Story by Marianne Salza
Leslie Adam, Friends of the Public Garden chair, is dedicated to the conservation of urban green spaces, advocating for the preservation of the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall. The mother of two not only loves the restorative tranquility of the parks, but also the people who gather there.
“The parks — especially during Covid — were places of sustenance,” Adam explained during her Beacon Hill Women’s Forum presentation, “Hey Park Lady – Why I Love These Three Parks and This Special Community.” “What makes Beacon Hill special are the places here, and people’s willingness to get involved and listen. I continue to be impressed by the energy of the people.”
During the September 13 gathering at the Hampshire House, Adam recalled how her passion began when she was growing up in Roslindale, with her home close to the back gate of the Arnold Arboretum: the first park she ever treasured. In her youth, Adam was well-acquainted with the Franklin Park Zoo, and would visit green spaces for quiet respite.
Adam was raised in a Protestant/Catholic Irish family; and her paternal grandparents made an enormous impression on her. They were keen gardeners with rose bushes and a vegetable patch.
“They were wonderful people who taught me a lot about family, duty, hard work, and integrity,” noted Adam. “I think of them every day.”
After graduating from college, Adam worked at a Boston law firm, serving as a director of recruitment before taking a position in England, where she met her avid-rower husband, Allister, during a picnic in a park.
“I went to London, and it was the most amazing journey,” she exclaimed. “My life was anchored by beautiful parks. London was transformational for me. I spent a tremendous amount of time in Saint James Park, when I would leave the office for reprieve.”
Adam and her husband returned to Boston, where they have since lived on Beacon Hill and raised a family for almost 25 years.
“Allister and I became captivated by the community that is Beacon Hill. It was a city experience, but it felt like a village to him,” Adam emphasized. “This community has continued to give to us our whole lives.”
A window box and tree pit were Adam’s first garden; so she is especially fond of the floral adornments throughout Beacon Hill, and is amused by the surprising additions that some residents place inside, such as the Storm Trooper figurines on Pickney Street.
“I love that you can walk through the community and get inspired and laugh,” said Adam, who also recounted the challenges while battling breast cancer, the loss of her mother, and the support of her friends in the community.
Following her recovery, Adam became the chair of the Friends of the Public Garden, a position that seemed like destiny.
“I would go to the Swan Boats every season with my mother and grandmother. The morning that I got married, my mother gave me a gorgeous, antique handkerchief with the Swan Boats to remind me that, although I was marrying an Englishman, I was always a Bostonian, and this was our special place,” noted Adam emotionally, as she held the small, white handkerchief.
Adam expressed her admiration for the kind, innovative women whom she has met in Beacon Hill while appointed as a board member of the Beacon Hill Civic Association, Beacon Hill Garden Club, Beacon Hill Nursery School, and the Nichols House Museum.
“In Beacon Hill – and through the various organizations that I have had the honor of getting to know – I continue to be impressed by the women in this community,” Adam said. “They are women who are warm, welcoming, and willing to share their personal stories.”