Memorial Hall was built in the Massachusetts State House to honor those who fought in the Civil War. Henry Walker’s mural above is on the south wall and depicts Puritan minister John Eliot preaching to the Indians. Eliot published the first Bible printed in America after developing an alphabet for the Algonquin Indians. Would this piece of American history be memorialized today in a public space?
The mural above our tour guide, The Return of the Colors was painted by Edward Simmons. It depicts Massachusetts regiments returning their flags to the State House after the Civil War Dec. 22, 1865, in honor of Forefathers’ Day.
(Forefathers’ Day commemorates the Mayflower’s landing at Plymouth Rock. Forefathers’ Day is actually celebrated on two different days because of confusion between the Julian and Gregorian calendars. The correct calendar correction puts the day on Dec. 21, not Dec. 22.)
The flags have been formally returned after every conflict thereafter, although the last time was after the Vietnam War.
The hall has two more murals, Walker’s portrayal of the Pilgrims sighting land from the Mayflower and Simmons’ representation of the Battle of Concord.
The hall is topped by this skylight featuring the Great Seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the center with the Great Seals of the other Thirteen Colonies surrounding it.
The floors and pillars are beautiful Siena marble.
The next stop on the tour would normally have been Nurses Hall, but someone was holding a reception there. Therefore, I missed the sculpture honoring Civil War nurses and Robert Reid’s murals of the events that launched the American Revolution.
This room is at the base of the Grand Staircase. After its handrails were cast, the mold was broken to ensure they remained unique. Everything else in the room is beautiful also, except for these chairs with the nasty stenciling on the backs. The contrast between the beautiful architectural details and these disfigured chairs is quite stark.
This is the Grand Staircase. Lectern at the base displays current Massachusetts Great Seal.
This is the original Great Seal, obviously drawn up by some herald in London with no knowledge of climate in New England. Toplessness doesn’t work in New England winters.
Much later, the state redesigned the seal to depict a much more realistic Native American, complete with appropriate clothing.
These are the family coats of arms of the Governors of the Province of Massachusetts. Thomas Gage, the last British Governor of Massachusetts, does not have his coat of arms on the window. Just over a year after Gage was installed as governor, the angry General Court, Massachusetts’ Legislature, no longer recognized his authority and decided to devise a new seal.
The center seal was their choice. The soldier carries an upraised sword to signify a nation at war. He clutches the Magna Carta to symbolize his violated rights as an English subject, which later became his rights as an American citizen.
This gorgeous coffered ceiling is above the next floor.
The walls in this room are covered with beautiful murals by Edward Brodney. One is titled Columbia Knighting her World War Disabled and another titled World War Mothers. These are unusual in two respects: 1) Brodney could not afford to pay models, so he used his family and friends as the subjects; 2) women were not usually depicted in military scenes.
Massachusetts has no Governor’s Mansion and the State House lacked any space for large public gatherings. So the state converted a breezeway into a Great Hall by covering it with a glass skylight. However, the acoustics were awful. All those hard surfaces echoed dreadfully. In order to muffle the echoes, they invited each incorporated Massachusetts community to submit their flag. One problem: Many of the towns had no flag. Some had never designed one and some had never had one made. They were supposed to hang in order of incorporation, but some of the earliest towns were flagless ones. When all the communities submit a flag, they will at last be hung in order.
Directions to State House and tour instructions are here. State House Tours are offered Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Tours last approximately 45 minutes. They are free of charge but reservations are requested. Call 617-727-3676. State house is closed on weekends and holidays.
Here’s the State House slide show:
Click on the link in the gallery or go here to order.
Next up, the Massachusetts House and Senate Chambers.GHTime Code(s): nc 7c7f7