New England on a Pedestal

105. Framingham's Seasonal Statues

December 13, 2021 Doug Farquharson Season 1 Episode 5
105. Framingham's Seasonal Statues
New England on a Pedestal
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New England on a Pedestal
105. Framingham's Seasonal Statues
Dec 13, 2021 Season 1 Episode 5
Doug Farquharson

We find some festive seasonal cheer in the City of Framingham, MA.

Show Notes Transcript

We find some festive seasonal cheer in the City of Framingham, MA.

(Car engine running in background)

Hello there my Pedestal Peeps! It’s me, Doug, your friendly host and today I’m coming to you from my trusty old Jeep Wrangler. I was out running a few pre-Christmas errands today and I found myself driving through parts of the south side of the City of Framingham, Massachusetts. It’s an area I’m rather familiar with as I spent a large chunk of my adult life raising a family and working in a neighboring town. And now that I live in a town southwest of here, it’s an area that I frequently pass through on the way to or from work, while out visiting friends or family, or like today, running errands. 

Ya know, sometimes while driving on a familiar route, down a stretch of road, you’ll catch something out of the corner of your eye. Your brain kinda registers it. Yet, you don’t really give it much thought. That happened to me earlier on Dudley Road when I passed by the entrance to Cushing Memorial Park. “Hmmm,” I thought, “t’is the season! I guess they’re back out on display.”  Later, I passed by the Framingham Public Works facility on Western Ave and saw two more.  And a few minutes later, I drove by the entrance to the MWRTA central bus hub on Blandin Ave and I spotted a solitary sentry standing  there. And suddenly, it hit me, and I smiled feeling a bit of that seasonal spirit hit me. Right then and there, this episode started to take shape in my mind. 

But wait, are these technically a statue or a monument? Do they fit the New England on a Pedestal criteria? Well, ya know since I am the head chef, lead waiter, and the chief bottle washer of this little enterprise, I say, “YES!” I’ll file these under the new folder on my laptop as “seasonal statues” and call it an episode!

So, what have I come across that filled me with holiday cheer, well besides the draught and cocktail selection my wife and I enjoyed at the Ashland Ale House while out choosing a Christmas Tree? Little, well, okay actually not so little wooden soldiers. That’s what. Now why you might ask, would large, colorful wooden soldiers be popping up around Framingham and why do they bring a feeling of holiday spirit and nostalgia at the same time?

Stick around for the fifth episode of season 1 of New England on a Pedestal to find out!

(Car engine noise fades out)

Season 1, Episode 5. Framingham’s Wooden Soldiers. A story of seasonal statues, a phrase I may have just coined.

Framingham, Massachusetts lies along Rt 9, in between the cities of Boston and Worcester. It was once known as the largest town in America, at least as far as population went. Recently, after years of trying, the residents voted to make Framingham a city and elected a mayor and city council. It is also home to Shoppers World and that’s where this story begins, way back in 1951. According to the Framingham History Center, Shoppers World was the first shopping mall “east of the Rockies.” It looked nothing like what one thinks of today when you think of a large shopping mall. The Jordan Marsh department store was at the south end of the property under a huge dome. Visible from the air, the large white dome rumored to be the third largest unsupported dome in the world at the time, was used on aeronautical charts as a visual reporting point for aircraft approaching Logan International Airport in Boston. The plaza hosted over forty stores and a theater originally called The Cinema. It was used to show movies, of course but also had a stage, and hosted many live summer theater productions. By the mid to late 1970s, the stage was long gone, and it had six movie screens to choose from. The center of the mall was more like a town common. It had walking paths, benches to sit and relax on, and flower gardens to enjoy. Surrounding this courtyard area was a two-level ring of balconies, walkways, and interconnecting bridges, mostly covered by roofs and overhangs. The store fronts on both levels faced this courtyard. The mall was designed for people to arrive by car and then spend their time walking about window shopping and making purchases.

People, especially locals, would often stop by just to walk the inner courtyard, meet friends for lunch or a coffee, maybe sit on a bench for a chat, that kind of thing. The southern end of the courtyard featured a permanent water fountain with synchronized colored lighting. For a time during the 1950s there were even kiddie rides including a small Ferris wheel, a merry-go-round, and a boat ride. In addition to all of this, property management over the years would bring in a variety of other events and programs including Easter egg hunts, zoo animals, autocross events, a motorcycle riding school, free concerts, and there was a tram that would take shoppers around the mall and out to the vast parking lots. There were things going on year-round in the courtyard. In the summer, it was much like a play area for kids to gather, but during the holidays, it was always decorated and festive. Santa could be found in his small gazebo like quarters with his reindeer in a nearby enclosure. Huge wooden building blocks spelled out the words “Joy to the World.” An oversized wooden train made its way across the courtyard. I remember taking what I thought was a long ride back then out from Boston and visiting here a few times when my younger brother and I were in grammar school. Years later, their mother and I would bring our oldest two children to visit Santa and the reindeer here. Unfortunately, by the time the youngest two arrived on the scene, the old Shoppers World was a thing of the past.

The old Shoppers World. This is where our wooden soldiers begin life in Framingham.

Around 1975, there were originally about two dozen of the roughly ten foot tall, red, blue, and gold toy soldiers standing guard with their shiny black rifles around the courtyard. And at one end was their general standing tall at a height of twenty feet. According to, they were crafted by woodworker and mall maintenance man, Hal Purrington in his underground workspace beneath the Windsor Button Shop. Each soldier came in three pieces and required some assembly. Appropriate for any Christmas toy, right? The head and body comprised one part, the legs another, and the rifle was detachable. Purrington’s shop worked from March through November of that year to prepare the platoon of wooden soldiers, the building blocks, the train, and the gazebo. The general would stand at one end of the mall and his soldiers would stand guard along either side of the courtyard attached to support columns. Once the Christmas season ended, all of Purrington’s creations would be stored until the next year under the button business.

Well, like anything, the old mall was showing its age and eventually was torn down and replaced by what’s there now. Today’s version of Shoppers World features a huge parking area surrounded by single story large box stores and a handful of restaurants. The whereabouts of the general aren’t exactly clear from my research. He may have been destroyed and carted away with the rest of the debris from the old mall. He may have been spirited away to an undisclosed location. He may have marched off into the sunset to enjoy a retirement of peace and solitude in the woods of northern Maine. Who knows? The smaller soldiers once under his command were either sold or given away. Sometime in the mid to late 1990s, the soldiers started reappearing around Framingham. Roughly sixteen soldiers found their new posts which were assigned by the Parks and Recreation Department. Original locations included the downtown area, the commons in Framingham Center, Cushing Park, the Memorial Building, and the ADESA auto auction site which was once a General Motors plant, among other areas around town. The Sherborn Inn, now known as Heritage displayed a couple for a while and a private garage on Water St in the north side of town has two. If memory serves me correctly, that garage houses a collection of antique fire apparatus.

For a few years, their rifles were replaced with candy canes, ala The Nutcracker. Then for a PC time, they stood guard empty handed. For the past several years, the shiny black rifles have made a return. The city of Framingham has repaired as many of the originals as they can and has even commissioned the building of new ones. In 2020, there were approximately thirty wooden soldiers standing tall and they were joined by twenty-eight snowmen around town. According to a recent article in the Metrowest Daily News, the city added four more soldiers this year including ones representing people of color and women to better represent the city’s diverse population. Elaine Prue, the Superintendent of Recreation estimates that ten to twelve of the present soldiers are from the original Shoppers World platoon. According to the newspaper article, since 2017, Prue has given clues on the Rec Department’s Facebook page as to where the soldiers will be placed.

A lot has changed in Framingham over the past 70 or so years since the original Shoppers World opened for business. The Route 9 area is still a mecca for retail and shopping and restaurants. Most of the original stores are long gone and been replaced numerous times by newer companies and businesses. I think it’s nice to see how people have embraced these old school oversized wooden toy soldiers and added a modern twist or two with them.

Hey, if you’re in the area this season, why not go on a little scavenger hunt and find some of these “seasonal statues” for yourselves. Take a selfie and post the pic and location to one of our social media sites. As you know, we are on Instagram and Facebook. Let’s see how many our listeners can find.

So there it is. A fun, little look at the “seasonal statues” of Framingham, the ever-growing platoon of wooden soldiers who appear late in the year and pop up all around town overseeing the holiday cheer and festivities.

There are many, many great restaurants to visit while in Framingham, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point you towards the Jacks Abby Craft Lagers Beer Hall and Kitchen on Clinton Street. First off, they are an awesome brewery that has consistently brewed some of my favorite beers year after year. Second, they really killed it when they decided to move into a new location, increase their output and to serve food. And third, they have become a real asset to the Framingham area and are just good people.

As we’ve mentioned in previous episodes, the concept behind New England on a Pedestal is rather simple. Travel around our six-state area, find some interesting statues, and discuss them. We have a growing database of statues, monuments, and sculptures that we will be covering over time, but we certainly do not know all of them. That is where you can assist us. Shoot us an email at and tell us about a favorite or unique or odd statue you know. If you have additional information or maybe a correction about something we have already shared, please send it our way and perhaps, we will add an addendum to a later episode.

We would love to hear from you. Let us know what you think. What are we doing right? What can we do better? 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 post photos and links on those social media platforms relating to the places and things we cover in our podcasts.

It takes more than just me to produce these podcasts. I want to acknowledge the help and encouragement from family and friends and the social media savvy and marketing help from Bekka over at the Pixie Dust and Happy Thoughts 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, who as of the recording of this episode is on a national tour with the band Super American. The music was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Jake of Honest Face Records. 

Whatever you celebrate this holiday season, I hope you make the most of it! Until next time, be safe, be well, and keep discovering. Thanks for joining us!