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Christopher Columbus Statue to be Replaced by Italian Immigrant Statue in North End’s Waterfront Park; Knights Will Display Old Statue

Mayor Marty Walsh announced on Monday evening to the North End/ Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) that the fragile condition of the Columbus statue after its recent beheading by vandals means that it will not be returning to its pedestal in Christopher Columbus Park. Instead, the Boston Arts Commission will begin a process to design and construct a new statue recognizing Italian immigrants to be placed on the pedestal. The existing statue will be repaired and placed at the North End chapter of the Knights of Columbus where it will be publicly displayed as part of their in-progress affordable housing development on N. Margin Street in the North End. The controversial decision comes just days before Columbus Day.

North End’s Christopher Columbus statue following it’s beheading on June 10th. Photo by Matt Conti.

“The Columbus statue, I know it means an awful lot to residents of the North End and obviously it’s a very passionate, emotional issue,” stated Mayor Walsh.

Following the statue’s vandalism in June, the sculpture was removed from the North End park to assess the damage and the statue’s ‘historial meaning’ according to city officials. Curators found the statue could be repaired but not without visible marks upon repair.

North End’s Knights of Columbus offered to display the statue in their new affordable housing development at 41 N. Margin Street. The City will be repairing the statue as best as possible so that it can be publicly displayed by the Knights of Columbus in their new facility.

Over the years at the waterfront park, the statue has experienced its fair share of vandalism from being doused in red paint with the words “Black Lives Matter” written on it in 2015 to it’s most recent (but not first) beheading. Officials expressed concerns that the statue would continue to be vulnerable to vandalism, prompting the decision to remove and replace it.

As for the empty pedestal in Christopher Columbus Park, Mayor Walsh stated that there will be a ‘robust community process’ in deciding what will replace the statue with a focus on ‘highlighting the Italian immigrants of the North End.’ The Boston Art Commission (BAC) will create a North End community advisory group to advise future decisions.

Mayor Marty Walsh during the North End/ Waterfront Neighborhood Council virtual meeting.

At this time, there are no discussions about changing the name of Christopher Columbus Park although it was questioned whether the name still makes sense without the statue.

At the meeting, residents expressed mixed reactions. NEWNC council member Damien DiPaola thanked the mayor for acknowledging the contributions of North End Italian immigrants and suggested the new statue’s design include a family with a suitcase. North End resident Bernie Sapienza expressed frustration over allowing vandalism to dictate the statue’s future and “erasing history.” Mayor Walsh responded that “vandalism and destruction in our neighborhood is never okay” and noted the difficulty of making a decision that would appease every perspective.

“I think this is a good solution, although not perfect for everyone. I don’t think we’ll ever get to unanimous 100% support of what should happen there,” responded Mayor Walsh.

There will be a BAC meeting on Tuesday, October 13th at 4pm to further discuss the future of the statue and it’s replacement.

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33 Replies to “Christopher Columbus Statue to be Replaced by Italian Immigrant Statue in North End’s Waterfront Park; Knights Will Display Old Statue

  1. A travesty and a sad day for Italian-Americans everywhere… during this year of unrest, the woke culture has gone after statues everywhere throughout the USA and the world. We found out last night night that Columbus will not be coming back to Christopher Columbus Park in Boston. To say this is a terrible decision would be a great understatement. It is simply unfathomable to think about how an immigrant country can advance the causes of one people by diminishing the foundations of another. It is also hard to understand how any civilized people can allow vandals to dictate policy… nothing good can come of this. Had the statue not been vandalized, we would be having an entirely different, and potentially, civilized discussion. The transparency in this decision making was practically non-existent. The BAC held two meetings of which only a few minutes of each meeting were dedicated to the Columbus. That was the extent of the public discussion period. While the mayor is using the term “relocating” rather than “removing”, it doesn’t make things any better for the community, only worse and even more insulting to the North End residents.

    1. It’s just giving in to terrorism. Not the sort that blows up cars in the Middle East. But it starts small and grows and once terrorists realize that they use terrorism to a get there way. More terrorism and more extreme. Move it to the next level. What is the next level, you don’t know now. But the same people want to defund police. But once you are controlled it goes to the next level of control. Freedom has never been easy and don’t take it for granted. Look at the names on the base and wonder if many of those names had shipped over seas to fight for that freedom.

  2. The Patriots had a better chance beating Kansas City last night than the Columbus statue being returned to the park.Time to move on and use our energy to come up with an appropriate replacement that will pay homage to the proud Italian immigrants and the contributions and sacrifices that they made for this country.

      1. barolo, I hear ya.When the statue was vandalized again their were quite a few comments here and the majority of us posted at the time as Marty Walsh was tapdancing around wether the statue would be repaired and returned it was obvious that he was going to cave. This being Italian Heritage Month and with (shall I risk saying it?) the Columbus day holiday next week he had to announce his decision which we knew from
        the begining what his decision was going to be. Let me set the record straight I respect protest as long as it’s peacefull but I never condone vandalism of any kind.

        1. I hear you MichaelD… the mayor was in a bad spot and he was bailed out with what, in his mind, is an elegant solution to this problem. However, at the end of the day, the mob/the vandals feel like they won. Putting aside all of the historical issues for Columbus (who is on his way to becoming, at best, a footnote in history or, at worst, a genocidal maniac), allowing the mob to win is fraught with peril on any topic. It teaches people that they can intimidate the citizenry. And that if they don’t want a statue in a park, they can tear it down and it will be gone. This is poor management… this is the management of a mayor who is trying to escape from his duties as fast as possible. He figures this is the best way to save face with both sides. This approach does not work… the vandals will be back ad they will want more.

    1. After the revolution, the 1800’s brought all kinds of people to the north end. The wharfs/docks created jobs in trade. As you might imagine, during the period, the north end became a place of ill repute. At the center of this “port city” neighborhood, was Anne Street (today, it’s called North Street). Anne street became famous with sailors worldwide. It was the place you came to for guaranteed lawlessness – gambling, prostitution, crime, etc. In an effort to change the reputation, the city changed the name in 1852 to North Street. But that had little effect. A few decades later, the Italians began to show up and over a few decades, they totally transformed the neighborhood into a family friendly place. Since that time, 100 years ago, this has been the “Italian North End” and it is a worldwide tourist destination. Other immigrants to our city are celebrated elsewhere and those places can be enhanced (I wouldn’t argue). Across the street is a memorial for the Armenian genocide. At downtown crossing, in front of Walgreens, there are some excellent statues commemorating the Irish immigrants. Of course, in front of City Hall, we have the holocaust memorial. And the list goes on… in this city, immigrants are not forgotten and should be celebrated. This park, this neighborhood is the “Italian” North End and that should be something that all Bostonians are happy about.

  3. Bernie Spienza was so right. The Mayor is looking to keep the peace, which I understand, but
    you can’t erase history & that statue should be there & represent Italian Heritage. In NYC
    there Columbus Statue is still standing because they fought for what they believe in. They didn’t
    back down . The Mayor has been very accomodating to the all the No. End Restaurants even
    at all the Residents’ expense, therefore, I understand why Restaurant people would never,
    ever debate the Columbus issue, but it is a disgrace that this turned out like this.
    Anything worth having is worth fighting for & people only get away with what you allow them
    to get away with.

  4. Mayor Menino Park and a statue of him if there is a backup. The experience and relationship he had with the City of Boston and the North End if anybody should be honored it’s him. Sad to hear this but not surprising. At least the statue will still be around at the KOC it still a win/win to a sense.

  5. This is by far the best decision. Italian immigrants have deserved a statue in the North End for 100 years, much more so than Columbus. It is far time they get one. This is a huge victory for the neighborhood!

    1. It’s hard to disagree with you that the Italian immigrants should be honored, Johnny… but it should not come at the expense of an Italian hero (Columbus). Those two things don’t need to be mutually exclusive and more importantly, it should not be happening by intimidation. Chopping our statue’s head off, getting away with it, then removing the statue from sight is capitulation. Nothing good can come of it.

      1. ” it should not come at the expense of an Italian hero (Columbus)”
        Except that Columbus was not Italian and nor is he a hero, at least not to me. If he is a hero to you, then go see the statue on display at it new location in the North End. You must already be a member of the Knights of Columbus given your diehard support for him.

        1. Christopher Columbus (Cristoffa Corombo in his native dialect, but Latin was the formal language for registering births)was born in Liguria, Italy at some point in the late summer-early fall of 1451. While Italy was not the modern country as we know it today (Republic of Italy, established originally as a monarchy in 1870), his early life was spent on the Italian peninsula and he is considered Italian (Ligurian) by birth. The Ligurians were esteemed seafarers, and Columbus – Colombo, though largely self-taught, became a successful seaman and agent for trade between England and Africa, the Mediterranean and – eventually – the “East Indies”. He sought a passage to Asia via the Atlantic instead of traveling around Africa’s horn or through the Muslim-occupied lands of the Middle East. He was one of many Italian navigators who worked the seas and oceans in the early modern era, often for foreign clients (in Columbus’ case, Spanish and Portuguese). His fame is the fateful encounter with land masses in the Caribbean, which blocked the passage to Asia that he sought. In designating Columbus as the “first” (“Pre-Columbian” is a common term used today to indicate the before/after break in the history of the Americas, i.e., before written records in European languages), he has come to symbolize in recent time the negative consequences of European colonization. The significance of Columbus to Italian-Americans is that he was the symbol of their participation as full citizens of this country. It was a sensitive issue, both for the predominately Roman Catholic faith of the new Americans from Italy (whose patriotism was called into question for fidelity to the Pope of Rome), and very active connections between the two countries, since like many transient populations today, the Italian immigrants sent funds and supplies back to Italy to help their families. To illustrate how the North Enders American loyalties were challenged for many decades by popular opinion, there was another statue removed from the North End many decades ago. It represented the king of unified Italy, Victor Emmanuel II (supposedly now in the Boston Public Library’s art collection, but I’ve never found it). Since Italy was an enemy of the USA in World War 2, political images like that of the king would no doubt have been seen as problematic as the Roman Catholic ones. Columbus’ name, on the other hand, a secular icon, was used since the 19th century in the North End for community organizations, buildings, schools, you name it. The specific reason why the park got its name (and statue) is because the North Enders in the 1960’s and 1970’s, while the area was still well over 70% Italian or of Italian descent, fought to keep waterfront land for public use and for low-income and elderly residents (the Christopher Columbus Housing between Commercial Street and Atlantic Ave, which overlooks the park). Nobody asked you to pay for the statue or like it. But the community effort to look after its more vulnerable members should be remembered as it was created and not despised.

          1. Nice historical narrative. I’ve always wondered why these WASPs have always vilified Christopher Columbus and never blamed the Pilgrims and they English Monarchy for any of this. After all Lief Erickson and Columbus came and went. The English came and stayed after the Pilgrims and their Monarchy doled out the Americas like candy to their patrons. Eventually, the English would drive out both the Indians and the French. By the time the United States was formed, many of the Indians had fled west and institutions like slavery were firmly established. I believe that Columbus is a scapegoat for hundreds of years of English pillaging. Why don’t these Mayflower descendants want to put blame on the Queen and her whole snagle-toothed inbreads.

          2. @NorthEndNative That was the history little Johnny was taught in grammar school about Columbus sailing the “ocean blue in 1492”. A nice little story for Italian boys willing to believe it. But now we can read Columbus own journals which tell a much different story if you actually want to know (which I understand many of a certain generation do not). Here is a balanced summary of the facts at the Washington Post:
            https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-christopher-columbus/2015/10/08/3e80f358-6d23-11e5-b31c-d80d62b53e28_story.html

            1. Johnny Jr., it is indeed fortunate that there is abundant primary source material on Columbus and his contemporaries – we should be so lucky for other eras and peoples. The growth of trade across Europe and into other territories influenced both the Renaissance and Reformation, two major cultural movements of the same era that today are seen as move positive than colonial expansion. But all of these historical upheavals cannot be completely untangled from each other in critical analysis, which makes it complicated to use any one individual of the time as either an icon or a scapegoat. Columbus is singular for being a pioneer of the trans-Atlantic crossing, in which millions of Italians followed suit.
              Not sure what generation you assume I belong to – for what it’s worth, I’m solidly Gen-X, female, and voted in the last presidential primary for Bernie Sanders (I like Biden, but thought Sanders had more ideas worth applying to the current social climate, even before COVID-19 hit). Reason, respect, and positivity transcend idealogical barriers. None of those qualities seemed to motivate the vandalism in the park some months ago.

              1. Thought I would checkout some of the links that you provided. I don’t know whether this group is responsibly for this decision or not, but that lengthy diatribe with all the citations was demented. Some of the citations referred to obituaries. There was no legend to attribute the citation to its rambling, seemingly drug induced stream of consciousness monolog. It included all the popular adjectives like racist and corrupt, but no fact based backing. The Web site is the worst that I’ve ever seen. I saw it was sponsored by some old professor from the laughable Fighting Illini. Judging by the size of the font and the meandering soliloquy, this guy is suffering from age related issues. Linking Columbus to slavery is about as abstract as is gets. Of course, this misses the direct link between English world-wide imperialisms, financing plantations and import of slaves.

                And as for Biden, I believe that Dukakis described him accurately. I was little surprised that he would be re-elected Senator in Delaware. But then I read “I Paint Houses”, that sort of explains it.

            2. Washington Post is not a credible source. They have an axe to grind for their mostly WASP constituents, the Ben Bradley’s of the world. Journalists are a bunch of English major dropouts, angry because they were forced to take Bonehead English, also known as remedial freshman English, and they didn’t manage the freshman year. They end up at places like the Post after their failed attempts at writing acceptable novels, so they put their novels into newsprint for suckers. At least our Native from the North End did his research. I’ll bet his narrative wasn’t based on flunky journalist cocktail conversation.

              1. Thanks, T., for the kind words, though I can’t take credit for making much inroad in an avalanche of studies on Columbus as a person and a legacy. Journalists have to find ways to get paid in the struggling newspaper industry. When you’re looking to earn a living wage, who has time to do research, or test the limits of one’s own understanding and position in order to really identify and evaluate different aspects of an issue? Makes difficult reading, no one would click.
                I do have some regrets about bothering to react to this NorthEndWaterfront article at all, because in doing so I came across a dossier on the Columbus statue submitted to Mayor Walsh earlier this summer as “The 1492 Project”. It was compiled by people with access to City of Boston archives that others do not have in this time when much of City Hall and the BPL and other sites where such archives exist are closed. In content, the dossier at many points is a character assassination of North Enders and other Italian-Americans of the later part of the twentieth century. Some of those people are still living, like the Knights of Columbus leader mentioned. Evaluating the perspectives of those directly involved – maybe not agreeing with them, but at least considering them as evidence in a case – would have strengthened the argument for the statue’s removal. The mayor of the time, Kevin White, gave his blessing to the statue, much like Mayor Walsh did recently in an exceptional measure for the naming of Nubian Square. The 1492 Project link is here: https://files.cargocollective.com/c547379/CONFRONTING-COLUMBUS_V1.0_08042020.pdf; the letter submitted to Mayor Walsh at the link: http://confrontingcolumb.us/, and a Twitter commentary by an unnamed “October Uprise” at @lowlowtide.

              2. For decades , Italian -Americans celebrated not just the man, but the symbol of Columbus Day. That symbol means we honor the legacy of our ancestors who immigrated to America , overcame poverty, language barrier, and above all DISCRIMINATION.Honor the past,celebrate the present and preserve our cultural heritage for future generations. Happy Columbus Day.🇮🇹

              3. More than just Italians, but it’s also something all Americans are thankful for. He had done something that no one else had done, his records paved the way for exploration for centuries. He inspired exploration of unknown worlds. From what I read in the links provided by NE Native, the case against him is a shameless smear of Italian Americans. These same people will end up smearing Neal Armstrong one day. They’re anti achievement. And you feel that vandalizing statues and looting businesses is an achievement, your aims are low. Good at destroying, no creative abilities.

            1. No unified Italian state, a collection provinces known a Italian peninsula. All were identified as Italians, though dominated by foreign powers. As times grew worse there was Italian Rennasance, a unique period Italian art and philosophy that influenced the world. There was no unified state until Gerbaldi threw out the foreigners. The North End is evidence that it is impossible to snuff out Italian culture. It will take more than a spineless mayor to do that.

  6. Barolo, You are so right, nothing good can come of this. God Bless those New Yorkers who
    fought for their rights & that is why their Columbus statue is still there. I am so glad these
    people stood up for their rights, unlike Boston.

    1. What we are doing here is hiding the statue??!? I’d that what the solution is??? We are letting these people get away with telling us what to do!!! Honestly and the mayor is keeping the peace??? He is a weak politician looking for a job in the white house under Democrats. Pretty soon they will want to change the name of the park!! It’s awful..

      1. Rd, I’m afraid that – just like the statue – these things are already decided. Someone is pulling the strings and it ain’t “we the people”. While the mayor looked right in to the camera and said that he knew nothing about a name change for the park, I assure you, the park is changing names. For months I’ve heard people use the term “Italian-American Heritage Park”. I’ll bet you that’s a done deal. Further, the mayor announced Monday that there will be public conversation about a new statue… that too, I’m afraid, is already done. The idea of an Italian Immigrant (possibly, an immigrant family) seems to be the replacement. While all of this has been under the idea that we have a voice… the truth is, we don’t. If I were betting, I would say that a few powerful business people in the neighborhood have a voice. And all of this is a “negotiation”. You see, the mayor has his hands full with all of the people want Columbus erased. They’re not only loud and organized as “activists”, they are also potentially violent. Who needs that headache? Meanwhile, the business people in the neighborhood need things too… they need garbage pick-up, they need to keep the homeless in check so they don’t scare the customers away, they need gas heaters for outdoor dining, etc. This then becomes a “negotiation”. The mayor gives the business leaders what they need/want, in return, the business leaders support the mayor’s moves on Columbus… it’s very simple, really.

    1. Yes, I live here now and have lived in the North End most of my life and am of Italian descent. Do I win?

      I don’t want to speak for the neighborhood groups but you heard what their reaction was at the meeting(s). The neighborhood is very happy with the mayor’s plan, the knights are happy as is the friends group that takes care of the park. The only people speaking against it are a few that can’t let it go. It’s time to move on from Columbus and honor the true heroes, our Italian immigrants that settled here, worked hard and overcame discrimination to make a home here. A statue honoring Italian immigrants is much more meaningful to the North End than one of a controversial explorer.

  7. Barolo , glad to see that you know how the game in Boston is played. Your absolutely right it’s always been this way in the city between the mayor and the business leaders. “One hand washes the other.” Of course the name of the park is going to be changed.Italians have always had to fight for everything.So they will go through the motions and as usual they’ll throw us a crumb because as you wrote it’s a done deal allready.

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