Thursday, September 23, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 71: Grafton, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 71:  Grafton, Mass.
August 18, 2010

            All good things must come to and end and for me my trip to the awe inspiring Blackstone River Valley ended in the sweet little town of Grafton.  It is the home of a genuine Native American village belonging to the Nipmuc tribe.  It is known as the Hassanamisco Reservation and that name has sometimes preceded the Nipmuc tribe in Grafton.  They are also known as the Hassanamesit or Grafton Nipmuc as well.
Looking across the green at the Grafton Inn
            Originally settled in 1718 the town is named for Charles FitzRoy who was the second Duke of Grafton in Wales.  Much like the other towns I visited in the Blackstone River Valley, Grafton has a classic small town feel and is filled with beautiful scenery wherever you look.
            Though there are many spots to see I found that a great way to get a feel for what Grafton is all about is to take a walk around Grafton Common.  I was lucky to find a parking spot facing the small town green which made my walk that much easier.  The Common is like something out of a postcard or magazine, to me it was as if every building and every home had meaning and significance.  This also explains why I basically took photos of every building and home as well.
Grafton Country Store
            At the southern tip of the Common is a statue of 19th century inventor and Grafton native Jerome Wheelock.  He generously left a large gift to the town in his will.  The Lovell Stowe house is actually a pair of identical homes built in 1830 and separated by a narrow driveway.  I found it unique that despite being two unattached dwellings they kept the same name for both.
            As I walked northeast around the Common I passed the Grafton Public Library, a beautiful brick building set back a little from the street.  The 200-year old Grafton Inn comes up next as you head north.  It still holds on to its colonial-style inside and out.  Not only is it a very popular restaurant the Grafton Inn also doubles as a Bed & Breakfast.  
            Most of the old buildings around the Common still house what they were originally built for, however, there are a few that contain newer businesses.  One such building is the Civil War-era brick building which was the former Town Hall.  It currently holds the Grafton Historical Society and Museum but is also home to a few newer businesses including a wine shop and boutique.  Although I find old buildings that have stayed the same for long periods of time interesting there is a part of me that is just as fascinated with buildings that retain their appearance but house different occupants. 
Incredible scenery of the Blackstone River Valley.
            Perhaps the best known spot around the Grafton Common is the Grafton Country Store.  The store, its location mostly, can be traced all the way back to 1733-34 and a man named Jeremiah Barstow who opened a shop on the same spot.   Although the building was erected in 1806 the Grafton Country Store as it is known today was opened in the early 1980’s by the Mahassel family.  If you did not know the dates you would swear that it had been open for at least a hundred years.  The store sells a variety of items including candles, children's toys, jams and jellies, and of course homemade chocolates.
            Of course if taking a walk around the Common is not your thing you can always sit in the shaded green area and watch the cars and people pass by.  There is even a stubby little traffic light at the Worcester Street entrance to the Common area.  It was very different from anything I’d seen that I had to watch for oncoming traffic as I stopped to check it out in the middle of the street.
            After leaving the Grafton Common behind I took a trip out to Willard Street and the Willard House Clock Museum.  The irony is that my GPS took me past it and to the Tufts Hospital for Large Animals.  I was able to check out several horses wandering around on the premises and then turned to the east to catch an amazing view of the Blackstone River Valley.  The vast green hills stretched out before me, I don’t think I could ever get used to such scenery where it became just a part of life.
Willard House
            The Willard House & Clock Museum is named for the Willard family most notably Benjamin Willard who began making clocks in his workshop in 1766.  Eventually three generations of the Willard family would lay claim to the same trade.  The Willard House is the oldest building in Grafton, built in 1718 by Joseph Willard, father of Benjamin.  Another of Joseph’s sons, Simon, patented the very famous and historically significant ‘banjo’ clock in 1802.  It was called a banjo clock because of its similarity to the instrument in shape.  Today more than eighty Willard clock are on display.  The museum opened in 1971 and is open year round.
            My time in the Blackstone River Valley may have ended with Grafton but I will take with me the memories of what an amazing area of New England this is.  The Grafton Common is a must see as are the many historic homes, buildings, and shops in the surrounding area.  Make sure to drive out to the Willard House & Clock Museum, but don’t be upset if you pass by it at first.  There are some incredible views of the Valley just north of the museum on Willard Street.  You need to make time to see as much of the scenery as possible.  It will stay with you for a long time.  Have fun and happy traveling!

DirectionsGrafton Common:  From I-495 North take Exit 21B for Upton.  Take W. Main Street which becomes Hopkinton Road, this becomes High Street which then becomes Hartford Ave North.  Turn right at Rt. 140 and follow it into the Common area.
Willard House & Clock Museum:  From I-495 take Rt. 9 west to Rt. 30, turn right at Willard Road next to the Tufts Campus, house will be on the right.

            Grafton Country
            Town of Grafton - Official Site