I grew up and live in Boston’s western suburbs, which means that most of the North Shore and South Shore suburbs are nearly as foreign to me as the Solomon Islands. I think I’ve been to the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers, but only once or twice. And I had no idea that its centerpiece for two decades was this piece of public art commemorating Liberty Tree in Boston.
According to the Boston Globe obituary for artist Albert A. Surman, he designed that tree for the New England pavilion of the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.
“He created the large-scale sculpture, a stylized tree composed of thousands of metal tubes as the centerpiece of his design for the New England pavilion,’’ said his son, Barry S. of Scarsdale, N.Y. “It symbolized an actual tree where the Sons of Liberty posted notices until it was chopped down by the British in the early days of the American Revolution. The sculpture’s multicolored glass leaves reflected New England’s famous fall colors.’’After the fair, the tree was moved to Boston Common, as shown above in the Globe file photo. After being refurbished, from 1972 to 1992 it was the anchor for the Liberty Tree Mall.
Which is somewhat ironic since Liberty Tree was originally used to promote consumer boycotts. Okay, that’s not as ironic as the Huck Finn Shopping Center in Hannibal, Missouri (“Hey, let’s name the mall after a poor homeless kid!”), but it shows how we Americans can eventually harness nearly everything to commerce.
According to the mall and the Surman family, however, the tree has now disappeared. Anyone on the North Shore know where it is? Anyone?