Organizers unveiled a new front garden and entrance at The New England Historic Genealogical Society at 99-101 Newbury Street, during a ribbon cutting ceremony held this morning.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Rep. Byron Rushing joined Carolyn Lynch, vice-chairman of the Society's board, to present the $100,000 project, which is part of a $50 million capital campaign to bring a number of improvements to the headquarters of the 165-year old genealogical organization, founded in 1845.
"We're very excited with the garden design," Lynch told a crowd of supports who gathered outside on the street. "It's appropriate for the neighborhood, and we feel the garden harmonizes with the building behind us."
Overall, objective was to make the new look "open and welcoming," and encourage the public to come in and learn more about their family history.
"It's a much much more visible organization on Newbury Street now," said William Young, chairman of the Back Bay Architectural Commission.
Over two years, Gregory Lombardi Design of Cambridge transformed what was described as a "wrought iron fence and weedy garden," into a new front garden with granite walkways, exterior lighting, signs, and more. The design includes details like stone panels that compliment the historic archway of the facade, and carved benches in front.
Menino applauded the new entrance, saying it adds to the "historic value of our city," and mentioned he discovered a lot of about his last name from the society - which now comes in handy for his grandchildren when doing family reports.
"How do we continue to preserve the past for the future?" he asked. "That's what the Society does every day."
Society President and CEO Brenton Simons said the new entrance represents an open invitation for the public to come in and explore the eight-story library, with more than 200,000 books, 40,000 microfilms, and 28 million artifacts and original objects dating back more than 400 years.
“We know in the past we’ve been viewed as a private, member-based society," Simons said. "In actuality, we are an open, accessible, and valuable resource for anyone interested in learning more about their own family history."