Letter to the Editor

Plants, Benches and Plaques at French Square

Dear Editor,

As the Town moves toward the implementation of upgrades in our center – at great expense for all manner of consultants, designers, engineers, planners, and internal staffing – French Square, the landscaped Park Memorial to Harold French, will be converted from the only visually pleasant and relieving green space in the haggard Center to…new asphalt and parking spaces!

In first helping a new Beautification Committee in 1983/4 to re-create French Square, numerous donors contributed funds for historic markers, benches, plaques, trees and shrubs, to transform the formerly fenced-in place into the “living room” of the town. For an initial 15+ years with Comm. members, the DPW, residents and volunteers planting, weeding, watering and cleaning each year, and for the last 18 years, tended by sponsors and their retained helpers, the Square has served admirably as a convening place for the town. Over the past half dozen years, the site has seen some welcome improvements, in the form of another memorial (adjacent to the entry pathway), for the too-young Sabrina. Very little maintenance at this site has needed to be done by the Town in all those decades.

However, as one component of Center development plans during the past couple of years, French Square has been re-designed. Because its current configuration of grass area, berms, flowers and benches doesn’t lend itself to the larger town gatherings for Holiday or other functions (which would be perhaps four to five days out of 365).  But now the town’s green “living room” is slated for demolition, and early next year will become very useful black-top, covered most of the time by cars. This French Square parking lot is provided so that the surviving businesses in the Center are not further crushed by the 18 to 24 month disruption to the streets, with such work compromising access to the center.

When completed in its new proposed and expanded form, it is hoped that the spirit of a new French Square may be as much an inviting and useful space as this flowered and treed Square has been for almost 35 years.

Therefore, an appeal is put forth here for donors (or relations to the named below) to lay claim to the following plaques, markers and benches originally installed in the Square. These items will all come under a wrecking ball by next April. However, the large Narrow Gauge RR sign will be removed and relocated, as will the marker for Harold French, and the RR tracks embedded in Hagman Road.

The durable brass pathway plaques, donated as memorials to upstanding citizens who have made their marks on the Town, include the following names:

The Chamber Of Commerce; Rand Jewelers with Christopher’s Flowers; Donny Hodgkins Plaque; Belle Liberman Plaque and Tree; Massport Light Fixtures; Sabrina’s Garden; Charles Capone, Tree Fence, Charles Spanos, and Honan Sign Co. with Richard Flannery.

The benches will be more difficult elements to safely extricate for reuse and repositioning elsewhere. The durable cedar slats will need some refurbishing, which has been explored with a local woodworker and furniture maker. Arrangements are being made as to how these well-secured items can be removed, but with the help of DPW Chief Steve Calla and the Assistant Town Manager, David Rodriquez, and volunteers, we hope to safely do so.  The following contributors who have funded the benches with their named plaques thereon include the following:

Family of Don Hogkins for the Bob Hodgkins bench; Anne Marie or Lester Towlson or Family for the Bill Curran bench; Family of Claire Groebe for the Art Groebe bench; Family of Rona Mael for the Carl Ravich bench; Richard DiMention or Alumni Club for the Christine poor bench; Jerry Falbo or Family for the Jerome Falbo Sr. bench; Family of Joseph Langone 3rd, for the Joseph Langone Jr. bench; and this writer’s Mother for my Dad’s bench.

Extracted plaques and benches will be provided to any parties that can justify a claim. If these parties or relations to the named souls above wish to secure the Plaques or Benches for their own uses, please contact this writer at 617-846-4766, or at [email protected] to confirm your intentions.

Further, in tandem with the current French Sq. Sponsor Rick Boyd, and the Winthrop Chamber Executive Director Betsy Shane ([email protected]) and this writer, all moveable flower plantings will be relocated at nearby Town sites sometime this fall, to preserve these wonderful displays for flowering next year. An appeal to neighbors and resident volunteers with some practiced gardening experience (and dirt under their fingernails), to help in carefully removing the plants, and situating them into new beds, prepared as needed by the DPW, with the expert assistance from Paul O’Donnell. Any hands-on help would be welcome. Please contact Frank and/or Besty to give a hand.

Since winter comes faster than we realize, the plantings, plaques and bench removals have to be completed by end of November or early December at the latest. As many hands can better help in rearranging the Center’s “living room”, I look forward to hearing from plaque and bench donors, and garden volunteers, at their earliest convenience.

Sincerely,

Frank M. Costantino

Founder, Winthrop Beautification Committee

Designer, French Square

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