There’s a small patch of open space on Eden Street that has about as many names as it has square feet of space.
Some simply call it Eden Street.
Others from the older set call it the McCarthy.
The hockey players in the crowd prefer ‘The Kitchen.’
And by historical accounts, it’s actually the Edwards Playground.
All of those names and more will be discussed and decided upon during what is expected to be a very contentious Parks Department public meeting tonight, Sept. 20, at the Golden Age Center on Main Street, at 6:30 p.m.
Many in the neighborhood were up-in-arms originally when the notice for the meeting went out announcing a planning process for the Edwards Playground.
Many wondered if the neighboring Edwards Middle School was trying to “move in” on the beloved park. Another group was outraged that the supposed namesake, World War I veteran Leo McCarthy, wasn’t part of the announcement.
According to Ryan Woods of the Parks Department, some research was done and the original name of the park is the Edwards Playground – although it’s not the name the Department favors at the moment.
He said when the Edwards opened in 1936, the space at the back door of the school – which is now Eden Street Park – was considered the playground and gathering area for the Edwards. So it is, that was the first name given to the open space.
It’s also the name that shows up on Google Maps for the park, and the one that is most often used for licensing and permit applications.
However, in 1940, a quick movement was made by Charlestown’s city councilor to name the park after World War I veteran Leo McCarthy – who resided on Russell Street.
The Park was likely named after him during the annual Bunker Hill festivities, because a huge celebration was had on June 16, 1940 for McCarthy and the naming ceremony. It was reported in the Boston Globe on June 17, which of course is Charlestown’s hallowed day to celebrate the Battle of Bunker Hill.
In a write-up from the Globe in 1940, it described a Mass at St. Francis de Sales Church in honor of the late McCarthy – followed by a dedication of the park in his name. After the dedication, they held a colorful parade with veterans organizations and musical units as well. There were more than 1,500 who attended the Mass.
During that Mass, Pastor Mark Driscoll appealed for everyone to put aside petty differences and support the nation and the president. This, of course, coming during the beginnings of World War II in Europe, prior to American involvement.
During the dedication ceremony for McCarthy, then Congressman Thomas Flaherty declared that the people of America don’t want any part of the conflict raging in Europe, and he urged veterans to be on the lookout for “subversives.”
All of that sets the stage for today’s drama around the real name of the park, except for the fact that the City Council didn’t exactly dot all the I’s and cross all the t’s when they took their action in 1940.
Woods explained the usual process is to go before the Parks Commission to get the official name approved, and that didn’t happen in 1940. So, on some records it is the McCarthy Playground and on other records it is the Edwards.
In more recent times, most adults growing up in Charlestown or living in Charlestown have called it Eden Street Park. There is no official document calling it that, but it is typically what everyone calls the park nowadays and in the recent past.
The popular roller hockey rink, though, has come to be called ‘The Kitchen’ – a name bestowed on it by Joe Brennan and his wildly popular Kitchen Kup that takes place in August at the park. Many younger people and hockey die-hards tend to call the entire park ‘The Kitchen.’
However, it doesn’t stop there because the roller hockey rink is actually dedicated by name to a man named Donovan – so the rink is actually called Donovan Rink, not The Kitchen.
In other historical records, those prior to it being named McCarthy, the park was referred to locally as the Mead Street Playground. Why? Who knows.
It all boils down to a conversation that will take place at tonight’s meeting and at other planning meetings in the future.
“It was the Edwards Playground when the school opened in 1936,” said Woods. “Everyone in the community likes to refer to it as The Kitchen because of the rink. A lot of people just call it Eden Street. We do know the Council named it after Leo McCarthy in 1940…We should call it McCarthy and it will be called McCarthy, but we want to leave it up for discussion at the community meeting. We just want to get the proper sign up for it to be named for the veteran as we do the other renovations. We’ll address that more at the community meeting.”
- In other discussions expected at the Parks meeting tonight, Sept. 20, is the much more controversial topic of a dog park being located at Eden Street within the new park renovation project.
Many are asking for a separate off-leash space to walk and exercise the growing dog population. However, there is another large population of non-dog owners who would prefer to have the space for recreation. Right now, many dog owners exercise their dogs off-leash informally in the park when it’s not being heavily used. There’s a push from non-dog owners to keep that arrangement, and to level out the open lot to make playing fields.