The Overlook ruins mark the site of the original Overlook Shelter, part of Frederick Law Olmsted’s park plan and one of the few buildings he designed. The ground floor was used as a changing area for boys playing sports on the Playstead and the upper floor had large viewing windows for spectators. In the 1920s and 30s the Overlook was a park police station. It burned in the 1940s just before White Stadium was built.
In the footprint of the Overlook ruins is where Boston arts icon, Elma Lewis, erected the Playhouse in the Park for summer performances. Local teens cleared the weeds and a stage was built against the backdrop of the puddingstone arch. Audience members spread out over the hillside to hear nationally known performers of the day – Duke Ellington, the Billy Taylor Trio, Odetta and more. Olatunje’s Drum of Africa frequented the Playhouse stage. The Playhouse ran for twelve years, from 1966 to 1978 and was probably the single most important way that community members reconnected with their park after a period of instability in the adjacent neighborhoods and neglected park maintenance.
Today FPC is working on a plan to manage the landscape and bring the footprint of the old building back as a restored ruin, much like Schoolmaster Hill. It has to be easily maintained and we hope to make it possible for events and activities at the site. You can read more and stay updated on the project via the What’s New page.