The North End’s Christopher Columbus statue, that was vandalized once again over the summer during protests in Boston, will not return to its pedestal in Christopher Columbus Park according to Mayor Martin Walsh.
Instead, the Boston Arts Commission will begin a process to design and construct a new statue honoring Italian immigration to Boston at the waterfront park.
The damaged statue, which is currently being restored, will most likely end up at the senior housing development currently under construction in the neighborhood on North Margin Street.
Mayor Walsh made the announcement Monday during a virtual ZOOM meeting with the North End/ Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC).
“The Columbus statue, I means an awful lot to residents of the North End and obviously it’s a very passionate, emotional issue,” said Walsh during the meeting.
The Mayor pledged to create an advisory group of North End residents that will work with the Boston Arts Commission on designing the new statue honoring Italian Immigrants. He also said there will be a “‘robust community process” as the city and residents move forward on what sort of statute should commemorate the history of Italaians in Boston.
The Boston Art Commission will hold its next meeting on Tuesday, October 13 at 4 p.m, just one day after North Enders will celebrate Columbus Day, and begin a preliminary discussion about the new plan.
This meeting will be held virtually and residents can participate by going to the ZOOM link at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/3920949410#success and using your computer’s audio and microphone. If you are unable to connect to audio, or you do not have Internet, you can call into the meeting by dialing 301-715-8592 and entering Meeting I.D. 392 094 9410 #.
In recent years the Christopher Columbus statue in the park has been the subject of vandalism, with some calling for its removal due to his alleged hand in indigenous genecoide in the Americas.
However, during the racial unrest that has swept across the nation in June, the Columbus statue was again vandalized.
First, red paint was thrown at the statue and Black Lives Matter spray painted at the base. Then a few days later the statue was decapitated.
The statue was removed by the City of Boston and is being stored in a warehouse by the city to be restored.
Once restored there is a tentative plan to place the Columbus statue at the former Knights of Columbus building on North Margin Street that is currently being redeveloped into 23 affordable apartments for seniors.
When Christopher Columbus Park was dedicated by Mayor Kevin White in the 1970s as one of the earliest waterfront parks in Boston, the true history of Columbus’s atrocities against indegenoius people wasn’t common knowledge. .
In schools across the country and in the North End, it was taught tat Columbus was an important explorer that discovered the New World aboard his three ships. He became hero to Italian Americans everywhere.
The Columbus’s legacy continues to be debated and while he was widely venerated in the centuries after his death, public perceptions have changed as scholars have given greater attention to negative aspects of his life.
Historians now widely agree of his role in enslavement of the indigenous population in his quest for gold and his brutal subjugation of the Taíno people of Hispaniola, leading to their near-extinction.
While Columbus has a complex history and symbolizes many different things to different people, there is a lot more to the history of the park than just the naming of it.
The park was built in the late 1960s/early 1970s under Mayor Kevin White and designed by his Parks Director Tony Forgione. It was advocated by the North End residents, who were watching their entire waterfront turn into development. The statue was placed later on as a celebration of Italian heritage and was paid for by the families that surround the base of the statue. Some of those families were original North End immigrant families.
Groups that have met with Mayor Walsh so far to discuss the future of the statue are the Sons and Daughters of Italy, UNICO, Foundation of Italian Organizations, St. Joseph’s Society, Pirandello Lyceum and the Italian American Alliance.