A South End neighborhood leader detailed his proposal for the city to dedicate the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Columbus Street as “Jazz Square” during the May 4 monthly meeting of the Chester Square Neighbors, which was held virtually.
“There’s a lot of history here, and a lot of history is being forgotten, so this would be a way to stamp it,” said Bob Barney, president of the Claremont Neighborhood Association, adding that in addition to the temporarily shuttered Wally’s Café Jazz Club, the neighborhood had also once been home to several other now-defunct jazz venues, including the Hi Hat, Chicken Lane, and the Wigwam.
For its designation as “Jazz Alley,” Barney is proposing the installation of banners at all four corners, with replicas of musical instruments below them at the street level, while the bike racks there would be adorned with musical notes.
Barney said he hopes to get the name change approved by the city in time to coincide with the Mass Ave Coalition’s planned festival on Sept. 18 in Chester Park. (The festival is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 18, from 1 to 4 p.m. on both sides of the park, said Carol Blair, president of Chester Square Neighbors.)
Additionally, Barney said he hopes that this effort set the stage for bringing the city’s annual Jazz Festival, which moved to Franklin Park, back to the South End, although he realizes this could be challenging in terms of logistics.
As his inspiration for creating “Jazz Square,” Barney credits the late Al Saunders, his one-time neighbor on Massachusetts Avenue who founded the Boston Jazz Society, Inc. to provide financial support to promising young musicians, and who was also honored by Berklee College of Music for his work, “Keeping Jazz Alive.”
Blair applauded Barney’s efforts and said she would write a letter to the city on behalf of the group in support of his proposal.
The Mass Ave History Walk is scheduled for Sunday, June 19, beginning at 1 p.m. at a yet-to-be-determined location. (The rain date for this event would be the following day, said Blair.)
Steve Jerome said Alison Barnett has been preparing information on Massachusetts Avenue at Blair’s request, which would be incorporated into the walk, along with a timeline of the South End, to compile a history of the neighborhood. (Jerome said he would also add architectural notes to the history.)
“The idea of the exhibit would be participatory and especially appealing to young people if it had treasure hunt or educational aspect to it,” said Jerome, such as offering a dormer or door detail, which children would be encouraged to identify.
The group unanimously a motion to pursue the possibility of temporarily opening Massachusetts Avenue to pedestrians for the event.
In another matter, Michelle Laboy said the city has now committed to planting two trees in locations where two trees were lost before in Chester Square Park.