Roadwork Threatens Memorial to Revolutionary War Alum

Woburn Town Planning Board member: ‘So much for the thanks of a grateful nation’

He survived the Battle of Lexington and Concord and crossed the Delaware alongside Washington, but Colonel Loammi Baldwin—who received his master’s degree from Harvard in 1785—now sees his legacy in danger, according to one local official.

A memorial in nearby Woburn commemorating the life of the war hero may be downsized due to road expansion.

“So much for the thanks of a grateful nation,” said David W. Edmonds, member of the Woburn Town Planning Board and the primary force behind the fight for the memorial’s preservation.

Born in Woburn in 1745, Baldwin commanded the town’s militia at the first battle of the Revolution. Among his many other accomplishments, Baldwin was responsible for the development of the Baldwin apple—which was once considered New England’s favorite fruit. He also oversaw the construction of the Middlesex Canal, which originally spanned from Boston Harbor to the Merrimack River in Lowell—a feat that earned him the moniker “Father of American Civil Engineering.”

“He was a pretty extraordinary fellow,” Edmonds said.

The memorial, which consists of a triangle-shaped green, a cannon, and a six-foot tall statue of Baldwin standing atop two rectangular five-ton pedestals, was unveiled on Patriots’ Day in 1918.

Edmonds first became aware of the memorial’s predicament when he learned that Middlesex Superior Court planned to temporarily relocate itself to Woburn while its permanent home, the Edward J. Sullivan Courthouse in East Cambridge, undergoes scheduled renovations.

Cummings Properties, based in Woburn, is managing construction of the temporary courthouse and an office complex near the green. To make way for the increased number of cars, Cummings wants to widen surrounding roads.

The company doesn’t want to burden Woburn residents with congestion as a result of its construction. So “we’re proposing to do the off-site roadway [widening] work to mitigate the traffic impact,” said Dennis A. Clarke ’90, president and CEO of Cummings.

It is precisely this roadway expansion that threatens the small park where Colonel Baldwin’s memorial stands. Over the years, Edmonds explained, the widening of roadways has continually infringed on the park, diminishing its size. “It’s been absolutely truncated by repeated construction of the roadways,” said Edmonds, 57, a retired post office training manager. “All it is now is some bushes, a statue, and a cannon.”

“The additional 4,000 cars a day that will result from the construction of the courthouse and office space will absolutely overwhelm the intersection [where the memorial is located],” Edmonds said, adding, “In my opinion, this expansion of traffic relegates the monument area to nothingness.”

But Clarke said that “all of the proposed changes are being done within the existing roadway layout.” And his firm’s lawyer, Susan F. Brand, said that the courthouse’s arrival in the town “should be great for all of Woburn.”

The Town Planning Board will vote on the construction plans this Tuesday. Regardless of whether his green is displaced by asphalt, Baldwin’s statue will brave the oncoming traffic. After defeating the Redcoats, he won’t let roadways push him off his pedestal.

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