NEW BEDFORD — Two vacant properties along New Bedford’s Abolition Row will soon become a public greenspace, creating a new city park while paying tribute to New Bedford’s role in the Underground Railroad and abolitionist movement.

The park, roughly 1 acre in size and located at the corner of Seventh and Spring streets, has been championed for more than five years by members of the New Bedford Historical Society and its president, Lee Blake.

YouTube video

The site is near three significant buildings on the National Register of Historic Places: the 1820 Friends Meeting House, and the Nathan and Mary Johnson properties — which are documented Underground Railroad sites and the first home of freedom for Frederick Douglass. A new statue of Douglass will be located at the park, along with a gazebo, park benches and cherry trees, according to city plans. Construction is ongoing with an expected completion date in September.

The park will be located in view of the house where Frederick Douglass and Nathan and Mary Johnson lived. Credit: Eleonora Bianchi / The New Bedford Light

City officials, members of New Bedford Historical Society and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito held a ceremony, announcing funding for the next phase of work at the site on Thursday.

This site must be spotlighted and used to educate residents and visitors, said Polito. “Because … the history, if not spoken, if not reported, if not spotlighted — it starts to fade.”

The project’s cost is roughly $600,000, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said, with about one-third coming from the state and the remainder from city sources and private contributions.

“It’s a park that will allow for quiet reflection,” said Mitchell, “but one that will have very heavy symbolism around equality and racial justice.”

Thank you to our sponsors

Founding benefactors: Joan and Irwin Jacobs fund of the Jewish Community Foundation, Mary and Jim Ottaway

Bank 5 logo.
Jardim & Marotta logo.
Sylvia Group logo.
Unger LeBlanc logo.

Learn more about our community of individual donors

For questions about donations, contact Chrystal Walsh, director of advancement, at

For questions about sponsoring The Light, contact Peter Andrews, director of business development and community engagement, at