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Proposal for Molasses Flood Memorial, 100 Years Later

At the time of its 100 year anniversary, a proposal has emerged to create a memorial to commemorate the 1919 Great Molasses Flood in Boston’s North End. Leland Mercer Alexander, a recent graduate of Wentworth Institute of Technology, presented his concept to the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) at their January 2019 meeting.

NEWRA past president, Mary McGee, introduced Alexander and referenced how tourists seek out the site at 529 Commercial Street only to find a “pathetic” plaque.

Why now? Besides the 100th anniversary, a memorial would highlight how the 1919 North End immigrant community was taken advantage of by the tank’s placement in the densely populated neighborhood along with its faulty construction and maintenance. “This is something that needs to happen,” said Alexander, “especially at a time when hate is being so frequently pushed on the agenda.”

The rough concept is to establish 21 plaques in the ground, one for each of those who died, leading along a quarter-mile on the Harborwalk from Commercial Street into Langone Park to a memorial where the victims will be standing together holdings hands. Those depicted would include the little girl, Irish construction worker, firefighters and Italian natives that all perished in the tragedy.

The memorial would be coincident with the upcoming renovation of Langone Park and Puopolo Fields. Proponents said they intend to revisit the neighborhood and city officials as the design comes together.

View the full presentation in the above video.

8 Replies to “Proposal for Molasses Flood Memorial, 100 Years Later

  1. Mr. Alexander has an excellent idea to better mark the area of this tragedy with the 21 plaques. However he is way off base promoting supposed “hate” and bias against the immigrant community. It never ceases to amaze me how some try to inject “hate” into everything.

    In the event Mr. Alexander filed to notice, the Boston waterfront in those years were heavily industrialized. In many areas this industrial area was ringed with low cost housing. Unfortunately mixing housing and heavy industry has proven not to work and the practice has been modified greatly as people have learned terrible lessons.

    As far as locating the Molasses Tank on the waterfront, where should they have built it, Sudbury? This issue is clearly the result of what I would call an unscrupulous businessman coupled with no engineering oversight or building codes, nothing to do with supposed “hate”.

    1. If one read “Dark Tide”, I believe it stated the tank was located there for the simple fact that they transferred a lot of the ingredients from ships coming through the harbor. It was purely due to practicality and convenience.

      If the Cambridge facility mentioned in the presentation could have been located on the harbor, I’m sure it would have but the only “waterfront” in Cambridge is the Charles River.

      I too was taken aback by making the issue a “hate” narrative. But I think the memorial would be fantastic.

    2. Tom: Why do you talk about his bias. I did not hear that in his report. You Italians are your own worst enemy.
      About the hate, my first reaction was that he was speaking about the climate now in the US. You also may have misinterpreted his theory of hate.
      Gary: You too???? What ‘hate’ narrative. You hear what you want to hear.

    3. I guess that has to be the basis of any current conversation. I grew up in a mixed industrial neighborhood. I never felt that I was there because of hate, more economic circumstance. Financial circumstances have improved and now I live in area with fancy restaurants. Worrying about about an event now that happened 100 years ago goes little good since all the affected have long since passed. Just showes that people now have too much time on their hands.

  2. So how do we support this young man?! This memorial is a fabulous idea and I would love to see a charity site built to raise funds for this endeavor. Count me in!

    As to the discussion of hate, he was alluding to the disregard for the safety of the immigrant workers and residents that lived in the North End. Classism, disdain for recent immigrants, and disdain for the working class in general was rampant in the early 1900s….and sadly is seeing far too much of a resurgence in modern times. As was noted in the presentation, the tank was located in the North End not only for logistics, but because the wealthy Cambridge community at the time didn’t want this dangerous, smelly eyesore in their own backyard (clearly for good reason). I think we all can agree that if such a tragedy had drown 20+ members of the historically high brow Cambridge community, there would have been a glorious bronze sculpture erected in the first decade, nevermind begging for public support for it 100+ years later.

    I hope this man’s plan comes to fruition…our fair city is losing to much of it’s history too fast. I had hoped to mark the 100 year anniversary with an Indian Pudding at Durgin Park, who had the audacity to close one weekend early 🙁 We need to start celebrating our past if we hope to keep it.

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