For some years, I’ve wondered about a row house at 9 Dwight St. in Boston’s South End.
It stands out from its staid brick neighbors because white sculptures seem to bubble out around the door and first-floor window, then down the front stairs, along the wrought iron fence, and peek out of the shrub. There are poodles, angels, cherubs riding stylized dolphins, little children praying, classical women carrying vases on their shoulders, picturesque peasants, an owl. The grill over the front doors is festooned with eagles and sailing ships, lions and flowers and proud women. The fence has a gate topped by an arch featuring fleur-de-lis spikes and bells. It’s topped by eagles.
A friend pointed me to a brief history of the neighborhood from the Eight Streets Neighborhood Association, which attributed the artworks to Phillip Ligone. The South End group reported about six years ago: “At 9 Dwight Street, you’ll find an unusual array of sculptures. This was done by the owner in the 1960s and 1970s. He was a blind artist named Phillip Ligone. Ligone passed away in 2002 and his long-time partner, Ramona Petillo (as of 2014) still lives there. Ligone was born in Boston, the only son of Italian immigrant parents. He moved to the South End in the early 1950s and in 1983 said he intended to live in the South End until he dies – which he did. He got interested in sculpture through his father, who sculpted statues for cemeteries. Most of the statues you see are from molds that Ligone purchased in Italy. In a 1983 South End News article, Ligone says that he hadn’t worked in 20 years because he had two large lottery wins that he lived off of.” Which is quite a tale.
Phillip J. Ligone was one of the past owners of the 1875 home, according to state land records. He may have been born May 26, 1924, and died June 11, 2002, according to the website advancedbackgroundchecks.com.
A photo in the May 18, 1981, edition of The Boston Globe shows Phillip Ligone wearing protective goggles and an apron as he “cleans his statues on Dwight street in the South End.”
And that’s all I’ve been able to learn so far. Well, the only other time a Phillip Ligone seems to appear in The Boston Globe archives is a July 14, 1951, article about a Philip—with one L—J. Ligone, identified as a 26-year-old antiques dealer living at 30 Rose St. in Boston. That Ligone and a man “who said he is a painter” were alleged by police to have stolen antiques from a mansion in Newport, Rhode Island.
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