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Historic golden rooster in Harvard Square could soon come down for repairs - and possible sale

Cockerel Video 2

Drone video of the more damaged side, by First Church.

The leaders of First Church in Cambridge plan to take down the "golden cockerel" weathervane that has topped the church spire since 1873 for repairs. But in discussions set to begin this Sunday, parishioners will consider whether the church should then put the historic rooster back atop the spire - or sell it.

Although the weathervane has long been a part of the Cambridge scene, the dawn-seeking golden bird dates back even further - to colonial Boston, when it was created as a way to slyly - and publicly - insult a North End minister.

Local historian Charles Bahne recounts that coppersmith Shem Drowne - who also built the grasshopper weathervane atop Faneuil Hall - crafted the cockerel in 1721, on commission from a group of Bostonians who were angrily splitting away from a local church and building their own congregation:

It originally stood on the New Brick Church on Hanover Street in the North End, which later became home to the Second Church in Boston. Paul Revere worshipped in that building for most of his life; Ralph Waldo Emerson preached there for 3 years, before he gave up the ministry to become a writer and philosopher.

New Brick Church was the product of a bitter dispute amongst parishioners of a different North End parish, the New North, and the rooster form of its weathervane was intended as a deliberate insult to Peter Thacher, a minister at New North: in the Bible, Peter betrays Christ when the cock crows. Upon placing the new weathervane on its spindle for the first time, "a merry fellow straddled over it, and crowed three times to complete the ceremony."

The new parishioners really hated Thacher. In fact, on the day he was installed as minister of New North (on a vote of the church "brethren") a procession through the North End had to be called off, and Thacher quietly led through alleys to the church, for fear his haters would attack him. And then they filled the church balconies and, according to one account, "did sprinkle a liquor, which shall be nameless, upon the people below."

New Brick Church actually backed up against the Revere family property - and was one of the most prominent structures in the town, so the insult really stood out.

In 1768, Revere himself included the church in an engraving showing British soldiers landing in Boston after riots against the Townshend Acts the year before.

From Revere's engraving (complete image):

Part of Revere engraving showing the rooster


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Wow, what a history. I would love to get my hands on that cock.

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Is Lorena Bobbitt in that church?

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They are welcome to do what they wish with it but it would be a shame if they sold it off. There are CPA funds they could get to help repair it or possibly create a replica. It has an interesting fun history and it is important to try to keep that alive.

I am not a believer in saving every single house that is more than a hundred years old. I also do not think history should hamper progress but in this situation the rooster is not in the way and is not hampering anything. It just needs to be fixed or recreated.

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The article wasn't clear, but it sounds as if the debate might be "Hey, if we sell this historic piece at decent value, we (a) wouldn't have to pay premium to restore it, (b) could erect a replica at much lower cost, and (c) could realize a net gain to support the ministries/initiatives of the church!"

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Inquiring Regina's Pizza patrons want to know.

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How did it end up in Cambridge?

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