By Beth Treffeisen
After months of being cocooned, The George Robert White Memorial or locally known as “The Angel”, has been revealed, making a forgotten dark corner of the Boston Public Garden into a centerpiece.
On Wednesday, June 7, The Friends of the Public Garden hosted a grand opening ceremony in the Public Garden to celebrate the completion of the project and to thank the community for its generous support.
“The Friends of the Public Garden are unique in their generosity, spirit, and level of commitment that they have,” said Chris Cook, Boston Parks Commissioner.
He continued, “This project behind us has been made possible not only because of the actual judiciary support of so many but also because donated services and the spirit of collaboration of the Friends of the Public Garden and their membership has with the Parks Department – this is just extraordinary.”
A Red Horsechestnut tree was also dedicated in memory of Anne Brooke, the Friends late Board chair whose inspired leadership of the Friends and her efforts for this special fountain restoration project.
“It is a very little token, we know, to thank her for all that she did for the Friends of the Public Garden and for these three parks; the Common, the Garden, and the Mall. But I think she’ll say it would be something she would like,” said Henry Lee, the president emeritus of the Friends of the Public Garden.
He continued, “We promise to take care of it and make sure it grows and that her memory is never forgotten with the growth of that beautiful tree.”
The fountain was discontinued in the 1980’s due to a number of issues and has been inactive ever since until the re-opening on Wednesday. Work to restore the fountain began when neighbors approached the Friends and offered to help recruit other neighbors to raise the funds needed to restore the fountain.
To cover the extensive work to restore the fountain the Friends raised $400,000 to complete the work and another $300,000 for future maintenance.
In partnership with the City of Boston Parks Department, the fountain restoration work began in August 2016 and was completed in November 2016.
The basin of the fountain was restored with a historically accurate pebble surface and plumbing elements were replaced to allow water to once again flow from French’s ram’s head cornucopias.
In addition, during the winter and spring months of 2017, the restoration included creating an accessible pathway, benches, stair railings, and landscape plantings.
“We had a corner that was so dark and unwelcoming and to now have it completely filled with light and have the healing power of this water flowing into America’s first botanical garden is only made possible because of the generosity of all of you here, is a tremendous gift to the City of Boston,” said Cook.
George Robert White, 19th century Bostonian, who left the funds to have the fountain built. He made a fortune in the pharmaceuticals business and made significant contributions to a variety of Boston institutions.
Upon his death in 1922, he bequeathed an endowment of over $5 million to the City of Boston to finance works of public beauty and utility throughout the City.
Part of that request included $50,000 of the funds set aside for the creation of a memorial in his memory. Well-known sculptor, Daniel Chester French, was commissioned to create this memorial in the Garden to the noted Boston philanthropist, which was completed in 1924.
“I think there can be a tendency to overlook things that have been broken for a long time, right?” said Cook. “The water fountains don’t work or the fence needs repair and that’s where the advocacy and where the Friends really fill that void.”
He continued, “It makes this one of America’s greatest parks and we don’t have to defend that to anybody; they just need to walk through.”