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Restored lion, unicorn returned to Old State House perch

The lion and unicorn statues, now freshly coated in gold and palladium, were returned to their posts of more than 100 years. Pictured: The unicorn statue. Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

The newly refurbished iconic statues of a lion and a unicorn were successfully hoisted back to their perches on the pediment of Boston’s historic Old State House Sunday morning, with a new time capsule tucked inside.

“The sun was out and it was shining on the unicorn, so it made it look really different from what it used to,” Bostonian Society spokeswoman Heather Leet said. “It used to be faded and green and now it’s silver and shining.”

The lion statue was returned to its perch at the Old State House.Dina Rudick/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

The pair of historic creatures — with new shiny coats of gold and silvery palladium — returning to their posts of more than 100 years marked the completion of the building’s major preservation project, which included restoration to the west facade and repairs to the east balcony, where the Declaration of Independence was read.


“So for us at the Bostonian Society, it’s the completion of major preservation to the building, which we believe is the most important building in Boston,” she said. “It’s really exciting.”

The statues were unveiled at 10 a.m. before being wrapped for their journey by crane, lifted three stories. A crowd of a couple hundred people filtered in and out of the Boston Massacre Plaza to watch as the unicorn and the lion were installed.

The sculptures were taken down for a complete restoration in September, and rumors about a 1901 time capsule inside the lion’s head proved to be true. A new time capsule was placed into the gilded scroll that forms the base of the lion statue.

Inside the copper box are emblems of the era, including a 2013 Boston Marathon medal, a photo of former mayor Thomas M. Menino, and letters from three Boston journalists, including one from the Globe.

“The time capsule gives us the opportunity to give a more personal history than you get in history books,” Leet said. “And we hope when people open it they get a glimpse of how Boston was in 2014.”


“Significantly, the 2013 Boston Marathon medal will show people how . . . resilient this city is. We had this recent tragedy, but we were able to come back from that, and the medal will be a sign to people when they look back.”

Similarly, she said she hoped people would see the photo of Menino, Boston’s longest serving mayor, who died less than a month ago, and “understand the significance . . . of the role he played here.”


Letter in time capsule foresaw flight, video communication

Photos: Time capsule opened

1901 article on time capsule

Anne Steele can be reached at anne.steele@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @AnneMarieSteele.