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Robert F. Pollock collection of Norumbega Park

Collection MS-2007-004: Robert F. Pollock collection of Norumbega Park


  • 1860 - 2004
  • Majority of material found within 1960 - 1990

Scope and Contents

Assembled by Robert F. Pollock, the collection documents the history of Norumbega Park in the Auburndale neighborhood of Newton, Massachusetts through administrative documents, artifacts, ephemera, maps, photographs, and video recordings.

Norumbega Park administrative documents cover insurance, licensure, stocks, public relations, grounds renovations, and ultimate closure. Park ephemera includes advertisements, fliers, posters, post cards, and programs promoting park activities: arcade and rides; boating; outdoor theater; restaurant and ballroom, including live music; and zoo. The extensive assembly of artifacts comprises ashtrays, awards from park competitions, drinkware, paper weights, porcelain miniatures, souvenir spoons, and toys. The park's closure is illustrated by photographs and printed material of Norumbega shuttered, equipment liquidation, the 1965 fire, and preservation efforts for river-frontage.

The Norumbega Park collection also includes Pollock's personal correspondence, photographs, and writings documenting his research on the park as well as his family, education, and career. Personal photographs include portraits of family members and many snapshots of them enjoying events at the site of Norumbega Park. His family records contain his high school transcripts, military records, certificates of continuing education, and documents regarding his burial. Pollock’s writings comprise drafts and published articles, as well as letters, certificates of authenticity, and a question published in "Ask Marilyn."

Noteworthy materials include letters from Bob Elliot and Ed McMahon about their experiences at Norumbega Park, a copy of a telegram written by Senator John F. Kennedy, an original program signed by Ozzie Nelson advertising his performance at the Totem Pole, Pollock's video "Return to Norumbega", and ephemera from the Commonwealth Avenue Street Railway.


Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research. Video recordings have been digitally copied; all original media was retained, but may not be played due to format. Digital use copies can only be accessed in the Burns Library Reading Room. Film has not been reformatted and is not available for playback due to format impermanence. Please let Reading Room staff know of your specific interest, and if possible reformatting will be scheduled.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Historical Note: Norumbega Park

Norumbega Park opened in 1897 in the Auburndale neighborhood of Newton, Massachusetts as a means to increase patronage for the Commonwealth Avenue Street Railway. The Park was located on the Charles River and featured an arcade, canoeing, dining, outdoor theatre, zoo, and other amusements. In the 1930s the Great Steel Theatre of Norumbega was converted into a ballroom, named The Totem Pole, that showcased renowned performers including Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Ozzie Nelson, Frank Sinatra, and the Von Trapp family. The Totem Pole was the favored destination for young couples through the 1940s. The shift towards the use of automobiles from public transportation caused the decline of the recreational area in the 1950s. The Park closed in 1963, and the Totem Pole ballroom closed five months later.


Historic Newton: The Jackson Homestead and Museum, "Down by the Riverside: Remembering Norumbega," Accessed March 19, 2012., "History." Accessed March 19, 2010.

Biographical Note: Robert F. Pollock

Robert F. Pollock grew up in Auburndale, Massachusetts and worked at the Norumbega Park amusement grounds as a teenager. Years later, he began researching the history of the Park and collecting artifacts, printed material, and photographs associated with it. He authored several articles and created two films, Down by the Riverside (1992) and "Return to Norumbega" (unpublished at the time of his death) about the park’s history. Robert Pollock died on September 1, 2004.


"Robert F. Pollock, Jr." The Boston Globe obituaries.

"History." Norumbega, accessed at, July 18, 2019.

Pollock, Robert F., "Down by the Riverside" in Historic Auburndale, a booklet published by the Auburndale Community Association, revised edition 1996.


21.5 Linear Feet (14 containers )

2.75 Gigabytes (2 files with approximately 1.25 hours of audio and video)

Language of Materials



Assembled by by Auburndale native Robert Pollock, this collection includes advertisements, artifacts, ephemera, maps, photographs, and video recordings of the Norumbega Park amusement grounds; its ballroom, The Totem Pole; and the Commonwealth Avenue Street Railway, the train line Norumbega Park was built to support. This material spans the opening of the Park grounds to its centennial anniversary. It also incorporates some of Pollock's personal writings and research regarding the Park.


The collection is organized into three series: I. Robert Pollock papers, II. Norumbega Park collection, and III. Commonwealth Avenue Street Railway collection.

Series II is divided into five subseries: A. Administrative documents, B. Artifacts, C. Graphic material, D. Performances, and E. Post-closure.


Gift of Brian Pollock, the brother of Robert F. Pollock, in 2007.

Robert F. Pollock Collection of Norumbega Park
1860-2004 (bulk 1960-1990)
Catherine Macek, March 2012; Rachael Young
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States
617-552-2465 (Fax)