New City Open Space Will Be Named for Lewis H. Latimer

One of the city’s newest parcels of open space adjacent to the Chelsea Street Bridge will be named after one of the city’s most famous and accomplished residents. Last week, the city council voted unanimously to name the property on Eastern Avenue Lewis Howard Latimer Overlook, after the famous and accomplished African American inventor born in Chelsea in 1848. In 2020, the state legislature passed special legislation allowing Chelsea to purchase the property from the state specifically for open space, according to City Manager Fidel Maltez. “The city took possession of the property at the beginning of 2023, and have been working with members of our community to create a forward-looking design which provides our residents with shade and views of the Chelsea Creek, while also making sure the space will be prepared for the impacts of climate change,” said Maltez. As the design advances through the permitting process, Maltez stated that it was time to name the property and proposed naming it Latimer Overlook. District 8 Councilor Calvin Brown said he consulted with Councilor-at-Large Leo Robinson to amend Maltez’s request and use Latimer’s full name, Lewis Howard Latimer Overlook. “Just calling it Latimer Overlook takes something away from it if folks are not familiar with Latimer,” said Brown. Latimer was born in Chelsea in 1848 to parents who had escaped slavery in Virginia to come to the city. Latimer was raised in Chelsea until being sent to a farm school with his siblings. “This was the beginning of a distinguished career, which notably included drawing the blueprints for Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone patent in 1976 and improving on Thomas Edison’s initial design for the electric lightbulb,” stated Maltez. “His improvements make incandescent light bulbs practical, affordable, and longer-lasting than Edison’s original invention. He went on to supervise the installation of public electric lights throughout New York, Philadelphia, Montreal, and London.” Other notable inventions by Latimer included the first toilet for railcars and an early forerunner of air conditioning. Robinson has long been an advocate of Latimer and his historical impact. “I think this is long overdue within our city to recognize people who have made great contributions to our country,” said Robinson. Currently, the project itself is in an early design phase as the city advances through permitting, which Maltez said he expects will take the next 12 to 18 months given the complexities of the site.

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