By Haley Fritz
Boston Children’s Hospital will soon replace the Prouty Garden, which is currently being demolished after the Massachusetts Public Health Council approved the hospital’s expansion project, according to BCH spokesperson Kristen Dattoli.
The new building will have a state-of-the-art clinical building that includes an updated neonatal intensive care unit and private rooms. However, Dattoli said some parts of the garden — such as statues, plants and other materials — will be preserved and incorporated into green spaces in the new building.
“A lot of thought has been put into the transfer of many items in the garden into the new green spaces,” Dattoli said.
The garden officially closed on Sunday, and demolition of the garden has already begun, according to the Save the Prouty Garden website.
In a Nov. 7 letter, BCH CEO and President Sandra Fenwick thanked stakeholders for the council’s approval, a decision that also included the improvement of BCH’s Longwood campus and new clinical facilities at Brookline Place.
“We would like to extend a special thanks to the Prouty family and our Greenspace Committee,” Fenwick wrote. “As we prepare to move into the future, the hardest decision of all was to say goodbye to a beloved part of our history. But thanks to your passion and dedication, the spirit of the Prouty Garden will be felt in ways both new and familiar across our entire campus.”
Gus Murby, a spokesperson for Friends of Prouty Garden, said his organization has been formally fighting the garden’s demolition since 2015. The cause is important to him because his son was treated at BCH as a teenager, he said.
“Any time you have a kid who’s cooped up in a hospital for weeks, if not months at a time, the opportunity to get out in and to get into the fresh air is a pretty big deal,” Murby said. “The hospital is a prison … for many people, the garden was a real important psychological escape.”
To combat the garden’s demolition, Friends of Prouty Garden launched a Change.org petition that acquired over 17,000 signatures, Murby said.
Friends of Prouty Garden then filed a civil lawsuit against BCH to protest the Department of Public Health’s failure to review its appeal regarding the demolition, according to Murby.
Friends of Prouty Garden appealed to a state judge on Nov. 23 to prevent the hospital from demolishing the garden until the lawsuit’s resolution, Murby said, but the judge denied the request.
“The garden … was an iconic facility that differentiated Children’s Hospital from any other hospital around,” Murby said. “[Now], you wouldn’t even know that you were near a garden.”
Michael Rich, a pediatrician at BCH and director of the Center on Media and Child Health, said that the demolition shows that BCH is off track as an institution, and that the garden’s demolition was purely a business decision.
“I’ve had patients that have asked to go there to die … so the fact that this administration is treating it as a vacant lot to be built on shows that they have some problems with our mission,” Rich said. “This is an expansion as well as a modernization, and it’s an expansion designed for optimizing profits, particularly from full-paying international patients.”
Several Boston residents expressed disapproval of the demolition of the Prouty Garden, as it has served as a green space and a relaxation area for patients and family members.
Amy Baker, 34, of East Boston, said the hospital should provide new green space if they demolish the garden.
“When families are going through something that’s stressful, you need something that’s not just a cold and clinical environment to be able to connect,” Baker said. “[But] I always think progress is good, as long as you understand the needs of the community before you do it.”
Mark Jones, 64, of the South End, said it is difficult for hospitals to decide between maintaining tranquil space and providing more services.
“The hospital industry in general in Boston certainly is a driver of the economy,” Jones said. “The capacity to support and treat more children is generally a good thing.”
Pamela Newman, 31, of South Boston, said the garden offered patients calmness and a place to escape the feeling of being in the hospital.
“It’s a shame that they had to tear down the garden and couldn’t build around it,” Newman said. “I’d want [a garden] if I was in there, or if my family was.”