History of Frieda Garcia Park

Frieda Garcia Park is a 12,000-square-foot park and playground created for the families of Boston’s South End. It was built in honor of Frieda Garcia, a renowned community activist recognized for her decades of leadership in the South End and Roxbury. Designed by Halvorson Design Partnership in consultation with the community, this urban oasis features custom-designed play equipment and lively art for youth of all ages. The area provides a safe outdoor play space for local children while also serving as a calm resting spot for residents and visitors alike.

Featuring equipment for active, social, and self-directed play, the park also serves as a significant buffer against the adjacent lanes of the Massachusetts Turnpike. John Hancock Financial covered the costs of the development of the park, and donated it to the City upon completion.  The park is cared for with a long-term maintenance endowment by The Friends of Frieda Garcia Park. An enclosure on the back of the park that separates the area from I-90 incorporates a colorful glazed masonry wall with an exuberant two-part mosaic mural by renowned artist Lisa Houck. The installation, entitled A Friendly Flock Touches Down, takes inspiration from drawings by local children with whom the artist collaborated through a series of community workshops.

About Frieda Garcia

Frieda Garcia is a native of the Dominican Republic who moved to New York City at the age of eight. After receiving her B.A. degree from the New School of Social Research, she came to Boston in 1965 to seek a job in social work. Since then, she has been a tireless activist and leader, working to ensure equal opportunity and access for all members of the community.

During Ms. Garcia’s tenure as a social worker at Roxbury Multi-Service Center, Boston’s Latino population began to explode. In 1971, she became the founding director of La Alianza Hispana, one of the city’s first agencies to focus on services for poor Latino families.

In 1981, Ms. Garcia took over executive leadership of United South End Settlements (USES), an agency popularly known as the Harriet Tubman House, that traces its roots to the establishment of South End House in 1891. For the next twenty years, within the context of rapid gentrification and community change, Ms. Garcia oversaw development of new programs in adult education and training, housing services, computer technology and cultural enrichment.   When Ms. Garcia retired in 2001, the agency’s operating budget had grown to $3.5 million and USES had successfully completed a capital campaign and renovated 4 facilities.

Over the years, Ms. Garcia’s leadership and community action skills have been in great demand. She has immersed herself in efforts to improve many aspects of community life in the City of Boston. Most notably, she was a Board member, then Chair and is now Emerita at The Boston Foundation. During her tenure as Chair, that organization – originally called the Permanent Charity Fund – became a free-standing, highly influential community foundation that has helped shape the vibrant Boston social and economic landscape.

Ms. Garcia was also one of the founders, the first Chairperson, and then a Board member of the Committee for Boston Public Housing, which seeks to build tenant capacity to assume more responsibility in decision-making around public housing issues.

Ms. Garcia’s leadership and contributions will carry on through the children who play in the Frieda Garcia Park at the corner of Clarendon and Stanhope Streets. The park was donated, developed and funded by John Hancock Financial Services and named in honor of Ms. Garcia by a community committee. At the park ribbon-cutting in April 2013, however, Ms. Garcia reminded all present that community-building is not easy and there is much more to do.