CLASKY COMMON New Bedford, MA

CLASKY COMMON

New Bedford, MA

Clasky Common Park is located at the edge of the urban core of the City of New Bedford in a dense residential/commercial community. Built in 1822, Clasky Common was the first park established in New Bedford. Since its conception, the park has gone through numerous transformations, from rural pasture to urban retreat, but its reason for existence is perhaps best expressed in a statement made by the New Bedford Park Commissioners in 1902:

“The Common cannot be classed in the same rank as the other parks of the city. It is one of a distinct class of public grounds which should be found in every city, and is found in most cities - a public garden.”

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Today Clasky Common serves as a major open space for area residents, businesses, and schoolchildren. It hosts community events, celebrations, recreational activities, and outdoor classes. The park’s centerpiece, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, dedicated in 1866 in memory of deceased Civil War veterans, was one of the earliest Civil War cenotaphs erected in the north. It is the site of many of the community’s gatherings. 

Through the years a number of features were added to Clasky Common that compromised its original layout and its role as a public garden. When the City decided to undertake a State and National Register nomination for this historically significant open space, the landscape architects were asked to develop a rehabilitation plan that would acknowledge the Common’s original design as well as accommodate current uses. 

From information gathered in a series of community workshops, the landscape architects completed a phased master plan in spring,1999. The master plan reestablished the geometry of the Common’s original pathways and the diversity of its former planting. It also accommodated the community’s current needs for play areas, a sledding hill, a formal gathering space/outdoor classroom, an amphitheater, passive seating areas, spray fountain, stage and basketball court. Additionally, the master plan addressed lighting, tree and shrub rejuvenation, and entry treatments.

Following approval of the master plan, construction documents were completed for the first phase of improvements, the area of the Common that lies between Pleasant Street and County Street. During Phase 1 construction, pathways were realigned, re-graded, and resurfaced to better respond to the sloping site and to create a variety of walking experiences for visitors. While some paths were straight and direct, others leisurely curved throughout the newly planted grounds. Two of the pathways meet in a long arc, informally marking the top of the community’s sledding hill.  

A new arch and tree-lined entrance were built along the highest street edge of the Common. The arch aligns axially with one of Clasky’s War Monuments, thereby giving the monument greater prominence than it formerly had. The new entrance also emphasizes the view beyond the Monument to New Bedford’s harbor. 

The materials used for Phase 1 improvements respond to Clasky Common’s existing palette as well as to standards used throughout the City. The pavement at entrances, monuments, the stage area, and the outdoor gathering space features a rectangular bluestone field accented with granite cobble strips. In keeping with the light gray granite typically used in its monuments, Clasky Common’s new walls, copings, and columns were fabricated from Chelmsford Gray granite. To celebrate New Bedford’s fishing heritage, scallop shells and ships are sandblasted onto the granite columns.

Client: City of New Bedford
Landscape Architect and Project Manager: Jane Shoplick, Copley Wolff Design Group