman S. Weinberg, Boston City Councilor Mark Ciommo, the DCR, and the BWSC was installed in 2019. This was to showcase the overall history and tireless dedications of all that were involved.
Through those efforts, and in cooperation with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC), and the City of Boston Department of Neighborhood Development, the water source was installed, enabling the CHRCG to expand and improve the experience and production of the garden.
The Chestnut Hill Reservoir Community - Friend of the Garden, "FOG" program, was reestablish to broaden the community involvement in 2021.
2004 - Mayor Menino's Garden Contest - Community Garden, Second Place Winner
2006 - Mayor Menino's Garden Contest - Community Garden, First Place Winner
2020 - Mayor Walsh's Garden Contest - Vegetable or Herb Garden, Second Place Winner