Four Benches Carved in Stone

September 27, 2011

This summer, the four stone benches on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall have been given much needed attention. All were cleaned and sealed to protect them from the elements. And, the bench dedicated to Civil War Veterans at the entrance to the Mall at Arlington Street has been restored and rededicated.

Civil War Bench

Erected in 1931 by the Massachusetts Department Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, 1861-1865 (DUV), this was the first memorial bench to be placed on the Mall.

On September 9, 1994, a Hatch Shell concert by a punk-pop band named Green Day turned into a riot, and the foot of this cast concrete bench was broken by vandals.

This year, Margaret Pokorny of the Commonwealth Avenue Mall Committee reached out to the the DUV, still an active organization. Paying for the restoration of the leg and a careful cleaning of the bench fit perfectly with their mission of “working to preserve civil war battlefields, historic sites and Union monuments…”

On July 10th, members of the DUV came to Boston and rededicated the memorial with a display of flags and the reading of a traditional dedication script. “The DUV was an Allied Order of the Grand Army of the Republic. Boston hosted the encampments of Army four times.

In April of 1931, probably during one of these encampments, a DUV group placed the bench with a bronze marker and an inscription to their fathers on the back of the bench,” said the Friends of the Public Garden in announcing the completed restoration.

Howard Bench

Also near Arlington Street is the bench dedicated to Charles Pagelsen Howard. This carved, granite memorial was designed by artist Joseph Coleth.

Howard was an early leader in the fight to preserve the Back Bay as a residential neighborhood. He was a vocal opponent of high rise structures replacing the townhouses on Commonwealth Avenue.

He was President of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay and had a very active political and civic career. Howard served as a State Senator, treasurer of Middlesex County, and chaired the Massachusetts Public Building Commission.

Merwin Bench

Near Berkeley Street is a bench dedicated to Henry Childs Merwin. Merwin’s family lived at 126 Commonwealth Avenue. He was an attorney and author best known for his biographies of Thomas Jefferson and Arron Burr. He was also a great dog lover. In 1910, he published a collection of essays from the Atlantic under the title, Dogs and Men.

Members of the Merwin family contributed funds for this bench’s rejuvenation.

Dewart Bench

Near Dartmouth Street is a cast concrete bench inscribed in memory of William Herbert Dewart and his wife, Elizabeth Haven Dewart. Rev. Dewart was an assistant rector of Trinity Church from the late 1800s until 1914 when he was appointed rector of the Old North Church. He served that congregation until 1926.

During their years in the Back Bay, the Dewarts lived at 277 Clarendon Street and 247 Berkeley Street. In an odd coincidence, like Henry Merwin, Rev. Dewart also lived at 126 Commonwealth Avenue, before his marriage.

The Dewart bench was installed in 1944 and the current work on it was supported by donations from the Dewart family.

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