Tag Archives: Boston

Pandemic Art Adventures: Commonwealth Avenue Mall

The closing of museums during the pandemic put me in a state of art withdrawal.  In search of a fix, I traveled to various locations in the Greater Boston area looking for publicly-accessible art.  On several days in June 2020, I wandered around downtown Boston, looking for public art. One day, I walked along the tree-lined Commonwealth Avenue Mall in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood and photographed the various statues and monuments along the way. The Mall was designed by Arthur Gilman, using the new boulevards of Paris as his inspiration, and was created between 1858 and 1888. The dominant trees were American elms, although many of them have succumbed to Dutch elm disease; other tree species include sweetgum, green ash, maple, linden, zelkova, and Japanese pagoda. Interestingly, public sculpture was not a component of Gilman’s original plan, although it is now a highlight of the Mall.

The tour begins at the Public Garden (Arlington Street) and moves west to finish at Charlesgate East. For more information and photos, check out the website of the Friends of the Public Garden.

1. ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1865)
Sculptor: William Rimmer


Born on the Caribbean island of Nevis (and thus not eligible to be president), Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) helped draft the U.S. Constitution. He founded the Federalist Party, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the New York Post. He was George Washington’s secretary of the treasury and authored the nation’s early financial policies. He was killed in a duel with then-Vice President Aaron Burr.

2. GENERAL JOHN GLOVER (1875)
Sculptor: Martin Milmore


A merchant and fisherman who was born in Salem, Massachusetts and lived in Marblehead, John Glover (1732-1797) served as a brigadier general during the American Revolutionary War. The regiment he commanded evacuated George Washington’s army after losing the Battle of Long Island, and ferried Washington and his troops across the Delaware to surprise Hessian forces at the Battle of Trenton.

3. PATRICK ANDREW COLLINS (1908)
Sculptors: Henry Kitson and Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson


Patrick Collins (1844-1905) was an Irish immigrant who became a prominent Boston politician. He served in the Massachusetts Legislature from 1868-1871, in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1883-1889 and as Mayor of Boston from 1902 until his death in 1905.
 

4.  VENDOME FIREFIGHTERS’ MEMORIAL (1997) 
Sculptor: Theodore Clausen
Landscape Architect: Peter White 


The memorial honors the nine firefighters who were killed on June 17, 1972 in a fire at the Hotel Vendome, which was located across the street from the memorial.

5. WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON (1886)
Sculptor: Olin Levi Warner


The most prominent Boston abolitionist, William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879) published the anti-slavery newspaper The Liberator from 1831 until 1865 and was a co-founder of the American Anti-Slavery Society. He fought to give women the right to vote and supported other social reforms.  

6. SAMUEL ELIOT MORISON (1982)
Sculptor: Penelope Jencks


Boston-born Samuel Eliot Morison (1887-1976) was a Harvard professor and distinguished historian, who specialized in naval and maritime history.  Morison was also an accomplished sailor who recreated Columbus’s voyages using the original log books.

7. BOSTON WOMEN’S MEMORIAL (2003)
Sculptor: Meredith Bergmann


The Boston Women’s Memorial includes representations of Lucy Stone (left), Abigail Adams (center), and Phillis Wheatley (right).

Abigail Adams (1744-1818) was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts. She was married to second U.S. President John Adams and served as First Lady from 1797-1801. She served as informal advisor to John Adams, who consulted her on most matters. Abigail Adams was also the mother of sixth U.S. President John Quincy Adams.  Her letters are the source of important information about the early United States.

Massachusetts women’s rights activist Lucy Stone (1818–1893) was a public speaker and writer who helped to organize the first National Women’s Rights Convention and establish the Women’s National Loyal League and the American Women’s Suffrage Association. She was also an abolitionist who campaigned for the passage of the 13th Amendment.

An acclaimed poet, Phillis Wheatley (c. 1753-1784) was born in West Africa, sold into slavery and brought to Boston, where she was sold to the Wheatley family.  In 1773, she published Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, the first book of poetry published by an African-American, which received praise from many, including George Washington.  Following the publication of the book, Wheatley was emancipated.

8. DOMINGO F. SARMIENTO (1973)
Sculptor: Yvette Compagnion


Domingo Sarmiento (1811-1888) was an Argentine writer, intellectual, and politician who became the 7th president of Argentina, serving from 1868-1874. Sarmiento modeled his country’s education system on that of Boston’s Horace Mann, and Argentina gave this statue to the city in gratitude. 

9. LEIF ERIKSSON (1887)
Sculptor: Anne Whitney


Leif Eriksson (c. 970-c. 1020 CE) (also spelled Erikson) was a Norse explorer from Iceland, who may have been the first European to establish a settlement on continental North America. Some scholars believe that the settlement of Vinland described in Icelandic sagas corresponds to a Norse settlement, remains of which have been discovered in Newfoundland, Canada at L’Anse aux Meadows. The statue in Boston, which is the oldest public sculpture of Leif Eriksson in the U.S., was donated by patent medicine maker Eben Horsford, who mistakenly believed that Vinland was located on Boston’s Charles River.



For other Pandemic Art Adventures, check out these posts:

Brandeis University
Harvard University
Boston University
MIT
Boston Common
Boston Public Garden

Pandemic Art Adventures: Boston Public Garden

The closing of museums during the pandemic put me in a state of art withdrawal.  In search of a fix, I traveled to various locations in the Greater Boston area looking for publicly-accessible art.  On several days in June, I wandered around downtown Boston, looking for public art. I found quite a bit of art in Boston Public Garden, which I was able to identify either through plaques or an online search. Here are some photos and descriptions of what I discovered.

  1. The Ether Monument (1868)
The oldest artwork in the Public Garden, the Ether Monument (also known as the Good Samaritan Monument) is dedicated to the discovery of ether as an anesthetic in the 1840s. Although there is evidence that ether was used by Crawford Long in Georgia as early as 1842, the first public demonstration of ether anesthesia was conducted in 1846 at Massachusetts General Hospital (in what is now called the Ether Dome) by William T.G. Morton, a dentist, and Dr. John Collins Warren. The monument was designed by William Robert Ware and and sculpted by John Quincy Adams Ward in 1867 and was installed in 1868. The figures at the top represent the Biblical story of the Good Samaritan (see detail below).
Each of the four sides of the monument contains a relief sculpture. Shown about is an allegorical representation of the Triumph of Science.
A patient undergoing an operation in a civic hospital.
A solider undergoing surgery in a military field hospital.
The Angel of Mercy descending to relieve suffering humanity.

2. Equestrian Statue of George Washington (1869)

The Equestrian Statue of George Washington in the Public Garden was created by Thomas Ball and installed in 1869. Ball, a Charlestown, Massachusetts native, was an accomplished sculptor, painter and musician (voice).

3. Statue of Charles Sumner (1878)

Thomas Ball’s statue of Charles Sumner was erected in the Public Garden in 1878. Sumner served as a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts from 1851 to 1874. He was a member of the Radical Republican group that opposed slavery and supported harsh treatment of the Southern states after the Civil War.

4. Statue of Colonel Thomas Cass (1899)

An 1899 statue of Colonel Thomas Cass by Richard Edwin Brooks, a sculptor born in Braintree, Massachusetts. Born in Ireland, Thomas Cass commanded the 9th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry on the Union side in the U.S. Civil War. He died in 1862 of wounds suffered in the Battle of Malvern Hill.

5. Wendell Philips Monument (1915)

Daniel Chester French created the monument to Boston abolitionist Wendell Phillips in 1915. In addition to his anti-slavery work, Phillips was a pioneer advocate for the rights of women and Native Americans.

6. George Robert White Memorial (1924)

The George Robert White Memorial, dated 1924, was created by Daniel Chester French. The central figure is the Angel of the Waters. White was a Boston business owner and philanthropist. He made significant charitable contributions to the City of Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts, and Massachusetts General Hospital. Details of the memorial are shown below.
The Angel of the Waters.
One of the ram’s head water spouts.

7. Statue of Tadeusz Kościuszko (1927)

Noted Boston-area sculptor Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson created this statue of Tadeusz Kościuszko in 1927. Kitson was the first female member of the American Sculpture Society. Kosciuszko was a Polish-Lithuanian military leader who served as a colonel with the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. His expertise as a military engineer (including overseeing fortifications at West Point, NY) led the revolutionaries to promote him to brigadier general.

8. Small Child Fountain (1929)

The Small Child Fountain, dating to 1929, was created by Mary Moore, a sculptor born in Taunton, Massachusetts.

9. Boy with Bird Fountain (1934, 1977, 1992)

The Boy and Bird Fountain, by Bashka Paeff, originally dates to 1934, but it was recast in 1977 and 1992. Paeff was born in Minsk (now Belarus) and lived and worked in the Boston area.

10. Make Way for Ducklings (1987)

Probably the most famous statues in the Public Garden are those memorializing the characters in Robert McCloskey’s 1941 book “Make Way for Ducklings.” The sculptures were created in 1987 by Boston-area artist Nancy Schön, who also made the statues of Winnie-the-Pooh and friends outside the Newton Public Library. At the time this photo was taken, someone had outfitted the ducklings in colorful knitted sweaters.

Best Buildings in Boston and Cambridge?

Because I’ve been spending so much time on architecture lists these days, I decided to collect some “best buildings” lists for my local environs, specifically Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts.  I was shocked to discover that the building on the most “Best Boston Buildings” lists is almost universally reviled by the general public: Boston City Hall.  What do the experts see in it that the average person is missing?  Or is it a case of the Emperor’s New Architecture?

Also, despite Boston’s reputation for being a city with a lot of history (at least by American standards), there are very few old buildings on the list – and nothing before 1700.  

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Boston City Hall, Boston, MA: Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles (1963-1968) – BrutalistThe much-maligned Boston City Hall topped the charts.
The much-maligned Boston City Hall topped the charts.

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Massachusetts State House, Boston, MA: Charles Bulfinch (1795-1798); Charles Brigham (1895); Sturgis, Chapman & Andrews (1917) – Federal
Paul Revere covered the dome with copper roof after the wood one began to leak.  The gold came later.
Paul Revere covered the dome with copper roof after the wood one began to leak. The gold came later.

Trinity Church, Boston, MA: Henry Hobson Richardson (1872-1877) – Romanesque RevivalA gem in Copley Square.
A gem in Copley Square.

Boston Public Library, Boston, MA: McKim, Mead & White (1887-1895) – Renaissance RevivalPhilip Johnson's modernist addition didn't make the cut.
Philip Johnson’s modernist addition didn’t make the cut.

Baker House, MIT, Cambridge, MA: Alvo Aalto (1947-1948) – ModernBaker House is a dormitory for MIT students.
Baker House is a dormitory for MIT students.

MIT Chapel, Cambridge, MA: Eero Saarinen (1955) – Modern
Theodore Roszak's spire and bell tower were added in 1956.
Theodore Roszak’s spire and bell tower were added in 1956.

The interior.
The interior.

John Hancock Tower/Hancock Place, Boston, MA: Henry N. Cobb/I. M. Pei & Partners (1968-1976) – Minimalism
At first, the windows were falling out, but the problem was fixed eventually.
At first, the windows were falling out, but the problem was fixed eventually.

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Faneuil Hall, Boston, MA: John Smibert (1740-1742); Charles Bulfinch (1805) – GeorgianFaneuil Hall, in a slightly smaller iteration, was the site of many Revolutionary activities.
Faneuil Hall, in a slightly smaller iteration, was the site of many Revolutionary activities.

Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard, Cambridge, MA: Le Corbusier (1961-1964) – Modern
Harvard's Carpenter Center is the only Le Corbursier in the United States.
Harvard’s Carpenter Center is the only Le Corbursier in the United States.

Simmons Hall, MIT, Cambridge, MA: Steven Holl (2002) – ModernSimmons Hall at MIT.
Simmons Hall at MIT.

Stata Center, MIT, Cambridge, MA: Frank Gehry (2004) – ModernMIT sued Gehry when the building developed leaks, cracks and mold after heavy winters.
MIT sued Gehry when the building developed leaks, cracks and mold after heavy winters.

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Old South Meeting House, Boston, MA: Robert Twelves (1729) – GeorgianIt was here that the American colonists planned the Boston Tea Party.
It was here that the American colonists planned the Boston Tea Party.

King’s Chapel, Boston, MA: Peter Harrison (1749) – GeorgianThe 18th Century congregation of Kings Chapel mostly opposed independence from Great Britain.
The 18th Century congregation of Kings Chapel mostly opposed independence from Great Britain.

Old City Hall, Boston, MA: G.J.F. Bryant & A.D. Gilman (1862-1865) – Second EmpireKnown as old City Hall, this building was erected on the site of the first public school in America.
Known as old City Hall, this building was erected on the site of the first public school in America.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA: Willard T. Sears (1903) – 15th Century Venetian Palazzo.
The courtyard of the museum, which was designed to look like a 15th century Venetian mansion.
The courtyard of the original museum, which was designed to look like a 15th century Venetian mansion.

Kresge Auditorium, MIT, Cambridge, MA: Eero Saarinen (1950-1955) – Structuralist ModernMIT's premier performance space bears some resemblance to Saarinen's famous TWA Terminal.
MIT’s premier performance space bears some resemblance to Saarinen’s famous TWA Terminal.

Holyoke Center, Harvard, Cambridge, MA: Josep Lluis Sert (1965) – ModernHarvard's Holyoke Center was designed by the-then Dean of the Design School.
Harvard’s Holyoke Center was designed by the-then Dean of the Design School.

Design Research Headquarters, Cambridge, MA: Benjamin Thompson (1969) – ModernBenjamin Thompson designed this building to house his company, Design Research, which went bankrupt in the 1970s.
Benjamin Thompson designed this building to house his retail store, Design Research, which went bankrupt in the 1978.

Christian Science Plaza, Boston, MA: Araldo Cossutta/I. M. Pei & Associates (1968-1974) – Brutallism
I.M. Pei's design for the Christian Science Church Plaza includes several buildings, fountains and a reflecting pool.
I.M. Pei’s design for the Christian Science Church Plaza includes several buildings, fountains and a reflecting pool.

Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, MA: Benjamin Thompson (1971-1976)The development of Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market into a tourist-friendly area with shops and restaurants spawned imitators around the U.S.
The development of Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market into a tourist-friendly area with shops and restaurants spawned imitators around the U.S.

Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA: Diller Scofidio + Renfro (2009) – ModernThe new ICA building in South Boston was almost universally lauded by the architectural community.
The new ICA building in South Boston was almost universally lauded by the architectural community.