|The car museum at Larz Anderson Park in Brookline.|
My husband Chris grew up in the city – mostly in Brookline. Over the years, he has told me a number of stories about his youth and the adventures he, his brothers, and his friends shared in their pre-adolescence. It seems that whenever we drive around Boston, we pass by a place that holds some sort of memory for Chris. His childhood was so different from mine — I always enjoy hearing what he has to say.
One place that Chris mentions frequently is Larz Anderson Park, or “Larzy’s,” as he likes to call it, which sits high atop a hill in Brookline. You know a place is important to someone if they’ve given it a nickname.
Larzy’s comes up a lot in conversation, and so after hearing about it time and again, my parents suggested that we go there together sometime. After seeing an article in the newspaper about the car shows the park hosts, we decided to visit one Sunday in May, to have a picnic and see the Cadillacs that would be on display on the lawn.
We couldn’t have picked a better day. After what seemed like interminable bad weather, we were given the gift of a beautiful, warm afternoon in the middle of the month. We headed into the city around noontime, parked our car at the top of a hill overlooking the Boston skyline, spread blankets on the park’s lush green grass, and enjoyed our lunch in the sun. After lounging for a little while, we walked down the hill and spent some time admiring the numerous generations of Cadillacs on display on the lawn.
Larzy’s is home to the Larz Anderson Auto Museum, which is situated in a castle-like carriage house that was once part of the Weld Estate, a 64-acre property donated to the Town of Brookline in 1948. The museum, with its changing array of automotive exhibits, is only one of the many features the park has to offer. There is an ice skating rink (housed in a former Italian pavilion), a modern playground, and gorgeous Asian-inspired gardens . . . plus the aforementioned lawn shows, which run the gamut from Chrysler Dodge Day, to AltWheels, to the Volkswagen Van Transporterfest.
After perusing the cars both outdoors and on display in the museum, we strolled the grounds, admiring the many trees and flowering shrubs in bloom. Formerly the summer estate of Larz Anderson, the US Ambassador to Japan, and Isabel Weld Perkins, his socialite wife — who together purchased the property in 1899 — the grounds once featured sculpture, rose gardens, bonsai, topiary, and even a polo field. Much of that is gone now, but fountains, the “Temple of Love,” and water gardens still remain. Larzy’s is such a lovely place; it’s hard to imagine it was once even more opulent.
On the day we were there, the park was alive with visitors. Fellow picnickers, antique car aficionados, families in the playground, teenagers sunbathing on the hill, all of them appreciating this oasis in the middle of a busy city.
You can visit Larz Anderson Park at any time of year – ice skating in the winter, playing outside in the warmer months. With all the elm trees, the fall foliage is terrific. The view of the city skyline alone makes it worth the trip.
The park grounds are open to the public during daylight hours. There are lawn events scheduled from now until October. The museum itself is open year-round, Tuesday through Sunday from 10 to 5.
For more information about Larz Anderson Park, visit the Auto Museum’s website at www.mot.org, or call 617-522-6547. The website offers excellent driving directions.
by Kezia Bacon Bernstein, Correspondent
Kezia Bacon Bernstein’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168.