A Walk in the Park
Bethany Hill School residents and staff were recently treated to a walking tour of Framingham’s Cushing Memorial Park. The park sits on 57 acres of land used for passive recreation – a place to observe and enjoy nature with minimal impact on the environment. Our guides were Bethany Hill residents Alan and Tom. Tom described the park’s previous use as a World War II Army Hospital. At the height of its use the hospital had the capacity to care for 1,800 patients, with over 50 buildings, including a chapel, barbershop, tennis courts, and movie theatre, and its own train stop to create a ‘town within a town’.
Only the Chapel and a few one story buildings used by the Town remain today. Tom lead our group past the Chapel through the old streets which now serve as extra wide walking paths. As the discussion about WWII paused, Alan indicated the species of trees we were encountering – which ones are invasive, which are native, and a nod to the unusually wide trunk of a white birch flourishing away from traffic and noise. We became aware of the serenity emanating from this ‘reclaimed’ greenspace.
We arrived at the pergola where maps and photos from the Cushing Hospital’s heyday are displayed. Tom talked about his father, who worked at the Hospital doing both physical and occupational rehab with the soldiers. Like his father, Tom did similar work at the VA in Boston.
The park’s earliest colonial landowner was Thomas Danforth, (for whom the Danforth Art Museum is named). Mary remarked that some of Bethany Hill’s former residents can trace their ancestry back to Thomas Danforth. This trip surfaced connections to our local community, through work, family, distant ancestors, and appreciation of this peaceful community resource. I felt particularly grateful to share an hour away enjoying the history and personal stories of our residents in a place memorialized for its care of the dear neighbor (veterans) and care of the earth.
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