The bronze gods and goddesses perched at the base of Boston Common’s iconic fountain are turning 150 years old this week, and the city is throwing a celebration — complete with a proclamation, poetry, live music, and free food truck snacks.
The Brewer Fountain, the first piece of public art that landed in the Common, will be the center of attention Thursday. Chris Cook, the city’s parks commissioner, will read a proclamation by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, the Friends of the Public Garden said in a statement.
Josiah Quincy School fifth-graders will recite poems during the event, which will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., the statement said.
“It’s a gathering place, and it’s now one of the most popular outdoor living rooms in the city,” said Liz Vizza, executive director of the Friends of the Public Garden. She later added, “It’s a haven for all of the social struggles people feel. We accept everyone in the park, and if you go there on any day, you’ll see a table of homeless people surrounded by people who are just there for a lunch break.”
The 22-foot-tall structure has endured a whirlwind of repairs throughout the years, including complete restoration efforts to the fountain and its plaza from 2010 to 2012, Vizza said. Before that, the fountain had run dry for a decade and had fallen into disrepair.
But once the Friends of the Public Garden and the city teamed up to find a solution, the plaza was redone with shiny granite paving, new green turf, movable cafe tables and chairs, and space for food trucks and a portable piano.
It was the first big renovation project since the 1970s, Vizza said.
“It’s become this hub of positive activity, where instead of shunning the area, you can’t even get a seat on a nice summer day at lunch,” Vizza said.
But despite the glitzy new changes, the fountain still has an old story.
It was brought to the United States by Gardener Brewer, a Boston textile merchant, in 1868, after he was transfixed by a similar one in Paris that celebrated the European modern municipal water system.
He loved the design so much, in fact, that he had the fountain cast directly from the original, shipped to Boston, and erected near his Beacon Street home. Brewer gifted it to the city, and almost 50 years later, in 1917, the fountain was moved to its current spot along Tremont Street.
“If we want these wonderful public spaces, we have to understand what it takes to sustain them,” Vizza said. “The real test is taking care of them when the banners come down and the balloons are all popped, and we still want the water to flow.”
Vizza’s group works with the city’s Boston Parks department to maintain the Boston Common, Commonwealth Mall, and the Public Garden.