When Friends of the Public Garden board member John Winthrop donated $13,000 for the restoration of the
Founders Memorial on the Boston Common, he was not only helping to preserve an iconic piece of public art, but also honoring his own familial heritage, since the memorial depicts an image of the first governor of Massachusetts, also named John Winthrop, who is his 11th-generation direct ancestor.
Located on the north entrance to the park on Beacon Street near Spruce Street, the bas-relief sculpture was commissioned in 1930 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Boston’s founding and created by John Francis Paramino, a North Bennett Street School graduate who also designed monuments on the Common to Commodore John Barry and the Marquis de La Fayette.
The memorial portrays the city’s first English resident, William Blackstone, welcoming the colonial governor and his company to the Shawmut peninsula, and its rear side facing Beacon Street is inscribed with an extract from John Winthrop’s lay sermon on “Christian Charity,” as well as a quotation from William Bradford’s history of Plymouth Plantation.
The contemporary Winthrop’s gift allowed Watertown-based art conservation firm Daedalus Inc. to restore the memorial, including cleaning and resealing the bronze elements; cleaning the slate plaque on its rear; and repointing the masonry around the bronze and the front steps.
Winthrop, now 82, admits that he deliberately chose to ignore his roots when he attended Harvard University as an undergraduate: he majored in English and opted not to take a single history course.
“The statue has haunted me my whole life,” said Winthrop, who now resides in Charleston, S.C. “As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more interested in history – both American history and my family’s history – and learned how foolish I was to ignore it when I was younger.”
“We are very grateful for John’s help in conserving this important memorial,” said Liz Vizza, executive director of the Friends group. “Thanks to John and many other generous individuals, we are able to care for 42 pieces of public art in the Boston Common, Public Garden and Commonwealth Avenue Mall.”
Chris Cook, Boston’s chief of environment, energy and open space, expressed the city’s gratitude to both Winthrop and the Friends of the Public Garden for undertaking the project.