Come next spring, Edward Everett Square will blossom with new sculpture, vibrant flowers, and words that help tell the areaâ€™s story â€“ a culmination of nearly 15 years of work to transform a drab and hectic intersection into a community asset.
Organizers hope the space, once completed, will not only lend beauty to the site but also become a destination for tours and schoolchildren. With the planning and work on the artwork and plantings for the square winding down, the community has formed a corporation to maintain the squareâ€™s improvements and promote its cultural uses.
â€œIt is important for the quality of life of people in the Square and people elsewhere in Dorchester as well,â€ said John McColgan, longtime organizer of efforts to improve the space and chairman of the newly formed Vision for Edward Everett Square Inc. The nonprofit will pick up the efforts of the Edward Everett Square Committee, a collaboration of community group that has spearheaded improvement efforts.
â€œIt is in the interest of the community to be invested in the continuing maintenance and well-being of the square,â€ McColgan said.
The physical work on the rehabilitation of the square began with reconfiguring the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue, Boston Street, East and West Cottage streets, and Columbia Road and improving pedestrian crossings. Then, in 2007, the eight-foot bronze sculpture of the Clapp Pear was unveiled, a nod to the neighborhoodâ€™s history as the place where that variety of the fruit was cultivated in the 1840s.
â€œThe pear is a symbol of life and its sweetness, and a symbol of the sustenance Dorchester has provided to so many people over so many centuries,â€ McColgan said.
Last year, the committee received a grant from the cityâ€™s Grass Roots Open Space Program that paid for the landscaping of the square with flowers that will bloom all season long and for additional artwork. The pear and other improvements have been funded by The Edward Ingersoll Browne Trust Fund.
Ten smaller works, along with quotes from both historic and contemporary citizens, will be completed and unveiled in the spring, McColgan said. The bronze statues, which will sit atop small pillars, or bollards, were designed in collaboration with neighborhood groups and include representations of a three-decker, books, and military dog tags.
â€œThey will mark and celebrate the past and present history of those who have lived in Dorchester,â€ said Laura Baring-Gould, the artist commissioned to do the pear and smaller works. â€œThe smaller sculptures will help people realize the depth and breadth of the human stories in Dorchester.â€
As a nonprofit, Vision for Edward Everett Square will oversee all remaining grant money to maintain the landscaping and artwork as well as sell and maintain inscribed bricks at the square. Waste Management Corp. has also committed $30,000 for maintenance, McColgan said.
In addition, the nonprofit will encourage use of the square as an artistic, historic, and cultural destination, an appropriate approach given that the James Blake House, the oldest house in Boston, sits just down from the main intersection.
The corporation recently held its first meeting and is working on creating a strong board of directors, McColgan said. Currently the board has five members, and the bylaws allow for up to 16. Heâ€™s hoping civic association members and elected officials will be willing to come forward to serve.
Work to improve the square has encountered a few bumps. In May, a vehicle took out a couple of trees the city had planted. Someone ripped out and stole thousands of dollars worth of new plantings and others have trampled some of the flowerbeds in their rush to get to a nearby store, McColgan said. But the stolen and trampled flowers have been replaced, and group is planning to install a 20-inch wrought iron fence around the beds to prevent future damage.
City Councilor Maureen Feeney applauded the longtime collaborative efforts of many civic groups and agencies that have managed to get the project completed. She hopes drivers and passers-by as well as nearby schoolchildren will gather at the square to learn more about Dorchesterâ€™s rich history.
â€œIt is important to focus on the history and the historic significance Dorchester has playedâ€ [in the regionâ€™s history], she said, adding that this sort of attention will give people a greater sense of their community.