J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Three Statues of Dr. Joseph Warren

After yesterday’s news about this month’s unveiling of a new Samuel Adams statue at the Boston Tea Party Ships, Boston 1775 reader John L. Smith wrote:
Are you familiar with a statue anywhere in Boston (or anywhere for that matter) of Dr. Warren? HE is the one who should have multiple statues!
Wikipedia counts three public statues of Dr. Joseph Warren. The oldest is a marble carving inside the lodge beside the Bunker Hill Monument. The sculptor was Cambridge artist Henry Dexter (1806-1876), and his work was dedicated in 1857. (Dexter licensed a Charlestown man to sell busts based on this sculpture, so there might be more of those all over.) The photo at right comes from Warren Cabinets, and an older image is in the Boston Public Library’s Flickr collection.

Another full-length statue is in Warren, Pennsylvania, named after the doctor in 1795. This bronze statue went up in 1910, and I can’t find a name for the artist. The local D.A.R. refurbished the statue recently.

The third Warren statue is now standing on the grounds of the Roxbury Latin School, a fact which has produced a tiny controversy. Warren grew up in Roxbury, went to the town school, and taught there for a brief time after college. The present-day academy traces its roots from that town school.

Roxbury became part of Boston in 1868, and in 1904 the city installed this bronze statue of Dr. Warren in Warren Square, along Warren Street, in front of the Warren Hotel. (You sense a theme, no?) The sculptor was Paul Wayland Bartlett (1865-1925). As historic images at Black Connections show, it stood on a tall platform in the middle of a traffic island.

In 1968, the city removed that statue from that square because of road construction, planning to restore it once the project was done. After the statue spent months in lonely storage at Franklin Park, however, a hospital physician convinced the city to loan it to the Roxbury Latin School. And there it’s remained since 1969 (with no podium). Though officially still the property of the city, it now stands in the courtyard of a private school educating about 300 boys.

As with so many questions in Boston, this also involves neighborhoods. Roxbury Latin School is located in West Roxbury. Back in Warren’s day, that was part of the town of Roxbury, though not the part he lived in. West Roxbury split from Roxbury in 1851, then joined with Boston in 1874. So the statue remains within the bounds of the city, and even within the bounds of what used to be Roxbury, but not in what we now call Roxbury.

Boston’s statue of Dr. Warren is apparently well cared for, but it’s not easy for the public to see it, much less stumble across it and learn about him. In 2011, the Boston Globe editorialized about the need to find a proper public place for Warren’s statue.

TOMORROW: But where would it go?


Joanq said...

I agree. There should be a statue in downtown Boston for Warren. He doesn't get as much credit as he should, probably because he died so young. He did far more than others did who names are more well known, like John Hancock.

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing. As one of my favorite historical figures, I definitely sought out the Warren statue in the Bunker Hill memorial last year when I was able to make my first trip to Boston. Next time I go I'll have to find a way out to Roxbury.

J. L. Bell said...

E. J. Witek of the Dr. Benjamin Church blog alerted me to the (historically inaccurate) relief of Warren and Col. William Prescott on the doors of the U.S. Senate chamber.

John L Smith Jr said...

....there's a Dr. Benjamin Church blog? Is it sponsored by the Spy Museum?

J. L. Bell said...

Check it out. Lots of original research.

mfuhrer said...

Surprising that neither Warren MA nor Warren ME has a statue of their namesake.

John L Smith Jr said...

I just subscribed to the Dr. Church feed blog. Thanks for the recommendation, JL!

MrLugnutz said...

...as for Warren, MA not having a statute, Warren was originally called "Western" and changed the name in the 1830's to help avoid confusion with "Weston" Mass. The town did take Dr. Warren's name as an honor to him.

J. L. Bell said...

All the Warren statues (and there’s another one now, at his gravesite) were made after the 1830s, so there’s still time for Warren, Massachusetts and Maine, to commission one.