October 9th has been the official Leif Erikson Day since Congress declared it so in 1964. If Hurricane Matthew allows us to have a nice day on Sunday, we suggest you take a walk along the Commonwealth Avenue Mall to the corner of Charlesgate East (map) and discover Boston's Memorial to this Viking explorer.
At the moment, many details of the monument are hidden by tropical plants.
In this photo from the Boston Public Library Collection, you can see that he stands above a dragon-headed boat and that boat would have been the basin for a fountain rather than a planter.
According to an 1887 Boston Globe article, the memorial's dedication was originally located on a traffic island at Commonwealth Avenue and West Chester Park, the former name of Massachusetts Avenue. We are still trying to confirm when it was relocated.
Here's a photo that Penny took a few seasons ago with more of the monument showing in the setting sun.
Plan a return visit!
Be sure to come back in winter to discover all the lovely details that sculptor Anne Whitney incorporated into this work of art. A few years ago, we interviewed Sarah Hutt, the Friends of the Public Garden Collections Care Manager. She admitted that this is her favorite statue on the Mall. “I just find that so playful,” she said. “I’ve had the opportunity to go up on the scaffolding [during a restoration] and look at it. There is so much interesting detail... It has all these little stories of his voyages engraved in it.”
How Do You Spell It?
Back in 1000, when this man was said to be sailing up the Charles, people were not as fussy about spelling as we are today. References to him include the following spellings: Leif, Leifur, Leiv, Erikson, Ericson, Ericsson, or Ericksson. As you can see on the information plaque attached to the statue, the city has gone with the Leif Erikson version so we are following their example for now.
Our research files on this monument contain many more interesting tidbits that we'll share at a later date. For now, enjoy the fall weather and take a walk to see this piece of Boston public art.
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Words: Penny & Ed Cherubino
Photography: © 2016 Penny Cherubino, historic photo by Moulton Photograph Co. courtesy of the Boston Public Library.