Thornton Street Urban Farm & Community Gardens
With the rapidly shifting urban landscape of Roxbury, preserving the rare gem of open green space that is 95 Thornton Street has become a rallying point for Highland Park residents. After years of dedication, our neighbors at the Hawthorne Youth and Community Center (HYCC) secured a license on the land from the City of Boston, and Haley House began working to convert the land at 95 Thornton Street into a community garden and a small urban farm in the spring of 2014.
The lot at 95 Thornton Street has a unique history. According to long-time Highland Park resident Jon Ellertson, the land was part of the estate owned by the prominent Josiah Wheelwright family in the 19th century. City atlases indicate the land was most likely used as a pasture, as the only structures were small wooden farm-related buildings. Charming animal play-structures (made out of concrete and metal) remain on the lot, indicating that the land was likely managed by the Parks Department in the 1950s. Later abandoned, the land was left cluttered with trash and weeds, though many residents still considered it a quiet and peaceful enclave. In the spring of 2014, the City of Boston licensed 95 Thornton (along with another vacant lot at 184 Highland Avenue) to HYCC.
In April of 2014, a handful of community garden plots were built and planted. Highland Park neighbors and volunteers from Haley House began by building ten raised garden beds along the fence lining Thornton Street. Throughout the months of July and August of 2014, Haley House partnered with HYCC to support a pilot summer program for middle and high school-aged youth: “Grow It. Cook It. Share It” where 95 Thornton was the “urban agriculture learning laboratory” for the youth leaders as they learned all aspects of sustainable urban agriculture and nutritious cooking.
The Thornton Street Farm grows nutritious, fresh, colorful produce for our bakery cafe in Dudley Square – just a mile down the road. In addition to providing food for the daily cafe menu, Take Back the Kitchen classes and Community Tables, the farm continues to partner with the Hawthorne Youth & Community Center to host youth and family programs changing the food landscape in Roxbury and beyond.