A plaque from 1976 proclaiming Jamaica Plain as the "Eden of America" will be reinstalled Wednesday at the Centre Street post office more than a decade after it was removed due to construction.
The plaque will be reinstalled by the Bulfinch Company June 27 during a short ceremony starting at 3:30 p.m. at the Jamaica Plain Post Office (655 Centre St.).
The plaque is the third in a series of bicentennial plaques that were reinstalled after being relocated in the last two years, said Gretchen Grozier, president of the Jamaica Plain Historical Society (JPHS). Many similar plaques were installed during the bicentennial in 1776 throughout Boston neighborhoods.
The one by the post office was on the Myrtle Street side of the old post office and reads, "Jamaica Plain is the Eden of America." The plaque includes an image from a 19th century A. J. Dowling "Pattern Book” of an Italianate Tuscan Villa-style Victorian very similar to resident George Fifield's house. For years, Fifield found great pleasure in seeing the plaque every day on his way home.
"In late 2004, the construction company arrived to tear down the existing building and build a new post office,” Fifield told Jamaica Plain News. "In a gracious attempt to mitigate the disruption of a major construction project just across the street, the construction manager came to my house, explained the process and made sure I was good with it. Then he asked if there was anything else he could do for me. I took him outside, showed him the plaque and said I would like it. He stopped a passing worker with a crowbar and told him to pop it off and give it to me. So I saved it from the dumpster. It has been in my front foyer ever since."
Grozier said JPHS approached Chris Osgood, chief of streets for Boston, in 2017 about three such plaques, and the Transportation and Parks departments worked with the JP Tuesday Club to locate them.
Another plaque features the Loring-Greenough House, and was moved from a pole in the House's yard to to a fence by Centre Street and Greenough Avenue so more people could see it, Grozier said.
"We cannot move the Stony Brook Industries one (it's on the Cafe Beirut building) without damaging it. Our hope was to move it to Stony Brook area, which was in a time of transition back when these plaques were made. And the 'Eden of America' is the final one -- getting put back onto the post office," said Grozier.
Interestingly, the origin of the "Jamaica Plain is the Eden of America" quote is not clear. The plaque mentions an early 19th century traveler describing JP as the "Eden of America," but the citation is not given, said Grozier. She added that the City Archives has the records from the Boston 200 group (who created the plaques) and the records are being catalogued this year.
JPHS Vice President Michael Reiskind said the first reference he has found is from a Harriet Whitcomb pamphlet of 1897. Whitcomb wrote, "Long years ago a much-traveled man, who knew the country well, said, 'Jamaica Plain is the Eden of America.' He was not a Bostonian, and our village was still a part of Roxbury, so that the suggestion of conceit and boasting over this small portion of 'the Hub' could not be imputed to him."