At a three-way intersection five minutes down the road from the Quad, there's a gated park. With a patch of grass, a towering flag pole, a stone bench, and the occasional memorial flower, it looks much like any other public park—in miniature.
Taylor Square Park is the smallest public park in Cambridge. At 57 square feet, it's about half the size of a typical Winthrop House bedroom. And perhaps befitting its petite size, access to Taylor Square is granted only to an elite cadre.
Or maybe not. When the park first opened at the intersection of Garden, Sherman, and Huron Streets in 2009—the result of a city program called Percent for Art which mandates that 1 percent of funds spent on improvements go to public art—its creator, Paul Ramirez Jonas, made 5,000 keys to the square's iron gate and distributed them to local residents.
"I received the key in the mail. I do live in the neighborhood," said Stephen Prina, a Harvard professor of Visual and Environmental Studies. Along with the key was a letter encouraging recipients to make more copies to share. Prina gives a copy to every student in his "Loitering" course.
Lillian Hsu, director of public art and exhibitions at the Cambridge Art Council, said that the key concept is integral to the project. "The idea was to look at public space: who owns public space?" Hsu said.
But despite the business this might be bringing to Cambridge's keysmiths, the park has a little secret: the keys don't actually matter.
In fact, anyone can unlock the gate simply by reaching over the waist-high fence.
Key or no, those who come to Taylor Square enjoy the park, which rests on a concrete island in front of a fire station. "It’s very nice. It shows our patriotism and is seen by the neighborhood," Deputy Fire Chief James F. Burns said. "You could have a bit of peace and quiet in the middle of all the hubbub."