Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 36: Bristol, Rhode Island

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund
Trip 36: Bristol, Rhode Island
March 25, 2010

            When it comes to the most historic towns in New England there are many that would come to mind right away.  It might take a while to name the beautiful coastal town of Bristol, Rhode Island as one of those towns.  However after taking a drive down the east coast of Rhode Island and walking the amazing downtown area of Bristol any visitor will find out just why this town ranks up near the top of historic places in this region.
            For the first trip outside of Massachusetts I chose Bristol because of the fact that it was an underrated historical town; its history goes back as far as 1675.  It was here that the first battle of King Philip’s War took place; this was the battle between the European settlers and Native American sachem, or chief, Metacom.  Founded in 1680 originally as a part of Plymouth County and named for a town in England, Bristol’s main settlers were the DeWolf family. 
            James DeWolf started out as a leading slave trader and was a Revolutionary War veteran captured twice.  He eventually became a senator in Rhode Island from 1821-25.  Fortunately local Quakers fought to abolish slavery not too long after the Revolution.  The DeWolf family’s home, Linden Place(left) on Hope Street, was built in 1810 and is currently a museum.  Concerts and performances take place during the year and there are many other events going on to celebrate the bicentennial of Linden Place.  This piece of history, however, is only the beginning of an incredible visit to Bristol.
            A great place to start a trip into Bristol is the entrance to the town: The Mount Hope Bridge(right).  Named for a hill in Bristol which overlooks Mount Hope Bay, it is a very important site as it is located close to the spot where Metacom met his demise during King Philip’s War.  The bridge itself was initially proposed in 1920 as a way to connect Bristol and Portsmouth across one of the narrowest parts of Narragansett Bay.  The bridge is built in a classic suspension style, much like San Francisco’s Golden Gate, it spans more than 6,000 feet from end to end and is a registered historic place.  There is a small parking area at the foot of the bridge where the history of it is captured in several images. 
            The only unfortunate part of the Mount Hope Bridge being built is the fact that it hides another historic Bristol location.  The Bristol Ferry Lighthouse(left), built in 1855, sits almost directly underneath the bridge.  Discontinued shortly after the completion of the bridge, the lighthouse is now privately owned.  It can be viewed from the end of Old Ferry Road which runs along the dorms of Roger Williams University.  This is a must see spot for the great views of the lighthouse, bridge, and the shoreline of Portsmouth across the bay.  It is from this spot that you can truly appreciate just how long the Mount Hope Bridge really is as it stretches out of sight.  It is a perfect example of the progression of our own capabilities as humans to see this mammoth steel creation towering over a modest forty-foot brick lighthouse.
            There is no shortage of historic places to see in the historic downtown area of Bristol.  In fact the best way to fully appreciate this area is to find a spot along Hope Street and walk.  If you are like me you will find yourself stopping every few steps and snapping photos of almost every building you see.  I wanted to make sure that I pointed out at least a couple of really amazing spots that caught my eye during my walk on the streets of Bristol.  The first one actually sat right in front of where I parked.
            The Burnside Memorial Building which doubles as a courthouse at times is located next to the Bristol Town Hall.  It was originally built in 1883 as a tribute to the Civil War General, and Bristol native, Ambrose Burnside.  Along the side and behind the building is a spectacular war memorial(left) encompassing all of the major conflicts faced by our country.  It begins with a statue featuring two soldiers looking off toward the water.  From there you will walk along a brick walkway featuring the names of donators to the memorial as well as incredible granite stones with names of some wars and local veterans on them.  The highlight for me was the wall at the back of the memorial which featured the names of all of the local casualties of all of the wars up to and including the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The stone has such a brilliant reflection to it that it was possible for me to see the Burnside Memorial Building in great detail while staring at the names listed.  It was hard not to get a greater scope of the horrors of war by looking at all of the names listed and realizing that it was only for the town of Bristol.
            The Burnside Memorial Building is just one of a seemingly unlimited number of historic places in this hidden gem of a town.  There are thirteen officially recognized places included in the National Register of Historic Places in Bristol to be exact.  The final spot I visited in Bristol is a great way to capture the maritime feel: Independence Park.  Located along Thames Street and sitting on Bristol Harbor this park is the starting point for the East Bay Bike Path.  There is a rocky pier for fishing and a beach used more for launching boats than swimming.  There is a monument to Christopher Columbus’ voyage across the Atlantic on the southern side of the park as well as a World War II era artillery gun facing out into the harbor.  It is a great spot to watch the boats come in, watch the people and cars pass by along historic Thames Street, or to grab a bite to eat at Quito’s seafood restaurant. 
            A true hidden gem of a town, Bristol is so filled with history that I feel I have most certainly missed a great deal of sites despite having seen so much.  I believe that any visitor needs to take in the scope of the Mount Hope Bridge, walk the historic Hope and Thames streets, and visit Independence Park or the nearby Colt State Park.  Get out and enjoy Bristol.  Have fun and happy traveling!
DirectionsBristol Ferry Light/Mount Hope Bridge: From Rt. 114 heading north cross over Mt. Hope Bridge.  Take first right turn onto Old Ferry Road.  Follow it to the water, there is a small area to park and look upon the bridge and water.  The lighthouse is located on the right.
Independence Park: From Rt. 114 heading north, cross over Mt. Hope Bridge.  Follow Ferry Road and take a left at Hope Street to stay on Rt. 114.  Follow Rt. 114/Hope Street to Franklin St., turn left and the park is in front of you.
Historic District:  From Rt. 114 heading north, cross over Mt. Hope Bridge.  Follow Ferry Road and take a left at Hope St. to stay on Rt. 114.  From there it is a matter of where to start.  There is parking on the street and Thames Street is the next street to the west along the water.
            Quitos Restaurant  

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 35: Fall River, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund
Trip 35: Fall River, Mass.
March 25, 2010

            Located just before the border with Rhode Island and about forty-five minutes south of Boston, Fall River has an array of tremendous sites that can be the cornerstones of a great trip.  However there are a few that go beyond that and make this small city an exciting destination.  Any trip to Fall River needs to feature stops at Battleship Cove, the Old Colony Railroad Museum, and of course the Lizzie Borden house.
            Fall River got its name from the ‘falling river’ known as the Quequechan River.  Quequechan comes from the Wampanoag word believed to mean ‘falling river/waters’ due to the waterfalls that ran through the city.  These falls were diverted underground due to the development of the Braga Bridge and Interstate 195.  The borders of Fall River at one time included Tiverton, Rhode Island but this area was annexed to the Ocean State to satisfy the border disagreement between Massachusetts and Rhode Island in 1746.
Battleship Cove is the largest collection of World War II naval vessels and is a breathtaking sight upon arrival.  I parked at the nearby Fall River Heritage State Park(left) which gave me a wider scope of what lay out before me.  The park is only about eight and a half acres but with some benches underneath the trees facing the cove it is a sweet resting spot to escape the bustle of the busy streets just behind it.  There is a lush green meadow which hosts summer concerts as well, it amazed me how close this park was to the streets but how it could feel so far removed from them as well.
Nestled partially beneath the Braga Bridge, Battleship Cove includes many vessels but chief among them is the U.S.S. Massachusetts(left) which is one of eight surviving battleships built by the United States.  It is now a museum ship and can be toured year round.  Also included among the ships U.S.S. Joseph P. Kennedy which was a destroyer in the Navy; this is also a museum which can be toured.  The U.S.S. Lionfish is a submarine situated between the Massachusetts and Joseph Kennedy; it avoided a pair of Japanese torpedoes during the war and became part of the Battleship Cove collection in 1972.
Apart from the impressive collection of vessels and war memorabilia at Battleship Cove there is also an unexpected site, a restored carousel.  Originally located at the now-closed Lincoln Park in nearby Dartmouth, the carousel, which was built in 1920, was restored by local high school students in the early-1990’s.  Unfortunately on this day it was being rented out for a private party so my best view was through the windows.  It is certain to be more accessible on other days so it should be sought out during any visit to Fall River.  Having never been to Battleship Cove I took a bit of time to simply stand near the water’s edge and just marvel at the enormity of the ships and the area they covered. 
Only a short walk from Battleship Cove is another piece of American history that needs to be seen: The Old Colony & Fall River Railroad Museum(above).  Although the museum itself is small, consisting of a few vintage railroad cars, it is still nonetheless a very important collection and piece of history.  The Old Colony & Fall River Railroad came about as a merger between the Old Colony Railroad and the Fall River Railroad in 1854.  Though the museum itself is small it contains a very conclusive look at the cars which once ran along the Fall River Railroad.  On the museum grounds you can see how a rail switch works along with specific rail cars like the caboose and theater cars.  It is impossible to miss this museum if you are anywhere near Battleship Cove and is a great stop on a visit to Fall River especially during the warmer months.
My final stop during my time in Fall River was the site of one of the most famous, or infamous, murders in American history: The Lizzie Borden House(left).  For those of you who may have never heard of the events legend has it that Ms. Borden murdered her father and step-mother with an axe inside the house in 1892.  She was acquitted but the murders still took place regardless of who the perpetrator was.
The house is now a Bed & Breakfast and is available for overnight stays.  It stands out in the neighborhood as a snapshot of when the Borden family lived there, not just because of its deep green color but also the fact that it is virtually unchanged in nearly 120 years.  It was part amazement and part trepidation as I walked through the rooms and stood in the same spots where Mr. and Mrs. Borden were brutally murdered.  It was something I would have regretted not doing during my travels.

The interior of the house looks much the same as it did on that fateful day in 1892 with many original items and other period pieces of furniture.  The owners have done a masterful job of keeping the integrity of a legendary crime scene while also updating it enough to be a modern bed and breakfast.  My tour guide was very knowledgeable, sharing so much of the details of the murders and the lives of the Borden family that you’d have though she had lived during the time.  I highly recommend taking the tour of this piece of American history.  Stay the night as well if you are in town for a longer time as well.  You will leave the house with a feeling that you have just been a part of the legendary story of Lizzie Borden.
Fall River started as a small farming town, grew into a textile industry giant, and is now synonymous with Battleship Cove and Lizzie Borden.  Close to both Providence and Boston, this historical wonderland needs to be seen and enjoyed by any and all travelers.  Spend some time at Battleship Cove and take a walk through the Lizzie Borden House and you will see what I mean.  Have fun and happy traveling!
Directions: Heritage State Park & Battleship Cove: From I-195 heading west take Exit 5 for Rt. 79.  Keep left at fork in road to continue toward and merge w/Rt. 79.  Continue to Broadway Extended, take left at Columbia St., turn left at Eagle St.  Turn right at Firestone Ave., continue onto Water St.  Battleship Cove, Lincoln Carousel, Heritage State Park, and Old Colony and Fall River Railroad Museum are all within walking distance.
            Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast:  From I-195 heading take Exit 7, Plymouth Ave. Exit.  Merge onto Hartwell St., slight left at Borden St., slight left at 2nd St.  There is parking behind the house.
Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

Thursday, March 25, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 34: Carver, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 34: Carver, Mass.
March 18, 2010

            Carver is a small town with some big attractions.  Although it is synonymous with Edaville USA, and rightfully so, there is so much more to Carver that needs to be seen.  If Middleboro has small town charm, Carver is closer to a rural area, with the population spread out more which gives way to some incredible stretches of wooded scenery perfect for a drive on a summer day. 
            Carver became its own town in 1790 mostly thanks to the fact the many residents of Plympton, Massachusetts lived too far away to attend church.  Named for John Carver, the first governor of Plymouth Colony, the town became known for its iron ore found in its swamps and became further established thanks to a rail line which connected the small town to Boston and New York City.
            I paid a visit to Carver’s Town Hall(left) first off and noticed that the building fits right in with the rest of the town’s rural appeal.  Whereas Middleboro has a very large Hall, Carver’s is much more understated.  It faces a nicely maintained wooded area which contains a farmers market and has what can only be described as a vintage war gun on the front lawn.  The gun is from the World War II-era or earlier and I found it a little humorous that it is pointed eerily close to the farmers market.
            Up the road a ways, close to the ground of another famous attraction, the seasonal King Richard’s Faire, is a historic spot that can only be described as the first in America.  The Savery Historic District is home to a short stretch of road that is the first divided highway ever built in America(right).  Built in 1861 by William Savery the road is two lanes with a beautiful row of trees in between them.  The trees were left to be used as ‘shade and ornament for man and beast.’  A drive on this road is only a little over a minute but it is so unique that I had to circle back several times to get a feel of what it must have been like when this stretch of ‘highway’ was brand new.
            Located at the next right turn after the Savery Road sits the grounds of King Richard’s Faire which runs on weekends in September and October.  This fair is an authentic recreation of a 16th Century English marketplace at festival time.  It is a great way to experience history firsthand and its popularity as a family tourist destination is equaled only by the next place I visited in Carver: Edaville Railroad, now known as Edaville USA.
            Edaville(right) is a cherished childhood memory of mine and I am sure of many thousands of others from New England.  Edaville was built in 1947 using the remains of most of Maine’s once thriving two-foot gauge rails.  The name Edaville comes from the man responsible for building the five and a half mile long track around his 1500 acre cranberry bogs, Ellis D. Atwood.  His initials (E.D.A.) make up part of the name.  Although it has undergone many changes since I first visited the park in the mid-1980’s, Edaville still maintains its charm and appeal for kids and adults alike.  There is nothing quite like taking the train ride around the vast cranberry bog during the Christmas season, even twenty-five years later I can picture that trip in my mind.  The park has many rides and a vintage carousel, it is easy to find and as previously stated is synonymous with the small town of Carver.
            Located a little further east in Carver, as well as in the neighboring town of Plymouth sits a place that is worthy of its own article.  Myles Standish State Forest is the largest publicly owned recreation area in the state and is home to many beautiful kettle ponds.  Covering approximately 15,000 acres of land this amazing landscape is home to the endangered Plymouth Red-bellied turtle which populates several of the kettle ponds.
            Although it is filled with incredible scenery no matter the time of day it is highly recommended that you visit Myles Standish State Forest at either sunrise or sunset.  I went close to sunset which gives a beautiful orange glow to the pine trees and colors the water of the ponds a blue gray.  With daylight fading I had to pick and choose which ponds I visited, first up was College Pond.  This pond is very popular and has areas for swimming, picnicking, and fishing.  I visited the other side of the pond which was dotted with several small cabins, the facilities on the main side of College Pond were still visible despite the sunlight fading. 
            Furnace Pond is on the western side of the forest and I ran into a flock of turkeys heading out of New Long Pond on the way there.  Down a dirt road which needed to be walked I found a pair of swans quietly swimming across Furnace Pond(left) and it made for a fitting end to my trip. 
            Carver maybe a small and rural town but it has a lot to be seen.  Give some time to visit the country’s first divided highway, take a tour around Edaville USA, and then enjoy the quiet majesty of Myles Standish State Forest.  Bring the whole family and feel the spirit of this little town all around you.  Have fun and happy traveling!

     My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at,, and, soon to be in stores everywhere!  Follow me on Twitter!

DirectionsSavery Road:  From I-495, take the exit for Rt. 58 N.  Turn left after 2.5 miles to stay on Rt. 58.  Follow Rt. 58 for 3 more miles, the Savery divided highway is on the left.
            Edaville USA:  From I-495, take the exit for Rt. 58 N.  Turn left after 2.5 miles to stay on Rt. 58.  Follow Rt. 58 for another mile and turn left onto Dump Rd.  Continue onto Rochester Rd., turn right at Eda Ave. 
            Myles Standish State Forest:  From Rt. 3 take Exit 5, turn right onto Long Pond Rd.  Continue on for 3 miles, the park entrance is on the right.
ReferencesEdaville USA
            DCR - Myles Standish State Forest
            King Richard's Faire
            Town of Carver Homepage

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 33: Middleboro, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund
Trip 33: Middleboro, Mass.
March 18, 2010

            If charm were currency the town of Middleboro would be among the richest in the state.  There is a feel that cannot be measured when walking the streets of this small town.  First called Nemasket, meaning ‘place of fish’ by the Wampanoags, when settled in 1661, Middleboro is a place of historical and natural beauty that will feed your senses and soul.
            Middleboro has become the cranberry capital and is home to the corporate headquarters of Ocean Spray just across the town line.  The company, founded in 1930, began as a collection of three cranberry growers and has become the top brand of canned and bottled juice drinks in the country.  The 99,000 square foot building sits on sixteen acres containing cranberry bogs, ponds, and walking trails.  It is a great feeling knowing that such a large, successful corporation sits in the heart of Massachusetts.
            After a glimpse of the Ocean Spray grounds it was time to visit the heart of Middleboro.  This is where you get a real peek into the charm of this place.  The Middleboro Town Hall(right) is a shining example of it.  Built in the 1870’s the towering Victorian-style structure looks majestically over Rt. 105 which leads into a beautiful downtown area seemingly pulled right from a story.  I felt it necessary to take a walk in the sun around this area to appreciate it more.
            The Town Hall grounds house a few more places of interest including a Civil War monument(left) standing proudly in front of the Hall.  To its left is an even more spectacular memorial dedicated to veterans of all wars.  The American and P.O.W./M.I.A. flags fly above this incredible display which includes amazing marble benches sporting the names of every conflict faced by this country.  It even made a point to honor the Texas Revolution and King Philip’s War which astounded me.  The intricate bricks that fill the center of the memorial are special as well; many of them have names of soldiers from Middleboro who fought and died in the wars.  I felt honored to be standing among these brave soldiers, even if it was just their names.
            For more historical sites one only has to drive a few blocks from the Town Hall to find two of them.  There is the Robbins Museum of Archaeology named for Dr. Maurice Robbins, one of the founders of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society.  Just across the street is the Middleboro Historical Museum as well as the Tom Thumb Museum.  The latter features a large, interesting collection of items dealing with famed P.T. Barnum performer Charles Stratton.  He was a dwarf who only grew to a height of less than three and a half feet but became a celebrity during the early days of Barnum’s traveling shows.  Stratton and his wife, Lavinia, made their home in Middleboro and the museum is a touching tribute to an early American celebrity.  
            After leaving the downtown area of Middleboro it was time for lunch and a very special treat.  Located on Rt. 28 is Dave’s Diner(left), an authentic throwback to the classic diners of the 1950’s.  Although it looks the part, this great spot was actually built in Florida in 1997 and shipped in pieces up to its current location.  However, if they did not mention that fact you would be hard pressed to know that it was only 13 years old. 
            The location and atmosphere is amazing with 50’s and 60’s memorabilia hanging all over every wall, there is no need to read a newspaper or watch a television as the memorabilia is entertaining enough.  I decided to order breakfast which is served all day and chose the ‘Elvis’ pancakes which consisted of bananas along with chocolate and peanut butter chips.  Needless to say I was not disappointed with the taste or the portions.  The service and overall mood of the diner is off the charts, the people are all so friendly and seem to thrive on the carefree 50’s vibe.  I highly recommend that you make a stop at Dave’s if you are in the area, or even if you are not.  I made it a scheduled stop on my trip thanks to great reviews and here is another great review.
            One last area that I needed to stop and see in this wondrous little town was Oliver Mill Park(right).  It was named for Peter Oliver, an 18th Century citizen who purchased much of the land surrounding the current park and built an iron foundry on the park grounds.  Eventually Oliver became very powerful, rising to the rank of judge of the Superior Court, a rank which left him only second to the governor of the colony in 1762.
            On this day the ravages of the recent rainstorms had left the park flooded by the Nemasket River, most of the picnic area was surrounded by water being patrolled by geese.  The most incredible sight on the park grounds is the remains of an 18th Century ironworks which was later converted to a shovel shop after 1800.  Parts of the building are still visible including much of a wall with what can only be assumed to be an old window opening.  Despite the flooded park it was still possible to walk around these remains and marvel at what it must have looked like when it was a thriving industrial spot.        
            With beautiful downtown shops and streets for walking, an amazing throwback diner serving great meals all day, and an historic feel in many locations, Middleboro is worth the trip from anywhere in the state.  So pay your respects at the war memorial at Town Hall, grab some lunch at Dave’s Diner, and relax along the shores of the Nemasket at Oliver Mill Park.  It all adds up to a nearly perfect day.  Have fun and happy traveling!   
Directions: Middleboro Town Hall: From I-495 North take the exit toward S. Main St.  Turn left at S. Main St.  Turn left at Nickerson Ave., the Town Hall and war memorials are on the left.
Dave’s Diner:  From I-495 take Exit 6 for Rt. 44, at traffic circle take 2nd exit for Rt. 28.  Turn right toward Anderson Ave., take 1st right onto Anderson Ave., make a U-Turn, diner will be on right.
Oliver Mill Park: From I-495 take Exit 6 for Rt. 44, at traffic circle take 3rd exit to stay on Rt. 44.  Turn right at Plymouth St., take the 1st left to stay on Plymouth St. 
References: Dave's Diner
            Middleboro Official Town Site
   - General Tom Thumb

Monday, March 22, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 32: Taunton, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund
Trip 32: Taunton, Mass.
March 18, 2010
Seemingly a hybrid between city life and small town charm, Taunton has something for everyone.  There are beautiful cathedral style churches, amazing monuments and mills, historical buildings, and quaint shops and eateries all intertwined into one truly great place to visit.  Located only a half hour from the Cape and forty minutes from Boston, Taunton blends the best of both areas perfectly.  It is the largest town in terms of square mileage in the state.
            Taunton was originally settled in 1637.  The name was taken from the town of Taunton in Somerset, England as that was where many of the first settlers came from.  These settlers took possession of the land from the native Wampanoags who had called the land Cohannet.  The land saw battles during the Revolutionary War and became an important town in the 19th Century due to silver and iron industries.  The Taunton River is the town’s only major waterway.  Though beautiful it can also be dangerous, it was flooded after a series of large rainstorms recently.
I chose to park and walk into the center of town first, it was a good choice.  A walk down Broadway is a great way to get a feel for Taunton.  I passed by the amazing St. Mary’s Church, located in a small section of town also called St. Mary’s Square.  It towers overhead with the feel of a structure built a thousand years ago.  On a sunny day like this was the church is a mass of color and intricate shadows ripe for photographers.
            Only steps from St. Mary’s church you will pass by a classic doughnut shop named Colonial Donut Shop.  It has a look and feel of a gathering place for locals untouched by progress, with a grandfather who once owned a few doughnut shops, in Hyannis as well as Brockton, this was something that I appreciated.
            Even before you get close to Taunton Green(left) in the heart of the town an incredible green dome becomes visible in the distance.  This belongs to the Bristol County Superior Courthouse(right).  Built in 1894 in a Roman-esque style, the courthouse contains a large law library located in the dome section of the building.  The green color of the dome comes from the oxidation of the copper, much the same as the Statue of Liberty.  This process takes between ten and fifteen years to occur.  There is so much more to see on the grounds of the courthouse including an incredible World War II memorial fountain to the right of the building.  Luckily at this time of year the fountains were not turned on; it allowed a great view of the granite earth located in the center of four pillars.  On the other side of the courthouse grounds is a moving Korean War memorial featuring two soldiers, one of whom has seemingly just passed away.  It is hard not to be touched by both of these memorials.
            The walk down Broadway eventually leads to historical Taunton Green.  This is a great place to sit and people watch, eat lunch on a sunny day.  It has also been a traditional meeting place for troops about to be deployed, thus the war memorials on the grounds.  What fascinated me was the way that all of the roads fed into this area, the town literally revolves around the Green.  In the center of the Green is a gigantic fountain dedicated to local citizen Walter Soper in 1959.  It has two fish sculpted into it that give the fountain a more magical look.  Again, at this time of year the water was not running which allowed for a better view of what lay underneath.  The Green is a perfect jumping off point for any walk through the downtown area and there is another place, one with a historic flavor, not far away.
            The Old Colony Historical Society sits little more than a block from the center on a road called Church Green.  Housed in a brick schoolhouse originally built in 1852, this spot contains a mass of information about the people and history of the town of Taunton.  Included are displays of fine silver, Wampanoag artifacts, military pieces, as well as toys and portraits.  There are guided tours for children which makes this place a great stop on a family outing.  
            For those who are not looking for history or beautiful architecture there is something for them as well.  Massasoit State Park is located both in East Taunton and neighboring Lakeville on Middleboro Avenue.  I was pleasantly surprised by the King Airfield Hanger historic site(left).  It is what the name says, an airplane hanger, built in 1919.  What was even more intriguing was the very small cemetery along the roadside with stones dating back to the Revolutionary War days.  On a desolate part of the road it made for a haunting scene that added to a very fun drive.
Named for the legendary Native American ‘sachem,’ or chief, Massasoit State Park has 126 campsites and four lakes.  Though the gates to the main road were closed on this day it was still populated by many people jogging and walking with their kids and dogs.  The Perry cranberry bogs, which are privately maintained, fit right in with the rest of the natural beauty.  Lake Rico(right) is the closest, and largest, body of water to the main gate if visitors do not wish to travel far into the park’s grounds.   This lake takes up nearly a quarter of the park’s grounds and has a separate parking area outside of the park as well.  It will give you a taste of the beauty of Massasoit even if you do not travel any further inside.
Taunton is very much a hybrid town, mixing small town charm with city advances.  It is something that cannot easily be explained but once you step foot on its streets you will understand what I mean.  I highly recommend taking a nice walk through the Taunton Green area if the weather permits, and definitely visiting Massasoit State Park even if only to see Lake Rico.  With something for everyone, Taunton is awaiting.  Have fun and happy traveling!
Directions: Taunton Green: From I-495 take Exit 6 for Harding Street/Rt. 44, follow it for 6 miles.  Continue straight onto Church Green, continue onto Main Street.  Turn left at Court St., take 1st left onto Taunton Green.  Parking is available on every street, there is also a lot located nearby on School St.
Massasoit State Park:  From I-495, take Exit 5 for Bedford St./Rt. 18, turn right onto Taunton St.  Continue onto Middleboro Avenue, turn left onto Massasoit Park Rd.
            Taunton, Mass. Official Site
            Massasoit State Park Information

Sunday, March 14, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 31: Gloucester, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund
Trip 31: Gloucester, Mass.
March 6, 2010

            What the Witch Trials are to Salem that is what fishing is to Gloucester.  It is what defines this incredible North Shore village.  America’s oldest seaport, Gloucester houses many beautiful landscapes along its shore and some memorable statues and of course lighthouses.  Only a forty mile drive north of Boston, this popular tourist destination at times can seem like the perfect painting of what a fishing village should be.
            Following Rt. 127 North from Manchester there is a perfect place to start any journey around Gloucester.  The amazing Stage Fort Park(left) has a Visitor’s Center open during the warmer months and is home to one of the best views in the North Shore area.  The site of the first settlers to the Gloucester area from Dorchester, England, Stage Fort Park has a nearly fifty foot tall boulder containing a gigantic plaque commemorating this fact.  The view from the top of the boulder is breathtaking as you can see all across the wide open park to the east, historic downtown Gloucester to the north, and Ten Pound Island and lighthouse to the west.  This island received its name either from the amount of money paid to the local Indians, or for the number of sheep pens, known as ‘pounds,’ located on the island.
There are two beaches at Stage Fort Park, Cressy’s Beach, a normal, rocky beach and Half Moon Beach which is very small and secluded amongst the rocks, a sort of lagoon.  This is traditionally accepted as the spot where the first settlers made landfall.
            Before heading into the historic downtown area of Gloucester there is a much unexpected site to see, especially for a well known fishing village.  Backtracking a little from Stage Fort Park you will find the Hammond Castle Museum(right).  It is a medieval castle in the middle of the North Shore.  Built by John Hays Hammond Jr. between 1926 and 1929, this authentic castle was created to serve as his home and to house his collection of Roman, medieval, and Renaissance artifacts.  Hammond was also a prolific inventor, second only to Thomas Edison as far as patents.  He is known as the ‘Father of Remote Control’ thanks to his works with remote control via radio waves. 
            The castle itself is brilliant.  It sits on a rocky cliff with the waves battering the shore loudly; from there you can see Eastern Point Lighthouse sitting across the harbor.  Walking through the courtyard of the castle one feels like they have been transported back a thousand years.  There are several gargoyle statues perched precariously overhead, along with stone lions guarding a drawbridge as well as the actual grave of Mr. Hammond.  The castle is opened on weekends starting in May but even on this day when it was closed Hammond Castle is a truly impressive site and needs to be seen.  
            From Hammond Castle the next stop is the historic downtown area of Gloucester.  Rt. 127 is also known as Western Avenue as it crosses over the mouth of the Annisquam River.  Here there are several beautiful statues and sculptures, none as famous as The Man At The Wheel(right).  This beautiful eight-foot tall bronze statue on a granite base of a fisherman at the wheel of a ship faces out over the harbor.  It is symbolic of Gloucester’s connection with fishing and the sea itself.  The statue overlooks the Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial.  On these plaques are listed the names of all of those lost at sea over the past 300 years.  Included among these names are the crew of the Andrea Gail(below, right) who lost their lives during the so-called ‘Perfect Storm’ of October 1991. 
            A great place to stop for lunch on Western Avenue is Roma Pizza & Subs.  It is a small place big on quality.  There may not be room for more than a dozen or so people to sit inside but it is hard to sit inside when facing beautiful Gloucester Harbor.  People must be in and out nonstop during the warmer months picking up hot and cold subs, pizza, and fries before heading back out to watch the fishing boats coming and going.  The food and the views go hand in hand to add to the allure of this North Shore destination.
            On the other side of the harbor, visible from Hammond Castle, is Eastern Point Lighthouse(left).  Located far out at the end of Eastern Point the current lighthouse sits on private property behind a chain link fence, although the fence does not obscure the view at all.  Built in 1890, the lighthouse is on the grounds of a Coast Guard station and still is in use.  Jutting out into the harbor is 2,250 foot long breakwater called Dog Bar Breakwater.  At the end of this breakwater sits Dog Bar Breakwater Light.  It was built as added protection for incoming vessels and can be visited at anytime.  However, with the normal rough seas of the area it is wise to be careful when walking out on the long breakwater as at times rogue waves have been known to come barreling in and hit the rocks, shooting water sometimes ten feet into the air over the breakwater.  I witnessed this myself and thought twice about making a journey all the way out to see Dog Bar Breakwater Light.
            Gloucester, America’s oldest seaport, lives up to its reputation as a beautiful getaway for those in Boston.  It is also well worth the trip from anywhere in the state or New England.  It is so rare to find a place that has held onto its roots as a fishing village.  At times it felt as though I had one foot in the present and one foot in the past.  Lighthouses, medieval castles, spacious parks, great food, historic memorials, Gloucester has everything you could want in a vacation or a day trip.  I suggest taking more than just a day to discover it all though, or you will find you have missed so much.  Have fun and happy traveling!

Check out a short video slideshow of my photos from Gloucester on YouTube here: In My Footsteps - Gloucester, Mass.

Directions: Hammond Castle Museum: From I-95 N take Exit 47A, turn right onto Maple St., continue on to Poplar St.  Slight right at Elliot St., merge onto Rt. 128.  Take Exit 15, follow School St. to Rt. 127.  Follow Rt. 127 5 miles, turn right at Hesperus St., castle is .7 mi on left.
Stage Fort Park: From I-95 N take Exit 47A, turn right onto Maple St., continue on to Poplar St.  Slight right at Elliot St., merge onto Rt. 128.  Take Exit 15, follow School St. to Rt. 127.  Follow Rt. 127 6.5 miles, turn left onto Hough Avenue.
Man At the Wheel Memorial: From I-95 N take Exit 47A, turn right onto Maple St., continue on to Poplar St.  Slight right at Elliot St., merge onto Rt. 128.  Take Exit 15, follow School St. to Rt. 127.  Follow Rt. 127 approx. 7 mi., statue and memorial is on the right.
Eastern Point Light: Follow Western Ave., turn right onto Angle St., left at Rogers St.  Continue onto Main St., slight right at E. Main St.  Follow 1.1 mi. continue onto Eastern Point Rd.  Slight right at Eastern Point Blvd. W., lighthouse will be on left.
 To view video of my North Shore trip visit - North Shore Trip
References:  Hammond Castle Museum
            Eastern Point Lighthouse
            Roma Pizza & Subs
            Cape Ann Historical Museum