New England on a Pedestal

101. The Starter

September 09, 2021 Doug Season 1 Episode 1
101. The Starter
New England on a Pedestal
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New England on a Pedestal
101. The Starter
Sep 09, 2021 Season 1 Episode 1

Welcome to our very first episode of New England on a Pedestal where we visit Hopkinton, Massachusetts and begin exploring with the appropriately named statue, The Starter. We will take a look around and learn about the famous Boston Marathon and some of the people and places throughout its long history.

Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to our very first episode of New England on a Pedestal where we visit Hopkinton, Massachusetts and begin exploring with the appropriately named statue, The Starter. We will take a look around and learn about the famous Boston Marathon and some of the people and places throughout its long history.

Hello and welcome to the brand new, first ever episode of our podcast, New England on a Pedestal! I am your host, Doug Farquharson. I am relatively new to the world of podcasts but have been really enjoying listening to several over the last couple years.  A quick shout out to Jeff and Ray from New England Legends and Garth at Lost Massachusetts. If you have not yet checked out either of these fun podcasts, you really should!

I came up with the concept for New England on a Pedestal after listening to those guys and taking an old idea I had about 10 years ago and transforming it into a podcast format. My initial idea had been a simple photo album posted on social media. The idea had been to snap pictures of statues, monuments, and sculptures as I traveled around Massachusetts and post them on Facebook with short descriptions. That little project kind of languished on the back burner for many years. It rekindled recently when I thought about visiting some of the places that were talked about on New England Legends and Lost Massachusetts. 

So here we are! When each new episode of New England on a Pedestal drops, you will journey with me to a different city or town somewhere in New England and we will find ourselves standing at the foot of a unique statue, monument, or sculpture. Together, we will delve into the history of what is represented in front of us. We will learn about the person or event, good or bad, triumphs or controversies. Hopefully, you may find yourself wanting to visit them sometime and dig deeper. We will branch out a bit when we can and search out other nearby, possibly related statues, monuments, or sculptures to paint a bigger portrait.

As the title implies, we will be exploring throughout New England. Initially, Massachusetts may be a tad overrepresented as that is where I grew up and currently reside and am therefore far more familiar. However, all six New England states will absolutely be covered. If you have a favorite or know of an odd or unique statue that you would like to see us cover, please let us know! And from time to time, we may take a road trip of sorts and visit statues and monuments from outside the New England area. A little vacation edition if you will.

So, how do we begin? Where do we begin? I initially thought it would be with something I remembered from childhood. Say the Native American sitting atop his horse in front of the Museum of Fine Arts around the corner from my childhood home in Boston. Or perhaps something fun that I took my kids to when they were younger, like the Doctor Suess Memorial Garden in Springfield. Then it dawned on me.  We must begin at the start. Or more accurately, at The Starter.

And so, we find ourselves on Route 135 heading into Hopkinton, Massachusetts.

The Starter in Hopkinton Massachusetts.

Hopkinton is a suburb about 40 minutes west of Boston by car. And like many New England towns, it has a well-kept town common which has a gazebo adorned with various flags and a large water fountain. It is also home to several military and war memorials and statues. East Main, Ash, Hayden Row and Park Streets form the common’s boundaries. And the appropriately named Marathon Way is a short connector street between East Main and Ash. Why is it appropriate? That’s because Hopkinton is where the world-famous Boston Marathon begins. The Starter is located on the north side of the common, just feet away from the start line. You can often find runners, especially in the months and weeks leading up to the April race, stopping to take selfies with this statue.

A quick aside here; normally the Boston Marathon is run each year on the third Monday in April. However, due to restrictions on crowd gatherings and other health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 race is being held on the second Monday in October. We think this is a great time to launch New England on a Pedestal as this first episode’s subject matter aligns perfectly with the Marathon.

Commissioned by the Hopkinton Athletic Association, the life-sized bronze sculpture is of George V. Brown, Hopkinton’s “First Citizen of Sport” and was dedicated in 2008. A large granite slab raises the statue up above the green grass. The statue captures Brown wearing a shirt and tie under his overcoat, a fedora perched upon his head, his right hand raised high holding a starter’s pistol ready to fire the shot starting yet another race to Boston.

Born and raised in Hopkinton, he graduated from the high school with the class of 1898. For thirty-three years, from 1905 until his death at the young age of 57, Brown fired a starter’s pistol to signify the start of the famous race.  He was instrumental in moving the start line from Ashland to Hopkinton in 1924.  He served the Boston Athletic Association in many capacities including governor, coach, and athletic director. Brown also managed the business of running the marathon for eleven years. During his tenure with the BAA, he was instrumental in forming and managing an amateur hockey team that would play at the newly built Boston Arena. There he helped host numerous American versus Canadian hockey games and eventually was part of bringing the Boston Bruins to the Boston Garden. While serving as the first athletic director for Boston University, he was significantly involved in forming their ice hockey team in 1917. BU’s hockey MVP award is still named after him. He has been enshrined as a Builder in both the International Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto and the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in Minnesota.

Brown had a long history with the US Olympic Committee and Teams. He organized the Silver Medal winning 1924 US Olympic Hockey team of which seven players hailed from the BAA ranks. In addition to his Olympic Hockey role, George was a member (or manager) of the US Olympic Committee from 1908 to 1920.  During the 1924, 1928, and 1936 Games, he was the US Team’s assistant track and field coach and for the 1932 Los Angeles Games, Brown served as an official. His death was marked by a moment of silence during the US Olympic Committee’s January 1938 meeting. He is buried in here Hopkinton.

His main sports passions were the marathon, obviously, hockey, obviously again, and track and field. However, he promoted many other sports as well over the years. Boxing, wrestling, figure skating, rowing, football, and well, water follies all gained his attention at one time or another and primarily at the amateur level. He served on several boards and associations over the course of his life. His family members and descendants have carried on his passion for sports as well. His son, Walter worked closely with him in several endeavors and was involved in both the Boston Bruins and the early Boston Celtics. Except for 1990, a Brown family member has fired the official start gun of the Boston Marathon each year since his death in 1937. 

The statue is the work of local sculptor, Michael Alfano who, according to his website,, creates fine art bronzes, portraits and monumental works that can be found in galleries, private collections, public parks, and museums around the globe. Besides residing in the same town as the subject matter of The Starter, Alfano also has Boston University in common with him as he studied there for a period of time, and Michael has run several Boston Marathons himself. He has garnered many awards over the years and has served on several boards and commissions. His pieces can be evocative and thought provoking. He has been described as the “Sculptor with the Social Conscience.” You may have seen some of his animal figures in local libraries, schools, or at Boston’s Museum of Science.

The Starter is not the only Boston Marathon related statue you will find in Hopkinton or along the 26.2-mile route. Nearby, across from the common on Ash St in front of the Center School, sits Yes You Can! a statue dedicated to Dick and Rick Hoyt, who some would say may be the most famous, at least locally, of all the Boston Marathoners. The father-son team ran 30 marathons with Dick pushing his son in a specially designed wheelchair. They went on to compete in races around the world including many triathlons.

While not technically a statue or a memorial, The Flame of the Marathon Run is perpetually burning in a lamp in front of the local police department just a couple blocks west of The Starter. Hopkinton shares twin city status with Marathon, Greece where this flame first burned marking the tomb of Athenian warriors. In 2008, Hopkinton became the first US community to receive this flame. In October of 2010, in observance of the 35th running of the United States Marine Corps Marathon, a ceremony was held so that the Marines could light their own lantern from this flame.

And hopefully soon, The Girl Who Ran, a piece advocated for by the Bobbi Gibb Marathon Sculpture Project and the 26.2 Foundation will be unveiled on or near the Hopkinton Common commemorating the women who have broken barriers running this storied race.

Spirit of the Marathon is a 12-foot-tall statue situated at the one-mile mark. It depicts two Greek marathoners. Spyridon Louis won the first modern day Olympic marathon in 1896. He is depicted showing the way to Stylianos Kyriakides, (I am probably butchering both names,) who in 1946 placed first in the 50th running of the Boston Marathon. He is often considered to be the first charity runner of the race as he raised awareness of the post WWII plight of many Greeks who faced starvation and homelessness after the war ended. This statue celebrates the above-mentioned twin city relationship between Hopkinton and Marathon which was officially established on April 17, 2006. The New Balance Athletic Shoe company made a gift of the piece which was sculptured by Tewksbury artist Mico Kaufman and the land it sits on was donated by Weston Nurseries.

Around mile 20 is the infamous Heartbreak Hill. There is now a large wooden sculpture of a runner that was carved out of an eight-foot-tall stump that remained after a stately old maple tree died and had to be cut down. And of course, there is the remarkably interesting, time traveling Johnny Kelley statue at the base of Heartbreak Hill. He ran over sixty Boston Marathons in his lifetime before retiring at age 82 in 1994. Rich Munro is the artist behind Young at Heart which depicts a twenty-something year old Kelly holding the upraised hand of an eighty-something year old Kelley running the marathon.

And of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the 2013 Marathon Bombing Memorials along Boylston Street in Boston at the sites where the bombs exploded causing so much death and destruction. The memorials by artist Pablo Eduardo were dedicated in 2019 and are meant to personally remember each of the victims by using materials and forms significant to and symbolic of each of them. We will more fully cover them in a later episode.

And so, we have come to the end of our first of hopefully, many episodes. Thanks for joining us here at New England on a Pedestal.  With any luck, you have found this interesting, maybe learned a fact or two, and perhaps even added the Boston Marathon Start Line in Hopkinton, Massachusetts to a list of places to visit and gaze upon old George V. Brown. If you do visit Hopkinton, there are several fine establishments serving food and/or liquid libations. Be sure to head down Hayden Rowe Street about a mile or so from The Starter and visit Start Line Brewing. While our little podcast is not sponsored by this local craft brewery, we are fans of theirs! Every Marathon season they brew an India pale ale named appropriately, Marathoner IPA with the proceeds going to the 26.2 Foundation and their mission to promote and support the sport of Marathoning, as well as health, wellness, and economic development initiatives through strategic investments in innovative, multi-generational programs on local, national, and global levels.

We would love to hear from you. Let us know what you think. What we are doing right? What we can do better? Let us know of a statue with a story near and dear to you. We can be reached via email at That’s New England on a Pedestal all one word at F A R Q I E dot com.  Go to Facebook and like the New England on a Pedestal page. Follow us on Instagram. We will be posting photos and links on those social media platforms and on the New England on a Pedestal page at as well.

It takes a lot of effort and a lot of people to produce something like these podcasts. I want to acknowledge the equipment help from Alec of Hello Generic video fame and the social media savvy and marketing help from Bekka over at the Happy Pixie Dust podcast. The New England on a Pedestal logo was designed by Natick artist Jason Cheeseman-Meyer. The theme music is by local musician Sam Checkoway and was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Jake Checkoway of Honest Face Records. I want to thank my wife Gail, Ethan, Steffani, and Max for their help and support in getting this podcast up and running.

Join us in episode two when we venture north to the Granite State and one of my favorite quick getaway cities, Portsmouth. Until next time, be well, be kind, and keep discovering.