Columbus has landed in Johnston’s War Memorial Park.
On Monday, Oct. 9, he’ll be welcomed with food trucks and a re-introduction to the public.
Earlier this week, the explorer’s likeness was hoisted into place, lowered by a crane onto a cement pedestal on the island in the center of the park’s pond.
According to a message on the Johnston Recreation Department website, the island has been closed to visitors since Sept. 11, while the statue’s base was poured and prepared.
“I’m glad Johnston was able to step up and provide a home for the statue,” said Johnston Mayor Joseph M. Polisena Jr. “The possibility of it being melted was disturbing. It’s a part of history.”
The 130-year-old bronze Columbus was uninstalled from its Providence pedestal in 2020 and locked away in storage for years. During its final years in the city the memorial commemorating the Italian explorer became a lightning rod for protest and vandalism.
Former Providence Mayor Joseph R. Paolino Jr. bought the sculpture, stored it, and eventually offered it to Johnston, a community with deep and sturdy Italian-American roots. (According to the US Census Bureau, at 49.5 percent, Johnston ranks second nationally for a municipality with the highest population percentage reporting Italian ancestry.)
Johnston’s a smaller town, bordering Providence, and Polisena said months ago that he doesn’t expect the same security threat at the statue site. The town’s agreement to provide Columbus a home requires a certain level of protection.
Polisena hopes security cameras and fences will keep vandals and protesters off the statue. He promised not to spend tax dollars on the project.
“The security feed is direct to the police station with 24-hour monitoring,” Polisena wrote via email Tuesday. “This was all done at no cost. The security, fencing, transport and install was all pro bono. That’s a testament to all of the people who didn’t want to see this statue destroyed.”
Of course, the Johnston Police Department is funded by taxpayers.
In the meantime, Polisena assures park-goers they’ll still have full use of the small plot of land in the center of the park’s pond.
“United fence is donating a small fence to put around statue,” Polisena explained. “Other than that, the public will have full access to island. The benches and trees will all remain as is too.”
The Columbus Day unveiling event on Monday, Oct. 9, will include food trucks and begin at 11 a.m.