New Art Benches And Sculpture At Sacramento Field Evoke Pond That Historically Occupied The Park

At Cambridge’s Sacramento Field, a pair of art benches and a sculpture by Wyoming-based artist Bland Hoke evoke the pond and industrial reservoir that historically occupied the park.

Titled “Artesian Well – A Portal to Sacramento Park’s Past,” Hoke’s pieces enliven the entrance path into the public park being renovated off Sacramento Street between Massachusetts Avenue and Oxford Street. Installed in 2017, the artworks were funded through the City’s trailblazing percent-for-art ordinance. Work on the park is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Hoke’s two benches are distinguished by their materials: stainless steel pipe and translucent blue polycarbonate. The artist transformed curving sections of pipe into the legs and rounded backs of the benches. Then he ground swirling lines into the legs and cut droplet shapes from the metal seat backs to evoke flowing or splashing water. The resulting designs let light through so that the blue plastic of the seat front glows. The benches are accompanied by a vertical stainless steel sculpture of curving shapes, reaching skyward, that were pieced together from the pipes cut up to make the benches.

Hoke’s references to pipes and water speak to the history of Sacramento Field. The Somerville Dyeing & Bleaching Company bought the property in 1853 and adapted it to feed as much as 100,000 gallons of water into the plant each day. To do so it transformed a spring-fed pond and brook that drained into the Millers River in East Cambridge into a 175-foot-long stone reservoir augmented by drilled wells. Later in the 19th century, the owners of the bleachery stocked the reservoir with fish and surrounded it with grape vines, trees and flowers.

Industry ceased on the site during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The reservoir was filled in after World War II. The site became an informal park known as Sacramento Field as various plans to redevelop the property—including a proposal for Harvard student housing—didn’t come to fruition. The city acquired the property by eminent domain in 1980. The City Council appropriated funds for the renovation of the field in 2013 and, after community input, construction began in 2017.