Heavenly Approbation?

Dear History Friends,

I was working today at the Museum with our wonderful senior assistant, Donna McDaniel, in the extended process of getting our photographic and paper collections organized. Donna (our first woman Selectman back in the day) had left about 20 minutes earlier for one of her two additional engagements in Worcester and Sudbury (in one day, and this lady remembers FDR!!, wow!) when suddenly a storm came up, the skies darkened, and it rained a summer-storm white-out. It was really something: fierce, yet all water. When I looked out the window at the passing, this is what I saw:

How often do you see a rainbow over the Old Burial Ground, where not only our first European settlers, but also our Native American fore-bearers, the Nipmuc Tribe, are buried? Or for that matter, how often do you see a rainbow on the ground, period? In my 52-odd years, this is a first. Unfortunately, Donna, a long time reporter, was not here to witness this event and confirm the viewing, but I assure you this is a real photo, and hopefully a sign of heavenly approbation for our continuing efforts at preserving Southborough’s centuries-old history.

The Boston & Worcester Trolley Air Line

I often think as I get in my car to travel the three or four minutes from my home to the museum, how long this trip would have taken a hundred years ago. Granted, I might have had a car in 1917, but more likely for Southborough, I would have had a horse, and saddling a horse and riding those few miles is a half-hour operation at best. Walking is about the same (you save the time of saddling and unsaddling) and biking was (and is) about 10 minutes, with one major hill.

Imagine then how thrilling it must have been to go from Boston to Worcester in 2 hours by trolley! Now of course, train travel had been around since the 1830s, but with limited local service. The Boston & Albany’s tracks on the border with Hopkinton were a major freight line, as well the route of the named ‘varnish’ trains (the Boston end of the famed 20th Century Limited passed daily through Southborough, for instance) headed for New York, Chicago and all points west.

But on a trolley, all things were local. You could get on and off at will, plus, during the summer months the cars were open-air, and the route truly scenic.  Speaking of the Southborough portion west to Worcester, the booklet below simply glows:  “This portion of the road, running through woods and fields, with fleeting glimpses of all that makes the New England landscape famous, give the tourist a trip long to be remembered.”  To the east of Southborough the route ran through the middle of today’s Rt 9, the old Boston Worcester turnpike, which by the time of the Airline’s construction in 1901, had been largely abandoned.  It must have been an incredibly beautiful trip through the rolling hills of unspoiled countryside and quaint little villages, and in fact the Airline ran special cars for “Trolley Parties,” which were popular day-long excursions in the early 1900s.

The booklet below has never to my knowledge been published online, and is here represented in full size: just click on the images to expand. The very rare fold-out birds-eye view map is truly one-of-a-kind. The booklet is not dated, but can be reasonably assigned to the very first years of the Airline, as the map doesn’t show the White City Amusement Park, which became a major attraction on Lake Quinsigamond by 1905.

This first-time publication is the product of the Society’s continuing  efforts to share our history widely and make our collections accessible to all, and a perfect example of why we need and value your continued financial support.  Donations are easy to make online: just click the button at the end of this post.  More pictures of the Airline are available HERE.

In the meantime, enjoy this long-lost booklet, newly restored to view.

Click on any image below to expand

The fold-out map below is 30″ long and 24MB. But, you can browse to your heart’s content. Maximize your browser size to fully enjoy!

Won’t you make more wonderful finds like this possible?
Donating online is quick, easy and secure. Simply click the donate button below:

Happy Fourth of July!

Recently rediscovered in our photographic collection: Fourth of July, 1902 in Southborough with Ruth Ladd, Marguerite Henderson, Veda Henderson, Alice Hammond, the aptly named Rose Liberty, Evelyn Henderson, James E Griffin, and Corrina Liberty. The dog’s name is lost to history, but for today he can be ‘Firecracker.’

Happy Fourth of July from all your friends at the Southborough Historical Society!

Lost Southborough: 3 Historic Railroad Stations

Ever wonder why Southborough lacks an historic railroad station, especially given the beauties that still exist in Framingham, Ashland, Westborough, and many other points along the old Boston and Albany line?

Well, in fact, we once had not one, but three!

The first, on the branch Agricultural Line to Marlborough, stood on Main Street, in the empty lot west of Lamy’s insurance:

It’s unclear what happened to this beautiful Queen Anne Structure after service was discontinued in the early 30s. Perhaps some of our older members might remember when this building was demolished? How we could use this building now as part of a revitalized main street! Wouldn’t it have made a fantastic pub?

My understanding was that Southville Station, seen below in its prime, was abandoned, vandalized and eventually demolished in the early 70s, the low-point of historical preservation in Southborough.

However, its near twin Cordaville Station had a different fate. I had heard tell that it had been moved to New Hampshire, but I was never able to confirm that.

 

Until now! Sorting through our files as we move back into our museum quarters, I discovered this remarkable clipping. Ho ho! A clue!

So now, do you suppose our once glorious station still exists somewhere in Dublin New Hampshire? I’ve contacted the Historical Society there, and hopefully we’ll soon find out.

Regardless, the sad lesson to be learned here is that if you don’t value your historical structures, there’s always someone else that does…. much to the detriment of your own surroundings.

Moving forward, we need to guard our historic heritage much more actively, Southborough friends!

New Additions for Southborough History Buffs

Our newly created exhibit and meeting space.

 

Dear Friends,

Thanks to your financial support over the last year, we have been able to make many strides in bringing materials previously locked away in the archives online for public viewing.  Here are just some of the most recent offerings:

A Slide Tour of the Old Burial Ground
Join the late historian Kay Allen as she takes you through highlights of one of our most important historical treasures.

Historic Homes Database
Get information on the history of your home without leaving your desk!

Holy Hill Walking Tour
Grab the kids and take a fun and informative walking tour around the Museum with this out-of-print guide.

Southborough Historical Photos Collection
Take a look at our ever expanding collection of online photos.

Southborough Genealogical Resources
New means to research your families history.

Of course, we rely on you to help us make this happen. We have a number of volunteer positions open at the Society, and are always in need of ongoing financial support, so please keep those donations coming!

Empty the Trailer Day — Tomorrow Saturday May 13th!

Ladies and Gentlemen of Good Will and Strong Backs:

Tomorrow is empty the trailer day, when we finally return the collection to the Museum. We need five or six more people to help us 9-2ish. Come for any part of this, or the long haul. Work will require carrying boxes, moving furniture etc so volunteers must be able and willing.

Please email me at michael dot weishan at southboroughhistory dot org if you can come, or are nominating a willing child, partner or spouse.

 

Ms. Lisa Braccio Responds to the Candidates Preservation Forum

Given the argument above on the fluidity of Town board makeup, would you commit now to placing a preservation restriction to protect the exterior of Fayville Town Hall before it is sold? If not, why not?
I am in favor of protecting the Historic Fayville Village Hall and believe we can do it in a way that preserves the building and allows the town to receive a fair price for the building and land. Town Meeting has made it clear more than once that protecting this building is a high priority. I will recommend that we work with the Historical Commission to engage the services of a consultant knowledgeable in Historical Properties Real Estate to guide us as we develop the RFP.  I believe that there can be benefit drafting the RFP to include the requirement that a Preservation Restriction be placed on Fayville Hall by the purchaser, which could provide them with tax benefits. These are complicated issues which is why I recommend we engage the services of an expert.

Study after study has shown that taxes on single family homes don’t cover their cost to the Town, and each new build actually contributes to higher rates for everyone. Given that, what would you propose to limit further development and increase the quality of life for current residents?

This is a complicated question –

First, we need development to meet our future as our society and needs change and to provide for a robust economy. Additionally, property owners have a right to full value of their property under our zoning code bylaws. I am not in favor of taking away property rights or curtailing development.

We also know that healthy communities need open space. A recent economic study in Marlborough found that business owners list open space and trails as the number one amenity they are looking for when considering which towns to locate in. Marlborough’s Economic Development Corporation was surprised by this but then moved to help create trails that connected to local businesses and parks.

Open space and a healthy economy can certainly go hand in hand.

As an Open Space Commissioner for 12 years and current Chair I am in favor of protecting the most important open spaces in town. However, we know we can’t afford to protect it all, which is why the Open Space Preservation Commission works on prioritizing which parcels have the most value as open space.

If the majority of home-owners in a particular area of Town favored the creation of an historic district, would this have your support?
Absolutely, Kate Matison spoke in much detail at a meeting of St. Marks Golf Course Master Plan Committee.  I think it enhances our Town and makes it more desirable.

Would you support the Town acquiring any open parcels that come out of agricultural use to prevent their development?
I don’t believe the Town should purchase land to prevent development, I am not against development. Some parcels of land, however are more important than others to be protected based on the open space value. Recently the Open Space Preservation Commission has included a focus on agricultural lands as an added priority, of particular concern are prime farmland soil which is a valuable and quickly disappearing asset. Our beautiful hay fields are also a priority for a visual connection to our rural heritage and important habitat for grassland birds they provide. Species like the bobolink are disappearing from our landscape due to the lack of habitat.

The Open Space and Recreation Plan, which is approved by both the Selectman and the State has a comprehensive list of priority parcels for preservation.  The Open Space Preservation Commission evaluates open space parcels based on their agricultural, historical, passive recreational, wildlife habitat values and scenic views when deciding which parcels to prioritize.  Preventing development is never a consideration.

What other ideas do you have to promote and protect the historic nature of Southborough?

First I believe people will protect that which they are familiar with, so I am in favor of creating a town wide trail that visits our historical properties with markers or links to a virtual map that identifies the history behind the many buildings and places that the average citizen may not be aware of. Potentially calling it the Southborough History Trail.  This concept was discussed during the effort to preserve the Burnett House.

I also have heard that Deb Costine has led talks on the History of the Burnett Family and I think we need more activities like this.

Once people are more knowledgeable about Southborough’s History it will be easier to promote preservation.

What plans might you suggest to revitalize the Main Street area economically and aesthetically once the road improvements are done?

Great questions.  Unfortunately, the Main Street reconstruction is only being upgraded to Latisquama Rd. and not our downtown.

I propose working with the Planning Board and the Economic Development Committee to brainstorm on what can be done to upgrade the infrastructure in our downtown. A lot can be done to make it aesthetically pleasing, the road needs to be redone, brick sidewalks, imitation gas lights, flower plantings, benches and maybe a pocket park.  A more aesthetically pleasing downtown would bring more people to the area which would make the area a more desire location for businesses.  I would look into what grant funding is available to help fund these improvements.

And finally, if plans were developed for a cultural corridor linking the Library, the Old Burial Ground, the Museum, the Town House, St Marks church and the cemetery, would you be generally supportive of such an idea?

Yes, that section of our Town is so historic and beautiful it would be wonderful to see the area be better utilized. I would take it further and I would recommend a larger trail system as described above.

Mr. David Parry Replies to the Candidates Preservation Forum

Mr. Parry is the second candidate to reply. Here are his answers. Eds

1) Given the argument above on the fluidity of Town board makeup, would you commit now to placing a preservation restriction to protect the exterior of Fayville Town Hall before it is sold? If not, why not? 

Fayville hall should have preservation restrictions on its facade. That would ensure it is saved forever, by future owners, not by one owner., and then destroyed.  That warrant article was NOT thought through properly.by the Selectmen. Had the article been worded differently from the start, by the Selectmen, with Preservation Restrictions , I am confident it would have been  overwhelmingly approved. There is simply no strong leadership on the Bd of Selectmen to preserve our heritage. The notion that a preservation restriction reduces the value of a building is simply not true. In many cases they increase the buildings value, through prestige value. There are many builders potentially interested in this building with preservation  restrictions on it, permanently.  Fayville Hall deserves protection just as much as downtown Southborough Main street buildings. It is not a second class neighborhood. 

2) Study after study has shown that taxes on single family homes don’t cover their cost to the Town, and each new build actually contributes to higher rates for everyone. Given that, what would you propose to limit further development and increase the quality of life for current residents.

Please see my answer under 4

3) If the majority of home-owners in a particular area of Town favored the creation of an historic district, would this have your support.

Yes

4) Would you support the Town acquiring any open parcels that come out of agricultural use to prevent their development

Yes open space should be purchased whenever possible, because single family homes produce so many schoolchildren, and school education. takes 3/4 of our budget. The key is to purchase the most visible and attractive parcels…. Those which add scenic value to our town., such as the golf course (which we just did), or open which is good for recreation. Then we get more “bang for the buck”.  There is far less point in purchasing steep and Rocky or wet , wild land which is hidden from public view …we have to very selective because we have limited funds.

5) What other ideas do you have to promote and protect the historic nature of Southborough?

Please see my answer under 6 below

6)  What plans might you suggest to revitalize the Main Street area economically and aesthetically once the road improvements are done?

The question relates to how we can improve on the design for the rebuilding of  historic Main St. The key missing design element , or feature, critical to making Main St historically accurate and far more attractive is the following: REMOVAL OF THE UGLY UTILITY POLES AND OVERHEAD CABLES.

Many other towns have accomplished this. For instance, Hudson, Marlborough, Shrewsbury etc …thousands in all. Now imagine what future generations will say when the street is rebuilt but the incredibly ugly poles and cables remain, they will say …”What were they thinking? They had the opportunity, and the did not even try! What a shame.”

I want residents in 100 years time to look back at us and say: ” They had the foresight to accomplish an incredible plan when they had the opportunity.  ” That is OUR job now…to wake up before it is too late , and grasp this opportunity.

Another missing element to the Main Street redesign is the design for the downtown commercial block. Where the railroad crosses the road. This deserves special treatment for sidewalks and lighting, benches, canopies, and landscaping. I believe that the business owners themselves should be put n charge, with technical assistance. Let the business owners themselves entertain the possible treatments, and then propose a solution for wider public review. I am confident they will do a fantastic job because the know all about retailing , and they have huge  self interest in making this core block a big success.

Now that is REAL local participation.

7) And finally, if plans were developed for a cultural corridor linking the Library, the Old Burial Ground, the Museum, the Town House, St Marks church and the cemetery, would you be generally supportive of such an idea?

Yes

 

 

Mr. Sam Stivers Replies to the Candidates Preservation Forum

We will publish results from the other candidates as we receive them. Eds.

1. Given the argument above on the fluidity of Town board makeup, would you commit now to placing a preservation restriction to protect the exterior of Fayville Town Hall before it is sold? If not, why not?

Yes.

2. Study after study has shown that taxes on single family homes don’t cover their cost to the Town, and each new build actually contributes to higher rates for everyone. Given that, what would you propose to limit further development and increase the quality of life for current residents?

The Advisory Committee did such a study several years ago, confirming that additional residential development likely results in a net cost to the Town. Because development is largely controlled by the Town’s zoning bylaws (managed by the Planning Board), modification of the development process is something that starts with the Planning Board. I support a Planning Board initiative to update the zoning bylaws, which can address growth and other issues. The Selectmen
can collaborate with the Planning Board on such an initiative.

Additionally, the Selectmen can help manage the Town’s exposure to “unfriendly” 40B housing projects by smart planning to meet our Housing Plan objectives. Using monies in the Housing Trust Fund we can work with developers and/or nonprofits to create “friendly” 40B housing projects so we can meet our housing obligations through a process the Town controls, instead of reacting to developer proposals.

3. If the majority of home owners in a particular area of Town favored the creation of an historic district, would this have your support?

I support this concept. I would need to see the specific details of such a proposal before I can support a particular proposal.

4. Would you support the Town acquiring any open parcels that come out of agricultural use to prevent their development?

I support the preservation of open space in the Town. The challenge is to find a way to fund the acquisition of (or acquisition of the development rights to) such property. The Town needs to work with the Open Space Preservation Commission (OSPC) to see that the limited resources for such purchases are aligned with the OSPC prioritization of available properties.

5. What other ideas do you have to promote and protect the historic nature of Southborough?

The Selectmen can support the Historical Commission and the Planning Board to develop a plan for historic preservation and priorities.

6.  What plans might you suggest to revitalize the Main Street area economically and aesthetically once the road improvements are done?

The Town could consider creating a zoning overlay district to permit mixed-use structures in the downtown area. This could provide additional commercial/professional space as well as residential use.

7. And finally, if plans were developed for a cultural corridor linking the Library, the Old Burial Ground, the Museum, the Town House, St Marks church and the cemetery, would you be generally supportive of such an idea?

I would be generally supportive of this concept. I would need to see the specific details of such a proposal before I can support a particular proposal.

Annual Meeting Recap, and a Call for Volunteers

In case you were not able to attend the annual meeting this past Saturday, here is a recap of my presentation about the current and future direction of the Society.

Faced with severe challenges, things looked pretty grim in the summer of 2016. The Museum building was closed for mold remediation after a flood; the membership had fallen to dangerously low levels, and the Society was faced with a serious financial shortfall.

The old interior summer 2016  while undergoing renovations

But from darkness, light: Over the past year, the SHS has gained a new, pro-active board dedicated to bringing the Society into the 21st century. The work began by introducing a set of new, streamlined by-laws that better reflect the realities of today’s volunteer organizations; completing the flood and mold remediation of the entire interior and the collections; and re-inventing the storage and exhibit space to better utilize both the building and the artifacts.

Our renovated conference and meeting area

But a collection is just a bunch of objects until it’s used to tell a story: our story.

A student investigates a particular painting at the Oakland Museum of Art. Notice too that some of the framed panels on the walls are interpretive flat screens.

With the introduction of affordable flat screens over the last decade, there has been a revolution in the way small museums are able to interpret their collections. The Society intends to embrace this new technology with gusto, with plans to secure grants in 2017 to purchase the screens and create new, digital interactive displays with rotating special exhibits. These exhibits will showcase objects in our collections, and will be designed to work equally well in the museum, in the classroom, and online.

For 2017 and 2018, the Society will focus on three aspects of Southborough history that have greatly influenced the way we live today.

The first was the coming of the railroad to Southborough. The Boston to Worcester line is the second oldest in the country, dating to 1835, and brought about dramatic change in the way people viewed themselves and the world. In a single year, Southborough left the 18th century and headed for the 20th.

Our second theme will focus on women and domestic life in the 19th century. Southborough was the second most productive agricultural land in the state by the 1870s, and most residents lived and worked on farmsteads tended by women. The days were long, and unbelievably hard — a fact little appreciated by the youth of today. We’re going to be taking a look back at what it took to tend a home, hearth and bring a meal to the table 150 years ago.

The museum and old burial ground sit adjacent to where once a Nipmuck village stood. The first peoples of this place, the Nipmucks, are almost entirely forgotten today, and deserve a more thorough look as the founders of the place we today call Southborough.

Finally, the Society Board is dedicated to bringing Heritage back to Heritage Day, and we’ll be organizing a set of activities in and outside the Museum to complement festivities on St. Marks Field.

Lastly, we are now once again in a position to accept volunteers. The first opportunity is May 13, empty the trailer day, when the remaining objects in our collection come out of storage. We need able backs and legs to help make this happen.

We have openings for 2-3 curatorial volunteers to prepare our photograph and paper collections for digitizing by the Boston Public Library in their Digital Commonwealth Project. The work is Mac-based using Filemaker, which is a pretty simple database program. The task is mainly assigning accession numbers to photos and transferring content information to the database. As the Historical Commission will be supervising this work, there is a possibility of a senior tax position as well.

We’re also looking for experienced editors and writers familiar with Word Press to edit and publish content on our website, including this blog.

And finally, in conjunction with myself and our new Treasurer, Rebecca Deans Rowe, we’re looking for people experienced in writing grant applications to help fund our activities.

It’s been a challenging but rewarding year. Let’s make the next even better!

With heartfelt thanks to everyone for their amazing support,

Michael Weishan,
President