Sculpture & Memorials
The first piece of public art arrived on the Common in 1868. Named after its donor, Gardner Brewer, the Brewer Fountain is a bronze copy of a French original that won a gold medal at the 1855 Paris World’s Fair. Brewer, a wealthy Boston merchant, purchased a direct cast of the original in France and had it installed within sight of his Beacon Street house. Its sculptures represent mythological figures associated with water: Neptune, Amphitrite, Acis, and Galatea. It was later moved to its present location near the Tremont Street Mall. Waterless for many years, the fountain was recently restored to its former glory.
Designed by architect/sculptor Martin Milmore, the neoclassical Soldiers and Sailors Monument, on top of Flagstaff Hill, is a Civil War memorial in the form of a victory column. At its dedication in 1877, Generals McClellan and Hooker were among those attending, along with two Confederate officers. From colonial to modern times, the hill has been a favorite sledding place for children.
In 1888 the Boston Massacre Memorial was dedicated near the Tremont Street Mall. The work of Robert Kraus, its standing bronze figure represents Revolution breaking the chains of tyranny. The bas-relief depicting the events before the Old State House on March 5, 1770, features Crispus Attucks, the first to fall.
The most acclaimed piece of sculpture on the Common is Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s Shaw/54th Regiment Memorial, located opposite the State House. Saint-Gaudens was the foremost American sculptor of his day. After accepting the Shaw Memorial commission in 1884, he took almost fourteen years to complete the job. The enormous bas-relief depicts the mounted Colonel Robert Gould Shaw leading the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the first all-volunteer black regiment in the Union army. Colonel Shaw, together with many of his men, died at Fort Wagner, South Carolina, in July 1863.The most acclaimed piece of sculpture on the Common is Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s Shaw/54th Regiment Memorial.
The monument was finally unveiled on May 30, 1897, with ceremonies lasting most of the day. The military parade included some old soldiers who had left for war from that very spot. In 1982, the Friends of the Public Garden raised funds to restore and endow the monument, which was rededicated in 1997 with General Colin Powell in attendance.
The Parkman Bandstand, in the form of a Greek temple, was dedicated in 1912. It honors the Common’s first and greatest benefactor, George Francis Parkman (1823-1908), who bequeathed $5 million for the care of the Common and other city parks. Designed for concerts, the bandstand also gave the Common its most useful forum for public speaking. Restored in 1996, it has served as the backdrop for the annual Shakespeare on the Common productions, along with other events.
In 1930, as part of Boston’s 300th anniversary celebration, the Founders Memorial was erected along Beacon Mall on the Common. Its bronze bas-relief, sitting in a large frame, shows William Blackstone welcoming John Winthrop’s party to Shawmut peninsula, as allegorical figures look on. The reverse side of the monument, facing Beacon Street, is inscribed with quotations from John Winthrop and William Bradford.
The Parkman Plaza, a circular paved area located in front of the Visitors’ Center, also honors the Common’s great benefactor George Francis Parkman. It was designed by Shurcliff & Merrill and dedicated in 1960. The three bronze statues representing Industry, Religion, and Learning are the work of Arcangelo Cascieri and Adio diBiccari.