Marion Path by Linda Olson Pehlke
Linda Olson Pehlke is an author and urban planner living in Brookline. Her book, Exploring the Paths of Brookline, is available at Brookline Booksmith and other locations. The series "In Step: Brookline's Paths" was published in Our Town Brookline magazine in 2005 and appears here with the permission of its publisher and the author.
Leaving the Bustle for the Oasis of Griggs Park
Thomas Griggs House, circa 1885
(By Griggs Park Today)
To travel Marion Path is to experience a transformation. From an atmosphere of tall buildings, commercial busyness, rumbling Beacon Street traffic, and clattering trolley cars, you are quickly whisked to the green oasis of Griggs Park and the quiet, scaled-down residential enclave of its setting. Located just west of Coolidge Corner off Marion Street, Marion Path is a well-used short cut that begins next to 100 Marion Street and descends to Griggs Terrace, opposite the entrance to Griggs Park. Traveling in the opposite direction, residents of Griggs Road, Griggs Terrace, and nearby Washington Street get convenient pedestrian access to Beacon Street with its shops and T stations. An iron handrail bisects the 283.64 foot long, 10 foot wide asphalt path; an acknowledgment of the steep slope you are navigating. Its short descent carries you past an apartment building and its balconies on one side, and an ivy-covered NStar building, fenced off with a green chain link fence, on the other. Marion Path's length is exactly the median length of all the paths. An iron sign pole, without its sign, is all that remains to mark the path's entrance on Marion Street. There are no markers at the path's Griggs Terrace end.
Griggs Park Historic District
Accepted by the town in 1913, Marion is one of the later paths. Townwide, the paths date from 1886 to 1926, with the exception of Lawton Path, accepted in 1972. Griggs Park is a 4.17 acre kidney-shaped oasis of nature, with Griggs Road and Griggs Terrace forming the boundary of the park. Laid out and accepted by the town in 1903, Griggs Park and the surrounding residential properties were developed as a unit by Thomas B. Griggs. Built mainly between 1900 and 1925, the housing is a mix of large single-family homes, two-family row houses, and multi-family dwellings. The park and neighborhood are included in the Griggs Park Historic District on the National/State Register of Historic Places. The district's location between busy Beacon and Washington Streets highlight its subdued ambiance. The combination of the park's open space and the relative low density of the surrounding housing create a unique neighborhood setting that contrasts markedly with the density of its immediate surroundings.
The landscape of the park is remarkably varied. Large trees and shrubbery provide shade to the circumferential pathway around the park. A depression in the middle is often wet with some areas of standing water. This wetland adds to the feeling of wild nature that characterizes the park. Large willows are a dramatic presence, especially in windy weather. A small playground brings young families to the park's open space. A lovely perennial garden honoring Doris Vercoe Solomon is nestled next to the central wetland. Its stone marker tells the visitor that she lived from 1920-1997 and brought love, joy, and beauty to many. Her husband created the garden in her honor. An active volunteer group, The Friends of Griggs Park, helps maintain the park with regular clean-ups, and has also enhanced the park by planting bulbs and perennials. A future goal is to plant some climbing vines alongside Marion Path, in hopes of limiting graffiti and beautifying the passageway.
© 2010 Linda Olson Pehlke. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission from the author.
Map by Robert Pehlke. Photographs by Linda Olson Pehlke