April 10, 2007
Few people remember that President Abraham Lincoln was not the keynote speaker when he delivered his famous "Gettysburg Address." Before Lincoln rose to deliver his three-minute speech, Edward Everett spoke for two hours about the sacrifice and courage of the soldiers who had died on the field of battle.
Everett, though, has been lost to history ever since. It's the hope of the Edward Everett Square Redevelopment Committee that their Dorchester intersection may survive better than its namesake.
Twelve years ago, the McCormack, the Eastman/Elder, and Annapolis Street civic associations came together to beautify the square, but perhaps more importantly, to celebrate its place in the history of the United States. After receiving a $10,000 grant for initial planning and assessment, and another $150,000 for construction costs, the committee commissioned sculptor Laura Baring Gould to create "historically relevant artwork" in the old square.
Gould spent four years talking to Dorchester residents asking them about the historical significance of Dorchester.
"People talked about incredible family history and memories of growing up. I felt like that was the history I wanted to celebrate," Gould said. "I wanted to create connections through all the people that come through Dorchester. I looked at how the stories echoed across time."
Three components resulted from Gould's study.
The centerpiece of the new square will be an 11-foot tall bronze Clapp pear. While the sight of the pear may initially confuse passerbys, it's the hope of Gould, as well as the committee, that they stop and learn its significance - which may seem foreign to the concrete square now.
"In the 1840s, Edward Everett square used to be farmland and they had a pear orchard right down the street," said Gould.
Besides representing an otherwise forgotten narrative in Dorchester, the Clapp pear serves as a metaphor for the people of Dorchester, according to Gould.
"It was an early blooming pear so it had to be tough on the outside, but on the inside it was sweet as butter," said Gould.
The second component of the project are ten smaller sculptures that speak more directly to the everyday experience of Dorchester residents documenting life from Native American times up to the present day Vietnamese immigration. Each sculpture will have quotes from Dorchester residents that speak to the Dorchester experience, ranging from the traditional triple-decker house to the sacrifice of Dorchester residents in wartime.Dorchester residents themselves will complete the third part of the new square. A new brick sidewalk will feature inscriptions from Dorchester residents that may honor Dorchester relatives or explain something about the city. So far 100 bricks have been dedicated, but the association hopes to reach 1,000. The bricks will also help to raise money to finish the project and pay for any future maintenance for the square. The association is also looking for corporate sponsors who will donate bricks so that the experiences of seniors and school children may also be recorded in the square.
The brick-laying, like the project as a whole, is part of a larger community effort. Last Saturday, apprentices from the Local 3 Bricklayers Union laid the first bricks.
"We do a lot of community service and have worked on the Vietnam and Korean monuments in Dorchester," said Bob Motello, who supervises the apprentices. "We're most certainly excited to be part of this project."
"Last Saturday, we saw the brick layer apprentices working around the planters. That was really exciting," said John McColgan, chair of the redevelopment project. "We're coming down the homestretch but between now and then we have a lot of work selling those bricks."
The final dedication and ribbon cutting is slated for June 16. With the efforts of McColgan and others, they hope to make the square more than just an intersection but a gateway to a neighborhood with a rich, but often un-narrated, history.