Boston has many wonderful areas to enjoy a nice walk. One of these areas is the Commonwealth Avenue Mall. Located in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, Commonwealth Avenue is divided by a park running down the middle of the street. This park connects the Public Garden to the Fens as part of the Emerald Necklace. It’s a beautiful spot to enjoy in all four seasons.
Along the Commonwealth Avenue Mall are many different sculptures. As someone who walks along the mall frequently, I have always been curious about these sculptures. This post will guide you thru these sculptures, starting as you cross Arlington Street onto the mall from the Boston Public Garden.
The first sculpture you will come across is of Alexander Hamilton. This sculpture has been here since the mall opened in 1865. Alexander Hamilton is a big part of the history of the United States. Not only was he the first Secretary of the Treasury, but he also signed the Declaration of Independence and fought in the Revolutionary War. Due to his part in history, he is also on the US ten dollar bill.
Designed by Martin Milmore in 1875, is the second sculpture which is for John Glover. Also famous for his part in the Revolutionary War, where his regiment from Marblehead, MA saved George Washington at the Battle of Long Island and then on Christmas night in 1776, Washington asked Glover to help row him across the icy Delaware River for an attack in Trenton, NJ. This Massachusetts soldier became quite the asset during the war and gained George Washington’s respect.
Patrick Andrew Collins
Patrick Andrew Collins was Mayor of Boston from 1902 until his sudden death in 1905. He was the second Irish-born mayor of the city. This memorial used to be located elsewhere in the city but was moved to the Commonwealth Avenue mall in 1966 due to construction at its former site. There are two figures on each side of the memorial. One wears a crown of laurel leaves and holds a shield, representing Liberty. The other one wears a crown of shamrocks and holds a harp, representing Patrick Andrew Collins birthplace of Ireland.
Vendome Firefighters Memorial
The next memorial is in memory of the lives lost in one of the biggest tragedies to happen in Boston, the Hotel Vendome Fire.
The Hotel Vendome was located at the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and Dartmouth Street. On June 17, 1972, a fire broke out at the hotel causing part of the building to collapse, trapping and killing 9 firefighters. It was the worst firefighting tragedy in Boston history. The memorial was dedicated in 1997 on the 25th anniversary of the fire. The memorial features a bronze hat and jacket and a timeline of that tragic day.
William Lloyd Garrison
Massachusetts native, William Lloyd Garrison was an advocate for equality in the 1800s. He fought for the emancipation of slaves and women’s suffrage. His biggest accomplishment was as editor of the abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, which was published from 1831-1865. The statue features Garrison on his leather office chair.
The view from the back side of the statue in the fall is just stunning and always a spot that I have to turn back and catch a quick look or a photo.
Samuel Eliot Morison
Born and raised in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston, Samuel Eliot Morison is related to the famous poet T.S. Eliot. He was a Harvard graduate and professor who was known as a very well-respected historian.
He has written over 50 books about history with an emphasis on American Maritime History, including two Pulitzer Prize winning books: Admiral of the Ocean Sea, a biography of Christopher Columbus and John Paul Jones: A Sailor’s Biography.
On one of the rocks next to the statue, is Morison’s advice to young writers, “Dream dreams, then write them aye, but live them first” I really enjoyed this quote, very inspirational.
Boston Women’s Memorial
The Boston Women’s Memorial is my favorite of the sculptures along Commonwealth Avenue mall. The memorial honors three women who were very important to the history of Boston. The idea of this memorial started in 1992 and the memorial was finally finished in 2003.
The women featured are Abigail Adams, Lucy Stone and Phillis Wheatley.
Abigail Adams was the wife of the second president of the United States, John Adams and mother of the sixth president, John Quincy Adams. She was often giving advice to her husband while he was president, so much so that some consider her as part of the Founders of the United States. She also spent a lot of her time fighting for women equality.
Lucy Stone became the first woman in Massachusetts to graduate from college in 1847. She was very active in fighting for women’s rights and even held the first national Women’s Rights Convention just an hour from Boston in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1850. She also started the Women’s Journal, a women’s suffrage publication. But it was not only women’s rights that were important to her, she was also an abolitionist and orator. William Lloyd Garrison (also memorialized on Commonwealth Avenue) hired her to write and deliver many abolitionist speeches.
Phillis Wheatley was an African born woman who was shipped to the United States and sold as a slave. But she did not let her unfortunate life of slavery stop her from following her dreams. She became one of the best-known writers in New England as her book of Poems, “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral” became the first book published in the United States by an African writer. She was also the second woman to have a book of poems published.
Three inspiring women that lived in Massachusetts. This is a memorial that everyone, especially women need to visit.
Domingo Faustino Sarmiento
Domingo Faustino Sarmiento was President of Argentina from 1868 to 1874. He had spent time in the United States to study educational reform. It was during this trip to the United States, that he became inspired by Boston educator Horace Mann and founded Argentina’s public education system.
In 1917, Argentina offered a statue of Sarmiento as a gift to Massachusetts for their gratitude of Horace Mann’s influence of Sarmiento and to celebrate the relationship between Argentina and the state of Massachusetts. Unfortunately, due to World War I and the sculptor passing away, it took almost 60 more years before the statue made it’s way to Boston in 1973.
A Historic Walk
With so much history in Boston, I feel the history behind these sculptures definitely gets missed. Many people walk down the Commonwealth Avenue Mall to enjoy the beauty of it and never think twice about the sculptures. I myself would notice the sculptures but never knew much about them. I’m glad I was able to do a little research, it definitely makes walking down the mall that much more meaningful when you know how many great people from the past are memorialized along this beautiful city walk.
I hope that on your next visit to Boston, you can find further meaning to the Commonwealth Avenue Mall and it’s sculptures.
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