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This blog is a place for dialogue on issues and actions relating to Boston's unique built environment and the preservation and continuing evolution of historic resources within it. My goal, as the Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, is to post timely, relevant and thought-provoking intelligence, ideas, and insights that will engage conversations, inform our actions, and broaden perspectives on preservation.

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Greg Galer, Executive Director, Boston Preservation Alliance

Executive Director

AllianceViews Blog

Boston Common: It’s Not Just for Cows Anymore

July 10th, 2012  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

Photo credit: Boston Parks and Recreation Department

In the mid-sixteenth century, Boston Common was little more than a public cow pasture. Over the past several hundred years, it has become the vibrant public space where Bostonians and visitors alike get fresh air in the city. Near the corner of Park and Tremont Streets stands the Brewer Fountain, a gift to the City from local businessman Gardner Brewer in the mid-1860s. The bronze fountain was constructed in France for the 1855 Paris World Fair and then moved to Boston. Featuring Neptune, Amphirite, Acis and Galatea, figures from Greek mythology, it is 22 feet tall and weighs 15,000 pounds.

The fountain first began working in 1868, but over the course of many years, fell into disrepair and then ceased to function altogether in 2003. In May 2010, after a year-long, off-site restoration was undertaken by the City of Boston in partnership with the Friends of the Public Garden. The City commissioned artist and sculpture conservator Joshua Craine of Daedalus Inc., the fountain was rededicated. In order to restore the fountain, Craine first had to clear the pipes of the fountain of park detritus, everything from pigeon skeletons to tennis balls. Then, he and his team pressure-washed the fountain, carefully dismantled it into 14 pieces, and brought it to their office in Watertown, where it received thoughtful restoration services from architects, engineers, electricians, and plumbers. In order to remove the patina that had formed, Craine used oxidizing chemicals and a blowtorch. He also painstakingly repaired even the smallest holes and imperfections that had formed over the duration of the Fountain’s reign in Boston. The fountain was reassembled and returned to its proper home in the Common in November, 2010.

The restoration, which cost $640,000, was funded in part by the federal government, and in part by local benefactors. The rejuvenation of this fountain is part of an overarching multimillion-dollar endeavor to beautify the Common, which includes major improvements to the corner in which the fountain is located. Don’t let the summer pass by without spending an afternoon relaxing in this part of the common, and enjoying the beauty of this magnificent—and magnificently restored—work of art.

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