Local Author Meg Muckenhoupt Speaks at Library Event
Muckenhoupt talks about the history of parks in Boston.
Lexington author Meg Muckenhoupt spoke at Cary Memorial Library Thursday night about her new book, "Boston's Gardens & Green Spaces," a guide to the well-known and lesser known parks in Boston.
Muckenhoupt lead about 50 attendees through the history of the Boston landscape, which started out in the 1600s with most of the land we know today underwater. Along with the lay of the land, the uses of parks have changed as the needs of the population have changed, she said.
Franklin Park was at one point an expanse of uncultivated nature, Muckenhoupt said, and it later played host to tennis courts, and finally ended up with a zoo. Residents of Boston through the 1800s also made parks to fill in swampy areas that stunk with cesspool water – such as the area known today as the Public Gardens. Others parks were created under the influence of transcendentalism, where areas of nature were created for people to escape from the hustle and bustle of life in the city, she said.
Nowadays, parks are designed for different reasons: public mitigation of new commercial development, expressing local identity (Chinatown Park), finding creative ways to use the dirt from the Big Dig (Millennium Park) and creating healing gardens for cancer patients (Howard Ulfelder Healing Garden), she said.
Starting Saturday, Muckenhoupt will be writing a bi-weekly column for Lexington Patch called "Lexington Landscapes." Below, find out more about Muckenhoupt and get a sneak preview of what her first column will be about.
Q: What is your one-minute life story?
I grew up in New Jersey, of Massachusetts parents. I went to Harvard, and after that I lived in Japan, Providence and New York. I came back up here after I got my master's in experimental psychology, and got a book contract for my book, "Sigmund Freud: Explorer of the Unconscious." It won the 1997 American Academy of Sciences Best Science Book for Kids, and was in print for over 10 years.
Q. How did you end up in Lexington?
We had more children than bedrooms so we moved from Arlington to Lexington. We had twins: Heath and Jasper are six; Benji is eight.
Q. How did you get into parks and green spaces for this book?
I've always been kind of interested in them. I got a certificate for the New England Wildflower Society, and I wanted something you could pick up and say here's where I could go around Boston and see green spaces, and I wasn't finding that. I'd have to scroll through lots of different sites, and some of them were through the Department of Conservation and Recreation or through different towns. I thought, let's just have a guide. Why should I have to figure out which department owns that land before going there?
Q. What are you favorite green spaces in Lexington?
We have so much to choose from in Lexington – my personal ones, I love Whipple hill because it's in my backyard. I've have a community garden plot in Dunback Meadow for two years. There are so many birds and there's dew on the grass. I also love the Minuteman Bike Path; it gets me where I need to go without having to deal with cars.
Q. How long did the research take for the current book and how long did it take to write it?
From when we started writing the proposal to the final copy of the book was about a year.
Q. What is your first column for Lexington Patch going to be about?
I'm going to be writing a column every other week called "Lexington Landscapes" where I am going to pick out different areas of Lexington and write about what I think is interesting about them. The first one is going to look at a patch of undeveloped land next to a Lexington school.