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Here’s why there’s a sculpture of a triple-decker home in Dorchester

News Style
Bob Rugo

It’s a familiar sight in Boston.  

The three porches are layered on top of one another. A vertical stack of bay windows adorns the front of the building — one for each floor. The roof is flat.

But there’s one triple-decker in Dorchester that is not like the others. Crafted in bronze by artist Laura Baring-Gould as part of a public art installation in Edward Everett Square, the sculpture version of the iconic buildings is meant to reflect the lives and stories of those who have called the neighborhood home.

“The triple-decker piece was just to honor that Dorchester is so much the bedrock of family,” Baring-Gould told Boston.com.

The sculpture is one of 10 small pieces of art dotted around the square, titled “Dorchester Voices/Dorchester History,” which were installed as part of the multi-year Edward Everett Square Project in 2010. Other small sculptures in the piece similarly reflect the stories of Dorchester residents through the years through objects such as a baseball mitt, fish, and military dog tags.

“It’s so important that we all learn each others’ stories, and that’s what the artwork is there to do,” Baring-Gould said. “It’s there to help share the history of Dorchester in ways that are approachable and accessible and honor the tenacity of that community.”

All of the pieces are meant to be touched, visited as passersby walk through the square.

The centerpiece of the public art installation is a 12-foot bronze pear, which is meant to be a visible landmark that welcomes visitors to the neighborhood, while celebrating the agricultural history of Dorchester.  

Dorchester’s Edward Everett Square. —Laura Baring-Gould

“Each little sculpture has two or three quotes that talk about that story from multiple points of view,” the Somerville-based artist said.

The quotes were collected through a two-year oral history project through UMass Boston with members of the community.

“The smell of Nana’s cooking came from downstairs,” reads one quote on the triple-decker sculpture.

“I was born in the apartment upstairs,” reads another.

Triple-deckers came into prominence in Dorchester in the 1800s, according to Baring-Gould, when the neighborhood was annexed by Boston and became a site of major land development. The three-level buildings became a way to serve multiple generations of a single family within a single house.

“It was a way and a time in community when people really did watch out for each other, in ways that still happen in Dorchester in many, many families,” she said.

On the side of the sculpture a set of keys is carved in the bronze, signifying the importance of home ownership.

Baring-Gould said the sculpture is modeled after an existing building in the square, visible when you stand in front of its mini version.

“There are still people in Dorchester who were born in the house that they’re living in now,” she said. “That’s so important that communities have those residents that have occupied these places and know the history of them.”