One Washington Square
WHALE’s original intention was to restore a historic Victorian house that graced Washington Square, however, the building was lost due to arson and had to be razed. Because the site is an important entry to one of New Bedford’s most historic neighborhoods, the residents and WHALE decided to create a welcoming and appealing gateway park as a cultural and community development revitalization measure. The lot has reverted back to the city ownership and the city will be building the park this Fall 2016.
After Loss, An Opportunity
After the Victorian house was lost, WHALE first met with Neighborworks of SOMA in 2013 to review the needs of the local community that lived in the historic, yet blighted area. That conversation illustrated how the neighborhood had recently lost Tom Lopes, civic leader and editor of “The Cape Verdean News”. In 1975, he became the first Cape Verdean-American to be elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. As a local figure that connected the Cape Verde Islands with a national outlet, the community expressed the desire to celebrate a life that was dedicated to preserving their culture through an art installation.
The Tom Lopes Memorial will include a full-size bronze sculpture created by Erik Durant, known for his recent Fishermen’s Memorial Statue. The Tom Lopes Sculpture Fund Committee hired the local sculptor after a community interview. The statue will be the central point and welcoming symbol for the new park, designed to instill neighborhood pride and enhance the cultural identity of the South-End of New Bedford.
The Need for Green Space
The South End community, isolated from the recent developments in other parts of New Bedford, is in need of appealing green space that would serve as a safe area for residents to share. This initiative has also proven itself as an outstanding example of community fundraising. A total of 30,000 New Bedford residents live in this neighborhood and many have been expressed their support for a gateway park that celebrates their culture and history.
The conceptual park design was prepared by Mary Rapoza, Director of New Bedford Parks, Recreation and Beaches through a series of neighborhood design meetings. The plan is anchored by a central lawn with a bluestone edge that outlines the footprint of the original Victorian. It 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.
It is our aim that the park’s open will nurture a safer neighborhood with public activities. Last year, Community Leadership Team of Neighborworks of SOMA collaborated with Reel Serious, a youth program that trains in documentary film-making. For 20 weeks, local youth were able to explore and preserve New Bedford history. The film debuted November 2015 to share the story of Tom’s legacy and the neighborhood’s initiative to make sure it is not forgotten.
This Gateway Park is made possible by
Community Leadership Team of NeighborWorks of SOMA
City of New Bedford, Community Development Block Grant
City of New Bedford Park, Recreation and Beaches
New Bedford Local Cultural Council
Tom Lopes Sculpture Committee
Washington Gateway Park Community Supporters
Waterfront Historic Area League (WHALE)