BETA’s work in the last few years has taken us to some of the most historic and patriotic locations in New England, including Bushnell Park in Hartford, CT; North Square in Boston, MA; Lexington Green in Lexington, MA; and even Plymouth Rock. A project this year takes us back to some of the earliest settlers in the Rhode Island area, and brings us to the namesake of the Blackstone River Valley.
BETA landscape architects Andrew and Alyssa, pictured, recently took a minute to catch up on some history while studying a scale model of the Blackstone Memorial.
For our work creating a new bikeway along the Blackstone River in Pawtucket, we have been asked to integrate and feature a unique memorial. The William Blackstone Society, in partnership with the City of Pawtucket and the Tai-O Group, has commissioned international sculptor Peruko Ccopacatty to create a larger than life memorial celebrating settler William Blackstone, designed to highlight his legacy of free thinking in the form of tolerant Christianity and his role as a pioneer and clergyman.
Originally one of the first settlers in Weymouth in 1623, Blackstone made his way north to become a lone settler in the area of what would become Beacon Hill. After first welcoming Puritans arriving to the area from Europe, he soon faced challenges as their intolerance of anyone with differing views created unrest. Eventually, the Puritans ordered that his house be burned down.
William Blackstone left his settlement in Boston riding his white pet bull, headed toward Narragansett Bay. In 1635 he was the first European settler, a year before Roger Williams also left the Boston area and founded his colony in Providence.
Blackstone’s home and farm were located in Cumberland, RI, at a wide bend in a river, later to be named the Blackstone. He is noted as having the largest library in the colonies at the time, and it has been recorded over the years that he often read books when riding his pet bull, which assumedly had a slow gait.
He is thought of as one of this country’s original renaissance men, for in addition to his clerical and literary interests, he raised cattle, tended gardens, and is credited with cultivating the first varieties of American apples.
The intent of the William Blackstone Society, Tai-O Group, and the City of Pawtucket is to communicate the story of William Blackstone to the public. The steel memorial sculpture they designed of William Blackstone riding his pet bull will be over 15 feet high. It is currently being constructed and is slated for installation at the corner of Exchange Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Pawtucket in 2020.
BETA’s Landscape Architecture group is coordinating the project and designing the bikeway and Memorial Plaza setting in which the monument will be placed. See more of the artist’s work in the region and around the world at www.ccopacatty.com.