GREAT BARRINGTON — About 50 people came out on a brisk fall morning Monday to attend the rededication ceremony of the Newsboy Statue on Great Barrington's west end.
"Sculptures are not only worthy artistically but reflect themes in American history and culture," said Historical Commission Chairman Paul Ivory. "They tell fascinating and illuminating stories."
The Newsboy Monument was given to the town by resident Colonel William L. Brown in 1895. Brown, the former business manager for the New York Daily News, felt that the newsboy was the unheralded hero of the media and needed recognition. He hired sculptor David Richards to produce the monument.
The statue was produced with local help, local historian Gary Leveille said. The pillar that the bronze newsboy stands on is granite from Quincy. And the dolomite base for the fountain was locally quarried.
The dolomite was part of the problem with the statue's longevity, Leveille explained. It's a weaker stone than granite and softer, so it has deteriorated far more quickly.
"When they mined it they thought it was just as strong as granite," the historian explained. "But they were wrong about its lifespan."
In the century since the statue was built, it fell further into disrepair. In 2015, the town of Great Barrington voted in favor of using Community Preservation Act funds to completely rehabilitate the statue. Just over a year later, that work is complete.
"This is the first fully completed project from the Act," said Bill Nappo, a member of the Community Preservation Committee.
The town turned to local and state businesses just as their predecessors had for the project.
The statue's rehabilitative work was done by Cambridge-based Daedalus Art Restoration. Daedalus scraped off layers of protective coating that had become corrosive and reapplied it.
Locally, Gilmore Plumbing replaced the base fountain's pump. Housatonic-based Eric Bailey Landscaping Design pruned the juniper at the statue's base and cleaned up the shrubbery surrounding the monument.
The event began with remarks from Historical Commission Chairman Paul Ivory. Ivory said that his career at Stockbridge's Chesterwood, the summer studio of Daniel Chester French, began while he still thought of sculpture as "boring" and uninspired. But, he said, his time at the museum led him to understand that outdoor monuments have significance and cultural importance.
Leveille spoke next, focusing on the work to rehabilitate the sculpture and his personal journey to understand the "mystery and history" of the monument, the impetus for the title of his book, "The Mystery and History of the Great Barrington Newsboy Statue."
"When I first started researching and looking at the history of this monument, I had brown hair," joked Leveille.
After Leveille's address, the Berkshire Ukulele Band struck up with Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," and the crowd made their way off into the morning.