All the Kennedy luminaries--from Jackie O' to Teddy to John-John to Caroline--flocked to Harvard's backyard yesterday for the groundbreaking of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, located next to the school of government that also bears the late President's name.
Conversion of the five-acre lot, on the corner of Memorial Dr. and John F. Kennedy St., will begin next month and is expected to be completed next fall. The project, Massachusetts's official monument to its famous native son, will cost the state an estimated $5.2 million.
Parkgoers will enter through four gateways, marked by large granite columns engraved with quotes from the late President and selected by his daughter, Caroline. She was part of the 21-member citizen's advisory committee, which planned the park's design.
The center of the park will be marked by a large granite fountain. A pedestrian corridor will connect the three-lined area with Harvard Square via the K--School and the Charles Hotel.
The highlight of yesterday's ceremony was the symbolic groundbreaking, in which local school children thrust aluminumplated shovels into the soil, with assistance from the Kennedys and Gov. and Mrs. Michael S. Dukakis.
Explaining that the kids were taking part "because John F. Kennedy loved children," Metropolitan District Commissioner William J. Geary told the sixthgraders to "step forward and give it your best."
"What did Mrs. Onassis say to you, kids?" eagerly asked one interested teacher as the children returned to their seats after the groundbreaking. The children said they were too cold to notice.
At the ceremony held at the site of the future memorial, Governor Dukakis described the park as "one whose character truly reflects the man after whom it was named."
The park site was originally designated as the location of the John F. Kennedy Library. However, because of civic opposition in Cambridge, the library was built in Dorchester. The land was used as an MBTA car barn until 1976, when the state allocated the riverfront parcel for the construction of the state's official JFK memorial.
Part of the land was sold in 1982, to Charles Square Associates for commercial and residential development, including the new Charles Hotel. Profits from this sale will be used by the Metropolitan District Commission to fund construction of the park.
"My brother would have liked this park," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy '54 (D-Mass.). This area was "the place closest to his heart," the senator said, adding that the park will be among "the most precious of all" JFK memorials because it comes from "the people who knew him best--and treasure him still--not as a myth, but as a man."
The children participating in the groundbreaking--all from Cambridge's Robert F. Kennedy School, a grammar school named in honor of the late President's brother--also sang the Irish favorite "Danny Boy."
Under the supervision of the Metropolitan District Commission, the park was designed by Carol R. Johnson Associates, a landscape design firm