Located in the City of Westfield Massachusetts, Chauncey Allen Park is a municipally owned park of approximately eleven acres. The most significant feature of the park is `GRANDMOTHERS’ GARDEN’, a formal flower garden designed by Thomas Desmond, L.A. of Simsbury, Connecticut. The half acre garden was wholly constructed by volunteer efforts under the direction of Elizabeth Bush Fowler in 1933. It is this community and civic involvement that holds the fundamental key to the character of the garden and park. Over the years since, there has been a history of development and decline depending on municipal budgets and interests. In 1994 the city proposed to close the garden due to lack of resources for adequate maintenance. An urgent appeal was met by several dedicated individuals willing to take responsibility for the garden and park. This group formed a non-profit organization called Friends of Grandmothers’ Garden. The main focus of the group was to restore the Grandmothers’ Garden to its former glory. In the 1920’s, Albert Steiger, a prominent local businessman, inherited a ten-acre parcel from his father-in-law, Chauncey Allen. The parcel was bounded by Smith Ave, King Street and Grant Street. According to the Springfield Evening News (1950), ” the land was mostly comprised of a sandpit through which the town brook wandered. Mr. Steiger filled in the sandpit, graded and seeded the renovated property…” in order to create a park for the citizens of Westfield. In 1930, he presented the park, known as Chauncey Allen Park, to the City of Westfield. By 1934, the city had created in a corner of the park an award-winning garden designed in the colonial revival style. Grandmothers’ Garden established a living memorial to Albert’s mother, affectionately known as Grandmother Steiger, who loved flowers and who shared the gifts of a gardener’s labor with her friends, her family and her community. The residents of Westfield and surrounding towns donated the materials needed to construct the garden and WPA volunteers helped complete the construction following the plans of landscape architect, Thomas Desmond of Connecticut and Elizabeth Bush Fowler, the head of the Westfield Parks Department. Mrs. Fowler was a seventh generation of pioneering settlers in Westfield as was her childhood next door neighbor and husband -to-be, Albert. E. Fowler. Her deep interest in colonial history and gardening helped her guide the project to completion. Coming soon: historical photographs. Don’t forget to check out this place in Westfield too.
The garden plans were developed by 1933 and construction followed the next year. The garden contained a central gazebo, numerous flower beds and walkways, a wishing well, sundial, herb garden and summer house. A wading pool, bandstand, and frog (lily) pond were constructed nearby in the park. The first Grandmothers’ Day was held in 1936. The award-winning garden was featured in regional and national publications including Horticulture and Landscape Architecture. The highlight of the garden was Grandmothers’ Day, which continued for over 40 years. This occurred in June as part of “Laurel Week.” Honors were given to the youngest and oldest grandmothers and one grandmother was crowned “Queen.” Elizabeth Bush Fowler lovingly supervised the maintenance of the garden until her death in 1954. A memorial plaque was dedicated in the garden to commemorate her efforts. In the next two decades, the garden was not maintained as it was under Mrs Fowler’s supervision. The beds were not cared for and wild trees invaded the borders. In the 1960s, the wading pool was filled in due to lack of a filtration system and concerns over the polio epidemic. The frog pond was also filled in for health and sanitation reasons. In 1968 the state was given land in the corner of the park by Smith Ave and King Street to construct a swimming pool. The project caused damage to the park’s drainage system and led to the formation of the wetland in its interior. Renewed attempts to restore the garden occurred in the 1970’s leading to a “Buy-A-Bed” program in 1983. Restoration efforts continued into the 1990’s culminating in 1994 with the formation the “Friends of Grandmother’s’ Garden” (F.O.G.G.), a non-profit organization dedicated to the garden’s restoration based on historical documents and a plan developed by a design committee. In 1995 a 75 year lease was granted by the City of Westfield to the Friends of Grandmothers’ Garden who accepted responsibility for its maintenance and for the preservation of the Garden and Chauncey Allen Park.
Over the past 16 years, F.O.G.G., through its Board of Directors and many members and volunteers, has guided the restoration of the garden. The garden is again a place of pride for the city and serves not only as a link to the past, but as an educational center for school and youth groups. FOGG schedules several events during the year, such as garden tours, artist days and a restored Grandmothers’ Day. In 2004, the state decided to discontinue the swimming pool and was removed in 2005. The land on which the pool sits will revert back to the park and be restored to its original condition. Grandmother’s Garden offers a beautiful park where the public is invited to appreciate the wonders of nature. The Garden, situated just a few blocks from downtown Westfield MA, dates back to the 1920s, when a local businessman named Albert Steiger inherited a 10-acre plot of land from his father-in-law Chauncey Allen. In 1930, Albert gave the parcel of land bordered by Smith Ave., King Street and Grant Street to the city of Westfield to create a park. If you are ever in need of a cabinet maker, click here.