The effort to alleviate the periodic flooding of Peabody Square could also provide an opportunity to give one of the North Shore's finest war memorials the prominence it deserves.
Topped by a modified replica of Thomas Crawford's "Statue of Freedom" atop the U.S. Capitol in Washington, the monument has stood over downtown Peabody since its dedication in 1881 by the city "to her sons who died in the Great Rebellion, that the Union might be preserved, and liberty secured to all."
According to the late John A. Wells' history of Peabody, the local version was sculpted "with a few changes, which the (veterans') committee regarded as improvements. In the left hand, instead of a coat of arms is a broken shackle (signifying the freeing of the slaves), and the sword is held at a different angle." A tablet carries the names of the 71 soldiers and sailors from Peabody (then known as South Danvers) who died in the Civil War.
Unfortunately, those names and the other features decorating the monument are difficult to discern, given its location in the middle of a very busy intersection. Our guess is it often goes unnoticed as motorists jockey for position as the lights change.
But a plan unveiled Monday and due to be presented to the City Council tomorrow night, would remedy that by making the monument part of a brand-new park at the northwest corner of a redesigned Peabody Square. With the landscaping and lighting proposed by the city's consultants, the project would truly make this a landmark not only for the city's central business district, but the for entire region, given the amount of traffic that flows through the intersection.
Of course, all of this is dependent on the city applying for and receiving funding for the first phase of an ambitious flood-mitigation project that calls for the installation of two large culverts beneath the square to handle the flow of water during major thaws and rainstorms. Redesigning the intersection to allow for a more orderly flow of traffic is a major and very worthwhile component of that project, and making the Civil War the centerpiece of a new, urban park would be a nice bonus.