COMMONWEALTH AVENUE MALL STATUE LIGHTING AND LANDSCAPE ENHANCEMENTS PROJECT

THE MALL

Commonwealth Avenue Mall is a grand allée of shade trees forming the central axis of the Back Bay, connecting the Public Garden to the Back Bay Fens. Designed by Arthur Gilman, who was inspired by the new Parisian boulevards, the Mall was set out from 1858 to the 1870s under the Back Bay Development Plan. From its inception, the Mall has been a vital amenity for both residents and visitors. Winston Churchill praised it as “the grandest boulevard in North America.”

Originally planted with American and European elm trees, the Mall today is a mixture of hardy large-scale shade trees. Even though the statues were not part of Gilman’s plan for the long, uninterrupted allée of trees, they have become a focal point for people’s enjoyment. Today, the trees, statues, benches, and walkway are important elements of this historic park.

The Friends is excited to announce, at last, the launch of the plan to design and install permanent lighting of the statues on each block of the Commonwealth Avenue Mall. “It has taken 30 years to obtain permission for this project” states Friends Board member and Commonwealth Avenue Mall Chair, Margaret Pokorny. Thirty years ago, this project was begun by Back Bay resident, Stella Trafford. “Thwarted by growing trees, restrictive regulations, and changing technologies, this project has been a continuing goal of the Mall Committee” states Chair, Margaret Pokorny. In 2018, the Landmarks Commission approved the scheme for the Morison and approved in concept our proposals for the Collins and the Garrison. On December 2019, thanks to contributions from many neighbors, the Samuel Eliot Morison statue lights were turned on!

“Thoughtful lighting design will enhance the beauty of each statue and create a focal point in each block of the Mall” states Pokorny. “In addition, these new strong pools of light in the center of each block will be an added public safety feature at night. In addition to Morison, the other statues to be lit are Hamilton, Glover, Collins, Garrison, Sarmiento, and Eriksson. The Women’s Memorial and Vendome Firemen’s Memorial both have existing lighting, however, upgrading those lights will be investigated in the future.

The Friends is now raising funds to install lights and make landscape improvements at the Collins and Garrison statues with the goal of lighting them both at the end of 2020. Each of the seven statues is its own unique project. In addition to lighting installation, the projects will involve upgrading of electrical systems, repointing of stonework, restoration of granite surrounds, walkways and turf around each statue as needed. The projected budget for both the lighting and restoration work for all seven of the statues that need lighting is approximately $1.2 million.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

We invite all to help with this exciting Mall improvement project. The Friends is funding the planning and design of each of the seven projects. We are currently raising funds for the construction and lighting of the Garrison and Collins statue but can accept a contribution towards any of the others on the list. If you’d like to help, you can donate online here or by sending a check in the mail. For more information, email Margaret Pokorny at mpok384@gmail.com, or call Mary Halpin at the Friends at 617-723-8144 or email mary@friendsofthepublicgarden.org.