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.
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.
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.”