In September 1989, the Jamaica Plain Historical Society first turned its attention to one person’s presence here which is commemorated a by a fine granite memorial. A formal bench with central shaft, from which emerges a forest Indian, erected by friends of Francis Parkman in 1906, marks the approximate site of Mr. Parkman’s home, called “Sunnyside” and its accompanying gardens between Prince Street and the northwest corner of Jamaica Pond. The memorial also serves as a reminder of all the Pondside properties taken by the City for the Jamaica (now Olmsted) Park project of the 1890’s.
Parkman spent the temperate months of the years after 1852 here away from his downtown home. He died here in November 1893, just after completing his life’s work on the struggle of the English and French in America.
On that September Sunday in 1989 (Parkman having been born on September 16, 1823) the Jamaica Plain Historical Society distributed Parkman’s account of the Deerfield Raid as a sample of his work and will do so again this Sunday September 8, for its third annual Parkman celebration.
In 1989, the environs of the memorial were clear of undergrowth as the result of a recent cleanup. Talks dealt with the sculptor, Daniel Chester French, the memorial’s place in his career, the purpose of public sculpture, and with general remarks about Mr. Parkman. At that time, the memorial was lacking the bas-relief of the historian, and most of the letters in the bench’s floor were missing. These victims of vandalism, taken during the Vietnam War when brass’s price soared, were going to be replaced.
A year later, the historian’s face was back, thanks to the Henderson Foundation of the City of Boston who used new technology and materials other than brass for the bas-relief. Talks on the memorial’s environs and a Boston Evening Transcript article on the Parkman finally accomplished the formal dedication of the memorial, which had never occurred in 1906.
Also, the memorial began to be decorated anonymously in the fall and holiday seasons. As the centennial of the historian’s death approaches, it is time to plan further ahead for the commemoration of the only Jamaica Plain resident ever to appear on a postage stamp.
More information on Parkman here: http://harvardmagazine.com/2014/09/vita-francis-parkman
Written by Walter H. Marx. Reprinted with permission from the September 10, 1993 Jamaica Plain Gazette.
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