Bench Sitters in the North End’s “Prado” by Leslie Jones, 1954 (Courtesy Boston Public Library)

The Parks & Open Spaces Committee is focusing its efforts on celebrating and refurbishing the Prado, also known as the Paul Revere Mall. The committee, part of of the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA), held its monthly meeting this week at the Nazzaro Center. The committee is concerned about the crumbling brick in the Prado and the condition of various elements, including the trees and granite features. It hopes to work with public officials and neighborhood organizations to identify solutions to these issues.

Committee Chair Anne Pistorio has been researching the Prado and presented a copy of the above 1954 Leslie Jones photo, titled, Bench Sitters in the North End’s “Prado,” courtesy of the Boston Public Library collection.

Prado Statue of Paul Revere with Old North Church Steeple in Back, Photo by Matt Conti

To help bring attention to the Prado, the committee is planning a celebration of the 150th birthday of Cyrus E. Dallin. Dallin is the famous sculptor of the Equestrian Statue of Paul Revere located in the Prado as well as Appeal to the Great Spirit located at the entrance of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. In 1883, Dallin entered a competition for an equestrian statue of Paul Revere. He received a contract, but his work was not accepted until 1899. Dallin made five versions of Paul Revere; the statue was not unveiled until 1940 on the Prado.

Although the 150th birthday of Cyrus E. Dallin is on November 22, 2011, the committee is planning the event for April 2012 in cooperation with the Cyrus E. Dallin Art Museum in Arlington, Massachusetts.

Anne Pistorio reviewed a document from the Boston Landmarks Commission on the historical significance of the Prado. The following is an excerpt:

A major portion of the site of this mall was once the pasture of Christopher Stanley who died in 1640 leaving a parcel of land for the maintenance of the free school and thus the first benefactor of the public education in Boston. This tract of land was always maintained as an open space and was used as a playground. Webster Ave. stretched from Hanover St. to Unity St, and the houses which lined (numbering approximately 16) with wire purchased by the George Robert White Fund in 1933, and demolished to make way for the Prado. The W.P.A. provided some of the workforce for the project. The Prado cost approximately $275,000.

The Paul Revere Mall (as it was officially renamed in 1935) serves two important functions. First, it visually connects two important landmarks, Christ Church of Paul Revere fame and St. Stephen’s, which was designed by Charles Bulfinch in 1804 for a Protestant Congregation, but became Roman Catholic in 1862 as the character of the neighborhood changed. The open space also serves as a gathering place for local residents of all ages. It is one of the few places in the North End where once can get relief from the highly concentrated and intense environment.

Those interested in helping out the Prado effort can contact parks@newra.org.

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