Boston holds amazing treasures for families who want to explore the city, from cutting-edge museums to fascinating historic sites. If you’re looking for a different kind of activity this summer, try an outdoor sculpture safari. Historic statues and sculptures are scattered all over the city, including some that have been around for well over a century. Here are 10 kid-friendly sculptures that your family may or may not be aware of. Make a scavenger hunt out of finding them. Along the way, you’ll learn more about art, literature and history – all for free!
1. Democratic Donkey – Old City Hall, 45 School St., Boston. The donkey here stands patiently in front of Old City Hall, grazing on the concrete. Reportedly imported from Italy, he’s the symbol of the Democratic Party, and his story is told on a plaque nearby. In front of the statue, you’ll find Republican elephants in two bronze footprints labeled “Stand in Opposition” for those opposed to Democratic Party philosophy and ideals.
2. Creature Pond – Post Office Square, northwest corner of South Main Street and Second Avenue South. Look for a frog, ducks, turtles, salamanders and even a small heron in bronze at the Humane Society’s Creature Pond fountain sculpture in Post Office Square. It was created by a collaboration of nine sculptors, including Lowry Burgess and Sydney Roberts Rockefeller, in 1982. Can you find the 15 animals in plaques set in the bricks around the base of the fountain?
3. Make Way for Ducklings – Boston Public Garden. These delightful bronze birds depict Mrs. Mallard and the eight ducklings she led to their new home in the Public Garden in Robert McCloskey’s beloved children’s book, Make Way for Ducklings. The sculpture, created by Nancy Schon in 1987, is set at exactly the spot where the ducks entered the garden in the story and is now the finish line of the annual Mother’s Day Make Way for Ducklings parade.
4. Bagheera Fountain – Boston Public Garden. Remember Bagheera, the panther who saved the human boy, Mowgli, and then helped raise him in Rudyard Kipling’s classic The Jungle Book? This is his statue, originally sculpted by Lillian Swann Saarinen in 1939. It calls to mind words from the book: “He loved better than anything else to go with Bagheera into the dark warm heart of the forest, to sleep all through the drowsy day, and at night see how Bagheera did his killing.”
5. Small Child Fountain – Boston Public Garden. Sculptor Mary E. Moore, an artist and teacher at Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill, created this small child in 1929.
6. Boy and Bird – Boston Public Garden. This little boy has been feeding the bird in his hand for more than 80 years. His sculptor, Bashka Paeff, was a Russian immigrant who used to be a ticket seller in the Park Street T Station and thought up the idea for this fountain while she was eating her lunch in Boston Common. She often worked on the model of the statue while she was at her ticket booth. The sculpture was originally created in 1934 and recast in 1977.
7. Vendome Fire Memorial – Commonwealth Avenue Mall. When the Vendome Hotel across the street from this wall burned down in 1972, nine Boston firemen died. You can read the story of the tragedy on a polished wall hung with the bronze replica of a real firefighter’s coat and hat. Sculptor Ted Clausen, who created the memorial in 1997, says he loves to see parents read the story to their children and then sit on the bench and share their reactions. It’s a great place to think about what makes a hero.
8. Tortoise and the Hare – Copley Square. Everyone knows the story of the Tortoise and the Hare – how the Tortoise won the race by plodding along while the Hare kept stopping by the wayside. Here they are in bronze, right near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Sculptor Nancy Schoen, the same artist who created the Make Way for Ducklings sculpture in the Public Garden, created the Tortoise and the Hare in 1996, the Boston Marathon’s 100th anniversary.
9. Boston Women’s Memorial – Commonwealth Avenue Mall, between Fairfield and Gloucester streets. President Adams’ wife, Abigail, begged her husband to “remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.” This 2003 sculpture by Meredith Bergman celebrates three forward-thinking Boston women who made important contributions to history. The sculpture depicts Abigail standing against a pedestal and surveying her neighbors: poet Phyllis Wheatley, who leans on her elbow and ponders what to write, and women’s rights advocate Lucy Stone, who is shown writing a manifesto.
10. Paul Revere – Paul Revere Mall (near Old North Church, 193 Salem St.), North End. We all know the American Revolution story of Paul Revere’s midnight ride on April 18, 1775. But did you know that he actually didn’t cry, “The British are coming?” That’s because most of the colonists considered themselves British anyway. Historians believe Revere actually said, “The Regulars are coming out!” in reference to the invading British soldiers loyal to the king. The Revere sculpture, perhaps Boston’s most famous statue, was created by Cyrus Dallin and unveiled on Sept. 22, 1940.