Mayor Martin J. Walsh joined North End community members, A+J Art+Design, and the North End project team for a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the reconstructed North Square on Monday afternoon.
Students from the North End’s Eliot School and St. John School performed songs for attendees of the ceremony. Mayor Walsh talked about the many projects that have recently been completed in the North End, including the restoration of the Prado, the North Square renovation, and the opening of the new Eliot School. He also expressed his excitement over the new permanent public artwork, North Square Stories, created by A+J Art+Design.
North Square, one of Boston’s oldest occupied neighborhoods, underwent a $2.5 million revitalization project with the goal of acknowledging it’s historic and cultural significance as well as creating an accessible space for all. Breaking ground in October 2017, the reconstructed Square’s finalized design features four bronze sculptures, repointed cobblestones, iron chains and bollards, and seating areas for visitors to better enjoy the space.
“The Square is a small space with a big view,” said Jeremy Angier of A+J Art+Design, referring to the view of the Boston skyline framed by some of the historical buildings that surround the Square. North Square has a very significant location, both historically and geographically. Encircled by historic buildings such as the Paul Revere House, Mariners House, Sacred Heart Church and other important buildings, the space gets millions of visitors from those following the Freedom Trail through the North End each year.
The four bronze sculptures each reflect a cultural or historical aspect of the North End. The 1798 North Square View sculpture, located across from the Paul Revere House, shows the view from the spot in 1798 with an index identifying significant features such as Faneuil Hall, the Old State House, the USS Constitution, and more. It encourages viewers to compare the view then to the present, acknowledging the progression of the city.
North End Story Map sculpture is a 3-dimensional view of the North End from above and, in the near future, will offer interaction with your mobile device by allowing visitors to access the “North End Story Vault” by pointing their cameras at the sculpture. The designers also created a secret scavenger hunt within the map, marking it with figures of a cannoli, garlic, and so on. Contributions to the vault can still be made here.
Located in front of where the Second Church of Boston formerly stood, the Fantastical Historical Nautical Instrument sculpture rests on sculpted water supported by three figureheads that represent Saint Rosalia, the ship Maritana which sank in Boston Harbor, and a portrait to acknowledge the women who fed the North End from restaurants and home kitchens. The five scopes offer different images of historic people who all have ties to the North End and the water through a visual distortion called oblique anamorphism.
The final sculpture, “What We Brought With Us” Suitcase, was collaboratively created through submissions of drawings of luggage labels from students at the Eliot School, St. John, and Boston Menotomy Rocks Homeschool Coop. Each luggage label, which were affixed to the outside of the suitcase, features a place where the North End residents have originated and where they come from today. There is also a scene of Feast Days in the North End, showing a procession as they carry the figure of a saint through the narrow streets. Another scene shows a grandmother in her bedroom, watching as a ship from her birthplace in Italy arrives in Boston.
After approximately two years of construction, the new North Square is now open to the public. Visitors will have a place to sit and enjoy the historic space, and be immersed in the culture and history of the beloved North End. More about the permanent public art can be found here.