Art and History Collide

The Fire Hydrant Walking Tour of South Boston

Author Chuck Klosterman said, “Art and love are the same thing; it’s the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you.” Inspiration was simple for famed artist Pablo Picasso who said, “Everything you can imagine is real.” When it comes to art there aren’t many boundaries, taking Picasso’s thinking a step further, if you can envision it, you can create it. That’s just what has happened in South Boston.

Taking inspiration from a fire hydrant project in New Bern, NC to commemorate its 300th anniversary, Destination Downtown South Boston (DDSB) felt a similar project would fit perfectly with the goal of supporting a downtown art initiative as well as attract more downtown visitors. DDSB Secretary and former President, Wayne Fuller says, “Successful public art draws people to it, makes them want to interact with it, and opens them up to conversations with others, helping create a sense of community.” From this DDSB vision, the Fire Hydrant Walking Tour was born.

The Fire Hydrant Walking Tour encompasses 1.54 miles and seventeen hydrants in downtown South Boston. Each hydrant is painted to represent a historical figure with significance to the history of South Boston. Included are Wiley Waddill Ward, South Boston’s first mayor and Dr. Henry Grant Wood, the first black physician in South Boston. The project began with permission from the Halifax County Service Authority. After mapping out the location of each hydrant, DDSB enlisted the help of the Halifax Historical Society to compile a list of figures chosen and to create a 50-75 word narrative describing their importance to South Boston. Volunteers and artists from the community helped to paint the hydrants.

The fire hydrants, while amusing and unexpected, serve to carry on the rich history of South Boston and educate through art. “The Fire Hydrant Walking Tour is a wonderful addition to our beautiful historic district of downtown South Boston…and another dedication to our wonderful volunteers and to South Boston’s history,” Fuller says.

For more information, including a downloadable guide to the tour, visit Downtown Sobo.

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