Atkinson Common 1900, The Snow Collection, The Museum of Old Newbury (Detail)
Eunice Atkinson Currier gave the land to the City of Newburyport in 1873 “to be known forever as Atkinson Common.” Nothing was done to the property, however, until 1893 when the Belleville Improvement Society was organized and began to transform the neglected field into a beautiful park, grading the land, deepening the soil laying out walks and planting trees and shrubs.* Today the beautiful 21-acre park, which includes the ball fields for the Pioneer League, is the gateway to the city when people enter it from Storey Avenue.
In 1895 the Belleville Improvement Society decided to build a monument at Atkinson Commons to honor the soldiers of the Civil War. The statue of the soldier returning from the War was designed by Theo Alice Kitson. On July 4, 1902, Mr. Walter Hopkinson, a former mayor, presented the monument to the City of Newburyport* (please see 7 Pond Street on the interactive history map map.historynewburyport.com for the story of Walter Hopkinson). A few years later, that statue was joined by commemorative monuments honoring all 1,431 soldiers and sailors who served. The text of Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” was etched on one of the commemorative displays.**
The park originally had an observation tower where people could climb up and see as far as the river. It is visible in the early photographs and postcards of Atkinson Commons. In 1931, during the Depression, the Federal Government helped replace the observation tower to build the stone tower that is there today. The Belleville Improvement Society provided the materials and the Emergency Relief Administration hired 70 men. The tower was finished in 1936 and the walls have a solid exterior to prevent children from trying to climb it from the outside.** An effort is now being made to raise money to restore the tower, and preserving Atkinson Common is an ongoing mission.
*John J. Currier, History of Newburyport, p 219 – 221
** Dyke Hendrickson, The Eagle-Tribune, Aug 6, 2017
Photograph of the statue today is by Scott Patterson, Creative Commons License https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
Photograph of the Atkinson Common Tower today is by Gerald Azenaro, Creative Commons License https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/
Check Out The Interactive History Map
More information about Newburyport and its history can be found on the interactive history map, “Newburyport – Keeping the Story Alive.”
Solve The Atkinson Common Puzzle
Press the icon to play the puzzle on a full screen or tap here to expand the image.