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Boston Common and the Public Garden: 13 hidden gems

Waddle aside, ducklings!

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The Public Garden and Boston Common together account for 74 acres of urban escape. The parks are chock-full of things to do and see, some a lot more notable than others.

A lot of people probably know about the Frog Pond or Make Way for Ducklings or the Edgar Allan Poe statue. And the memorial to the 54th Massachusetts is surely one of the world’s best-known military monuments, if for no other reason than the movie Glory.

But there are plenty of hidden gems in the Garden and the Common. If you know where to look...

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William Ellery Channing Statue

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Herbert Adams sculpted this marble and granite statue of William Ellery Channing, the leading Unitarian minister of his day. It stands across from the Arlington Street Church, where Channing ministered from 1803 until his death in 1842.

The sculpture went up in 1903, on the 100th anniversary of Channing’s birth.

Charles Sumner Statue

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Thomas Ball, the same sculptor behind the Public Garden’s far more famous George Washington statue, sculpted this likeness of the fiery abolitionist senator Charles Sumner.

The bronze and granite statue went up in 1878.

Bagheera Fountain

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A few steps to the southeast of the Swan Boats in the Public Garden, toward Charles Street, is a fountain that Lillian Swann Saarinen (ex-wife of Eero) sculpted in the mid-1980s (it debuted in 1986).

The name is taken from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book and shows one of the characters, a panther named Bagheera, lunging at an eagle. It’s supposed to symbolize escape from captivity.

Tadeusz Kosciuszko Statue

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Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson sculpted this bronze and granite statue of the Polish hero.

It went up in 1927 to commemorate the 150th anniversary Kosciuszko’s enlistment in the Continental Army. He fought for American independence with much success—for Poland’s independence from Russia, not so much.

Thomas Cass Statue

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Richard Edwin Brooks cast this bronze and granite statue in 1899.

It depicts Thomas Cass, an Irish immigrant who rose to the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army during the Civil War. Cass would die in Boston of wounds sustained in Virginia in 1862.

Check out this map for more Boston sites honoring Irish-Americans.

Bronze statue of a man with his arms folded and a hat on his head.

Edward Everett Hale Monument

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Bela Lyon Pratt designed the bronze-and-granite statue of clergyman and journalist Edward Everett Hale (whose uncle was Edward Everett, namesake of the Boston suburb, and whose granduncle was Nathan Hale—he of “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” fame).

The statue was erected in 1913.

Wendell Phillips Statue

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Daniel Chester French, probably best-known for sculpting the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in D.C., cast this granite and stone depiction of abolitionist orator and lawyer Wendell Philips.

It was erected in 1915.

For more markers and monuments commemorating Boston’s role in the abolition of slavery, check out this map.

John Paul II Placard

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This placard went up to commemorate the first Mass that the relatively new pontiff celebrated in the United States—October 1, 1979 in Boston Common.

John Paul II passes through Dorchester in 1979.
Photo via Boston.com archive

Founders Memorial

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Right where Spruce Street meets Beacon Street is a relief sculpture commemorating the 300th anniversary of the founding of Boston.

John Francis Paramino designed it and the city unveiled it in 1930.

The sculpture depicts William Blackstone, the city’s first European resident, greeting colonial Gov. John Winthrop.

Shaw Memorial Elms

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On either side of the memorial to the 54th Massachusetts, perhaps the most famous feature of Boston Common this side of the Frog Pond, are two trees believed to be the oldest English elms in the Western Hemisphere.

Dating confirms these trees were planted sometime between 1772 and 1812, and with the permission of John Hancock, who lived nearby where the State House now looms.

Learning, Religion, and Industry

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Right between the Boston Common Visitors Center and Tremont Street are three bronze and granite sculptures depicting Learning, Religion, and Industry

They were erected in 1961 to honor Boston philanthropist George Francis Parkman Jr. Arcangelo Cascieri and Adio Biccari sculpted the trio.

Marquis de Lafayette Plaque

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Just back from where Tremont Street meets Temple Place is a plaque honoring the Marquis de Lafayette, the famed aide de camp to General Washington during the Revolution who tried to spur similar idealism in his native France.

More to the point, the plaque commemorates a grand Lafayette Mall that used to run along that side of the Common. It opened in 1824 in honor of Lafayette’s visit to the city, but disappeared into present-day Tremont in the late 1890s to make way for the T.

The plaque, a bas-relief that John Francis Paramino designed, went up in 1924 on the 100th anniversary of that visit.

Wally Gobetz/Flickr

Park Street Station

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Wait, why include the Park Street T stop on a map of hidden gems in Boston Common and the Public Garden? Glad you asked!

The station is one of the T’s two oldest—the other being Boylston Street, which also opened in 1897. And, because Park Street Station is one of the two oldest hubs on the T, it’s also one of the two oldest subway stations in the Western Hemisphere—because the T is the oldest subway system.

Got it?

William Ellery Channing Statue

Herbert Adams sculpted this marble and granite statue of William Ellery Channing, the leading Unitarian minister of his day. It stands across from the Arlington Street Church, where Channing ministered from 1803 until his death in 1842.

The sculpture went up in 1903, on the 100th anniversary of Channing’s birth.

Charles Sumner Statue

Thomas Ball, the same sculptor behind the Public Garden’s far more famous George Washington statue, sculpted this likeness of the fiery abolitionist senator Charles Sumner.

The bronze and granite statue went up in 1878.

Bagheera Fountain

A few steps to the southeast of the Swan Boats in the Public Garden, toward Charles Street, is a fountain that Lillian Swann Saarinen (ex-wife of Eero) sculpted in the mid-1980s (it debuted in 1986).

The name is taken from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book and shows one of the characters, a panther named Bagheera, lunging at an eagle. It’s supposed to symbolize escape from captivity.

Tadeusz Kosciuszko Statue

Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson sculpted this bronze and granite statue of the Polish hero.

It went up in 1927 to commemorate the 150th anniversary Kosciuszko’s enlistment in the Continental Army. He fought for American independence with much success—for Poland’s independence from Russia, not so much.

Thomas Cass Statue

Bronze statue of a man with his arms folded and a hat on his head.

Richard Edwin Brooks cast this bronze and granite statue in 1899.

It depicts Thomas Cass, an Irish immigrant who rose to the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army during the Civil War. Cass would die in Boston of wounds sustained in Virginia in 1862.

Check out this map for more Boston sites honoring Irish-Americans.

Bronze statue of a man with his arms folded and a hat on his head.

Edward Everett Hale Monument

Bela Lyon Pratt designed the bronze-and-granite statue of clergyman and journalist Edward Everett Hale (whose uncle was Edward Everett, namesake of the Boston suburb, and whose granduncle was Nathan Hale—he of “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” fame).

The statue was erected in 1913.

Wendell Phillips Statue

Daniel Chester French, probably best-known for sculpting the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in D.C., cast this granite and stone depiction of abolitionist orator and lawyer Wendell Philips.

It was erected in 1915.

For more markers and monuments commemorating Boston’s role in the abolition of slavery, check out this map.

John Paul II Placard

John Paul II passes through Dorchester in 1979.
Photo via Boston.com archive

This placard went up to commemorate the first Mass that the relatively new pontiff celebrated in the United States—October 1, 1979 in Boston Common.

John Paul II passes through Dorchester in 1979.
Photo via Boston.com archive

Founders Memorial

Right where Spruce Street meets Beacon Street is a relief sculpture commemorating the 300th anniversary of the founding of Boston.

John Francis Paramino designed it and the city unveiled it in 1930.

The sculpture depicts William Blackstone, the city’s first European resident, greeting colonial Gov. John Winthrop.

Shaw Memorial Elms

On either side of the memorial to the 54th Massachusetts, perhaps the most famous feature of Boston Common this side of the Frog Pond, are two trees believed to be the oldest English elms in the Western Hemisphere.

Dating confirms these trees were planted sometime between 1772 and 1812, and with the permission of John Hancock, who lived nearby where the State House now looms.

Learning, Religion, and Industry

Right between the Boston Common Visitors Center and Tremont Street are three bronze and granite sculptures depicting Learning, Religion, and Industry

They were erected in 1961 to honor Boston philanthropist George Francis Parkman Jr. Arcangelo Cascieri and Adio Biccari sculpted the trio.

Marquis de Lafayette Plaque

Wally Gobetz/Flickr

Just back from where Tremont Street meets Temple Place is a plaque honoring the Marquis de Lafayette, the famed aide de camp to General Washington during the Revolution who tried to spur similar idealism in his native France.

More to the point, the plaque commemorates a grand Lafayette Mall that used to run along that side of the Common. It opened in 1824 in honor of Lafayette’s visit to the city, but disappeared into present-day Tremont in the late 1890s to make way for the T.

The plaque, a bas-relief that John Francis Paramino designed, went up in 1924 on the 100th anniversary of that visit.

Wally Gobetz/Flickr

Park Street Station

Wait, why include the Park Street T stop on a map of hidden gems in Boston Common and the Public Garden? Glad you asked!

The station is one of the T’s two oldest—the other being Boylston Street, which also opened in 1897. And, because Park Street Station is one of the two oldest hubs on the T, it’s also one of the two oldest subway stations in the Western Hemisphere—because the T is the oldest subway system.

Got it?