By Kenneth. J. Olson
A history of a Boston neighborhood. Back in the day …
Back in the day, we enjoyed building monuments for our war heroes.
Washington, Grant, Pershing, and Eisenhower among so many others are immortalized in marble statues, bronze reliefs, brick facades, and open parks.
Situated in the area surrounding Boston’s South Station in Dewey Square, named for one such, albeit largely forgotten, hero of the Spanish-American War, Admiral George Dewey, the only person to ever hold the title Admiral of the Navy.
Hero of the Spanish-American War, Admiral George Dewey
Dewey was lauded as the Hero of Manila following the Battle of Manila in 1898; one of the most important naval battles in American history. During the battle, Dewey completely destroyed the Spanish Pacific Squadron, ending the Spanish Colonial Period in the Philippines and ceding Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States.
Following the war, cities throughout the United States held Dewey Days, receiving Admiral Dewey with throngs of celebrants. Boston held its Dewey Day in October, 1899 with all the pomp and circumstance. He was greeted at City Hall by 280 singers from the Handel and Haydn Society who sang the anthem “See the Conquering Hero Comes.” Later he met with Governor Roger Wolcott at the State House before embarking in an open carriage for a parade in his honor along Tremont Street. (Historic photograph, Period Americana collection.)
Honoring Dewey, the area surrounding South Station was named Dewey Square
As part of honoring Dewey, the area surrounding South Station was named Dewey Square. Up until when Dewey Square was dedicated, the major roads of Summer St., Atlantic Ave., and Federal St. terminated around where the current Bank of America building (i.e. the pregnant building) is at the corner of Summer and High streets. In the final two years of the 19th century, Summer St. and Atlantic Ave. were extended, the Summer St. Bridge was built over Fort Point Channel and part of Federal St. was closed to make way for the new South Station. Later still the Square anchored the southern end of the horribly planned Central Artery which demolished more than a century of history and divided Boston in half. Dewey Square Tunnel (aka South Station Tunnel) still services the area from the expressway below.
Today there is but a small metal sign attached to a street light outside of South Station serving as a reminder of one of the greatest naval strategists in American history.