The Fenway Victory Gardens in Boston, Massachusetts, is the oldest surviving victory garden in the United States. The Fenway gardens were established in 1942, at the urging of President Franklin Roosevelt.
Victory gardens were planted on private and public land in the U.S. during World War I and World War II to reduce pressure on the nation’s food supply during wartime. Victory gardens were sometimes called “war gardens” or “food gardens for defense.”
Fenway Victory Gardens is an enormous space, with seven acres in the heart of Boston's Fenway neighborhood. The site is part of Back Bay Fens, the first park in Boston's famous “Emerald Necklace” system of parks and waterways.
Back Bay Fens gets its name from the primary ecosystem of the area. A fen is a wetland fed by groundwater and drainage from surrounding soils. Because fens are fed by freshwater sources, they are not as acidic as bogs and can support a wide array of plant and animal life.
Back Bay Fens
Back Bay Fens was officially established in 1879. By then, Boston's groundwater had become polluted. The city's growing population and a nearby mill had turned the fens into an open sewer.
The city demanded a solution to this stinky problem, and officials turned to Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted had been a chief executive of the U.S. Sanitary Commission during the Civil War, but is most well-known as the father of landscape architecture.
During his lifetime, Olmstead designed dozens of parks, including Central Park and Prospect Park, both in New York City. He also designed the grounds and terraces of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., and planned the site of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. Olmsted believed that parks should be for the enjoyment of all city residents to relax and enjoy nature, free from the stress of urban life.
For Back Bay Fens, Olmsted turned the tidal pool into a creek (the Muddy River) that wound through the fen, adding native plants that thrived in brackish water. The creek was designed to be flushed out with the tides twice a day. The garden wetland helped mitigate flooding in the area. In 1910, a dam was placed on the Charles River, turning the brackish water into a freshwater environment.