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History of the Garden

Once only a dream of family members and friends of homicide victims, the Garden of Peace came about thanks to the vision, dedication and generosity of a broad coalition of individuals, violence prevention and victim service groups, as well as the support of both state and local government. 

The first Massachusetts memorial of its kind to homicide victims, the Garden is a living testament to the need to eliminate violence. 

In 1995, the late Paul Rober and his co-members of Parents of Murdered Children talked about creating a memorial to homicide victims. Rober was a tireless advocate for victims' rights and services and was determined to help create this memorial in honor of his son. He went to Governor William Weld who encouraged him to pursue this dream, promising to find a site for the Garden on state-owned property.

Paul and other members of Parents of Murdered children set about the task of broadening support for the Garden and raising the money to build it. During this process, he ran into a human dynamo in a small package named Beatrice Nessen. Unfortunately, Paul became ill and passed away, but Beatrice accepted the challenge of building a broad coalition of homicide survivors, victim service providers, elected officials and the business community to make the dream a reality.

The Garden committee found a talented landscape designer studying at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Catherine Melina, who has since graduated and is a partner in the design firm of Melina/Hyland, donated the original design for the Garden and stayed with us as our design consultant throughout the process.

The sculptor for one of the main elements of the garden, "Ibis Ascending," is Judy Kensley Mckie, a renowned artist whose son, Jesse, was murdered. Judy contributed her design.

In 2000, the legislature passed a bill designating Mass Development Finance Agency, now known as Mass Development, as the developer for the renewal of the Saltonstall state office building. Through the efforts of the Garden of Peace coalition, the bill required the developer to include the Garden of Peace in its plans. Mass Development not only agreed to this provision, but contributed the first $200,000 for the garden's design and construction. A site was agreed upon on the plaza between the Saltonstall and McCormack buildings on Somerset Street.

Garden of Peace, Inc. was incorporated in 2001 as an organization of volunteers who collectively donated time equivalent to three full-time employees to ensure that the Garden became a reality.

The Garden was dedicated on September 24, 2004. Over 1,500 people attended the first Dedication Ceremony. Since that time, more than 1000 names have been engraved in the Garden.

The building of the Garden was paid for through private funds from individuals, foundations and corporations and the support of the Massachusetts Development. In January 2019, the Mass. Office for Victim Assistance (MOVA) formally assumed responsibilty for the Garden's management and administration. Private donations to the Garden of Peace Trust continue to support the ongoing maintenance and operation of the Garden.

Wall of Recognition

Names of donors contributing $10,000 or more are and will be permanently inscribed on a granite Wall of Recogniztion at the entrance to the Garden. Size of font differentiates the levels of contribution.

These donors will be recognized in printed materials, such as the Dedication Book and the event programs in the following categories:

  • Ibis Ascending $100,000 +
  • River Bed $50,000 to $99,000
  • Community Circle $10,000 to $49,999
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