Exhibit B: Landmarks Hero Squares

Driving through Boston, it can seem that every other intersection you pass is named for someone you’ve never heard of. Given our city’s patronage-heavy history, you might guess the plaques are sops to bygone political cronies, but in fact some 95 percent honor Bostonians killed in the line of military duty. Mayor James Michael Curley began naming the so-called hero squares at the close of World War II, and there are now 1,226 in all, according to Gene Vaillancourt, who heads up the city’s department of veterans’ services. The three-to-four-month process of christening a square involves not only Vaillancourt’s office (which spearheads the initiative and seeks the family’s permission), but also the transportation department, the city council, and the mayor, who speaks at every dedication. To further ensure the fallen aren’t forgotten, Vaillancourt sees to it that each hero square is decorated for Memorial Day; here are six of the hundreds that will bloom with red, white, and blue carnations this month.

"The Salvato Brothers" Square, Charlestown

It isn’t uncommon for Boston families to have lost more than one generation to war. This square honoring World War II soldiers Francis J. and Candeloro O. Salvato is just steps away from one named for their uncle, World War I soldier
Frank J. Maffa.

Sgt. Louis Klaman Square, Boston
This Army sergeant’s sign is one of the few originals still left in the West End, where some 20 other plaques were removed during the bulldozing of that neighborhood a half century ago. In 2005, Mayor Menino had the lost names inscribed on a new memorial on Staniford Street.

Gen. William Heath Square, Roxbury
A few squares commemorate military heroes who didn’t perish in battle, like this Roxbury-born Revolutionary War general who fought at Lexington and Concord and lived to ratify the Constitution before dying in 1814.

Leo J. Sullivan Jr. Square, Dorchester
Befitting Boston’s Irish heritage, there are more hero squares that reference Sullivans—including this one, named after a Vietnam Marine—than any other surname. With a total of 15, it’s followed by Kelly (11), Foley (9), and Walsh (8).

Cpl. Edgardo Zayas Square, Dorchester

The city has added six more hero squares over the course of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The latest memorializes Zayas, a 29-year-old killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad in 2006.

Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2009/04/exhibit-b-landmarks-hero-squares/