BARRE, Vt. — The Vermont city defined by the stone pulled from within its surrounding hills is hoping to use that granite to commission a piece of art conceived more than seven decades ago honoring one of the nation’s first Boy Scout troops.
A local Boy Scout historian is leading the effort in Barre, a city known as “the granite center of the world,” to complete the project — a granite statue of a scout carrying a person on his shoulders. The original project ceased following the 1941 death of Italian-born artist Carlo Abate, who helped train generations of Barre artists.
The Boy Scout sculpture would join three existing works of art that commemorate the city’s heritage as a granite center made famous by its immigrants.
“We’ve erected monuments throughout America and even the world and we only have three within the city,” said Steve Restelli, a Barre native and former Boy Scout.
On the north side of Barre sits a 1985 statute of the same Abate who was working on a model of what was to have become the Boy Scout statue at the time of his death. At the city’s main park sits the 1924 statue known as “Youth Triumphant,” a kneeling warrior, which became part of the Barre city seal. There is also a statue of Robert Burns, erected by Scottish immigrants.
Restelli is leading a committee seeking to raise the money for the Boy Scout statue, which will be carved out of the area’s signature gray granite by local artist Giuliano Cecchinelli II.
“It wasn’t easy to find someone to take on the project,” Restelli said. “Artists are pretty reluctant to take over somebody else’s work and then finish it. It’s not really their own.”
But Cecchinelli agreed to do it.
“It touches on all sorts of little things that make up Barre,” Cecchinelli, a third generation granite carver, said of the project. “With Carlo Abate, it kind of ties everything together, the artist, the city where he taught drawing and modeling.”
There is no officially recognized first Boy Scout troop in the country and at least two other locations, one in Oklahoma and the other in Pennsylvania, also claim to be the home of the first U.S. Boy Scout troop.
What became Barre’s Boy Scout Troop 1 began in the fall of 1909 when a group of boys from the First Baptist Church’s Boys Brigade were asked by Scottish immigrant stone cutter William Foster Milne if they wanted to become Scouts.
“We voted we did,” Wallace Watt had said, recalling the moment in a 1985 interview not long before his death. Watt was 14 when the boys voted.
Once completed, the life-sized Boy Scout statue will take its place in the heart of downtown Barre, outside the old train station, another example of the city’s granite roots.
The original unfinished plaster model of a uniform-wearing Scout, another boy over his shoulders in a fireman’s carry, from the late 1930s sits on the second floor of the local library. Cecchinelli’s modern model is at the Vermont Granite Museum, in Barre.
“We absolutely love the idea and love the project and I am going to help them out with some fundraising and hopefully we can get this done,” said Barre Mayor Thomas Lauzon.