Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Disappearance of General Joseph Warren

General Joseph Warren statue, 1904, with the Hotel Warren in the background.  (BPL Flickr photo group).

(edited to add a link to a Boston Globe article and contemporary photo of the statue, 1/11/2013)


Staying in Roxbury, we're going to honor the memory of General Joseph Warren, lament the loss of Warren square, and consider the, ahem, relocation of his statue.  Joseph Warren was born in Roxbury in 1741. He became a doctor, and played an active role in events leading up to the American revolution. Warren authored the Suffolk Resolves and served as President of the Massachusetts Provisional Congress. It was Joseph Warren who sent Dawes and Revere to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams that the British were on their way to Lexington. He was appointed to the rank of Major General (they did things like that in those days), but chose to serve in the front lines at Breeds Hill, where he was killed in the third assault when he was recognized by a British officer and shot in the head. In death, Warren was memorialized as the first martyr of the revolution.


Warren square, Roxbury, 1931.

 The Warren homestead was in Roxbury along what is now Warren street. Warren street is one of the original roads of Roxbury; it shows up in the earliest listing of roads, in 1662. In 1825, during another comprehensive listing of roads, it was renamed Warren street. The Warren house shown in the 1931 map above was built by Joseph Warren's nephew. John C. Warren in 1841. Like both his uncle Joseph and his father John Warren, John C. was a doctor. John Warren was one of the founders of Harvard Medical School, and served on the faculty. His son, John C. Warren, took his father's place on the faculty, and was one of the leading surgeons of his day.


The Warren house, 1850.An omnibus races up Warren street, a man rides on horseback, and dogs wander the street.



Ceremony at Warren square, circa 1940s. Note that a tree has grown up directly in front of the General.


In 1902, a statue of Joseph Warren was placed on an island in what became Warren square, within sight of the old Warren house. The photo above shows the community out to honor General Warren. A schoolboy band, scouts, a military contingent and dignitaries are observed by a small crowd. 



General Warren statue postcard, showing the New Jerusalem church, home to a Swedenborgian congregation. 

During the 1960s, the intersection was reworked, removing the triangular island that once housed the Warren statue. The buildings on the west side of Warren square are all gone, in including the handsome Hotel Warren building and the Swedenborgian New Jerusalem church. And gone, also, is the statue of Joseph Warren. So where did it go?

The story is that on a tour of City of Boston facilities, an alumnus of Roxbury Latin school noticed the statue of Warren in a garage somewhere. As it wasn't being shown, and as Warren was himself an alumnus of the school, the gentleman made inquiries as to whether the statue might temporarily be moved to Roxbury Latin, now located in West Roxbury. As the old home of the statue had disappeared, and as there was no apparent interest by current Roxbury residents in a statue of a dead white guy, the statue was duly sent to West Roxbury, where it sits to this day. There have been calls to bring Joseph Warren's statue  home, but with little community support, he stays at Roxbury Latin, overlooking Centre and Spring streets and St Theresa's church. A Boston Globe article from 2011 discusses the movement of the statue to West Roxbury in 1969, and provides a photo of the statue in its current location.

18 comments:

  1. Question: so how did it get to the garage? That's a big part of the question "where did it go?" No? (smile). And there is more to the "current Roxbury residents" story (smile). The current Warren/Moreland Roxbury residents are, yes, largely african-american and very likely yes 'don't want a dead white guy' but he is more than that. He purchased & owned an African boy, and because of patterns of racial power politics in the city (held over from that time) residential changes to the Dudley Sq. area could again, put Gen. Warren back in racial 'fashion' sooner than one might think (smile).

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  2. He got to the garage when they re-arranged the intersection. And yes, the Warren statue is relevant to the question of how current residents can interact with the history of their district. Can contemporary black people have any interest in what happened in Roxbury before African Americans arrived in large numbers? That's up to them to answer - I don't presume to answer for them.

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  3. I've been wondering what happened to the statue for quite some time. Glad to finally find out. I might have to make a trip to West Roxbury to pay it a visit. Thanks for clearing that up!

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  4. Since it's widely believed that Dr. Warren might have been elected our first president had he survived the war, any statue in his honor definitely deserves a more prominent display. Maybe the residents of Roxbury need a daily reminder as to how they are able to live there as free men and women. Haha, but who am I kidding?!

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  5. Thanks for posting these pictures. I grew up on Moreland St in the fifties and the old Warren House abutted our backyard. I checked Zillow earlier tonight and according to that site 130 Warren Street (the Old Warren House) is now a high priced "community" with a modern interior and a private gym. I hope this information is incorrect, but it doesn't appear to be. How could this happen
    to a beautiful old historic building?

    The original Warren House, where General Warren was born, was demolished in 1846 and the "new" Warren House built soon after. During the demolition, a Revolutionary War powder horn was found within the walls.

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  6. I remember these sites well. I also grew up in the area on Kearsarge Terrace, now long gone in the 50's. The Warren house backed up to my friend's house on Winthrop St. She and I occasionally were invited into the Warren house as a relative of her mother's lived there. I find it hard to fathom why the place was "modernized" as opposed to preserving it's historical significance.Same goes for the Warren Hotel and alot of the other wonderful buildings that were on or fronted onto Warren St. Sure looks different now. It's mistakenly known as "Progress" I guess.

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  7. The Dr Warren statue was moved to Roxbury from where it had stood earlier. It had been in Scollay Sq in the 1800's, but not sure when it was cast.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=BLxCAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA409&lpg=PA409&dq=dr+warren+statue+scollay+sq&source=bl&ots=weyxuZ6s1h&sig=Z9i7aOO1c0972cpracvS47U5bzc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=_q18VObzCoKRoQTm9YD4Cg&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=dr warren stat

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  8. Paul Wayland Bartlett (1865-1925) was the sculptor of the General Joseph Warren statue in Roxbury. The statue was cast by the Henry-Bonnard Bronze Company. The architectural firm Carrere & Hastings designed the base. The statue was cast and dedicated in 1904.

    Reference: http://collections.si.edu/search/results.htm?q=record_ID:siris_ari_15923

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  9. Who knows what the inscription on the statue said? I do!

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  10. I used to walk home from Dudley St. Station at least 5 days a week. I would always read the inscription. It fascinated me. To get an idea of this man's character, read Esther Forbe's "Johnny Tremain". Also A Black man, Crispus Attucks, killed in the Boston Massacre (March 5, 1770) is credited by historians, as the first to die in the American Revolution. A monument to those victims is outside the Old State House. John Adams defended them in Court. It is a crime that the Joseph Warren statue was razed, when the Boston Redevelopement Authority destroyed Roxbury!
    JoelW

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  11. This is not true a group of Roxbury residents have been trying to get the statue back. it's very important to this community. this is part of the identity of Roxbury. He was born here. people should know that Warren street is Named for him. yes The BRA did come in and destroy Roxbury I say let's get bring General Joseph Warren back to Warren Street.

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  12. When I said "razed", I meant that I saw the statue laying on it's side after it had been knocked over. It was disrespectful. I couldn't imagine that being allowed to happen in any other part of the city. Dr Warren was the first general to die in an American war. You can also get an idea of those times by watching the great Disney program Johnny Tremain.

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  13. The Masons from the 6th Masonic District commissioned a new statue of General Joseph Warren loosely fashioned from the one that graced Warren Square Roxbury. It was dedicated this past October 2016 and now stands on a pudding stone bolder near his final resting area at Forest Hills Cemetery. The Masons decided to build their own after months of negotiations between the school and city with no results.

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  14. After months of negotiations with the school and city, to move the statue to the burial grounds at Forest Hills Cemetery with no affect, the Masons from the sixth Masonic District commissioned a sculpture and erected their own statue of the General. It's loosely fashioned after the one that graced Warren Square for so many years. The statue was dedicated in October of 2016 and resides at the grave site of General Warren.

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  15. Who recalls the inscription on the statue?

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  16. I'm assuming the inscription on the granite - if so - It's taken from this Warren quote “When liberty is the prize, who would shun the warfare? Who would stoop to waste a coward thought on life?

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  17. Has anyone taken my suggestion and read Esther Forbes' "Johnny Tremain"? I have never read a better fictional account of revolutionary Boston. That book is a grand achievement in writing.
    Joel W

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  18. Is there a fund in Roxbury, to which one can contribute, to honor that great, fallen American Generals memory?

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