Sunday, April 18, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 41: Brockton, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 41: Brockton, Mass.
April 7, 2010

            Brockton, nicknamed the City of Champions for its connection to boxing legend Rocky Marciano.  It may be all of that to the average visitor but to me it is a lot more than that.  To me Brockton is where a large part of my family lived and came from.  This trip was just as much about seeing where my mother and grandparents lived and spent time as it was to see the historical sites and some natural beauty that lies within the city’s limits. 
            Originally called part of Bridgewater, and then North Bridgewater, until 1874 Brockton got its name from Isaac Brock.  Brock was a British soldier nicknamed the ‘Hero of Upper Canada.’  He fought and died during the War of 1812 at the Battle of Queenston Heights in present-day Ontario, Canada.  The feel as you drive through the downtown area of Brockton is that of a once thriving industrial center.  There are many old brick buildings that once housed successful businesses more than a hundred years earlier.  They still stand as a throwback to Brockton’s history.  One such building is the brick building that once belonged to the Brockton Edison Company Old Power Station.  Now housing the Metro South Chamber of Commerce(left), the building was constructed in 1883.  The power station was Thomas Edison’s first model of a complete power station.  The main reason that this incredible first in modern power has been overlooked is that Edison felt that it was much more important to achieve a similar three-wire electrical generation in New York City.  The Brockton Edison plant was never fully appreciated during its initial run but its pace in American history cannot be overlooked.
            In the same vicinity as the Brockton Edison building lies Brockton’s City Hall(right) which is a magnificent sight.  It was originally built in 1892 and sits overlooking an area called Brockton Common.  The Common is a small area with benches and a few rows of trees, it is a gathering place in the center of the busy city.  City Hall itself appears to be much more modern than the surrounding buildings despite being nearly 120 years old, the brick design looks like a second skin.  The monument to the Brockton Firefighters who perished in the Strand Theater fire in 1941 is an eye-catching statue and is only the first evidence of the importance of Brockton’s firefighters.  On Pleasant Street lies the Central Fire Station(below).  Built in 1884 it is an historic brick building that is a part of the National Historic Register.  
            Brockton may be the sixth largest city in Massachusetts but there are spots where peace and quiet reigns supreme.  One such place is D.W. Field Park, a 700-plus acre park that is used by frazzled city folk as a way to unwind.  Daniel Waldo Field donated the land during the 1930’s and was a well known contemporary and combatant of Thomas Edison.  Field believed that any city needed an abundance of natural beauty for its people to truly be happy.  He also believed that Edison would disrupt that upon his arrival.  His donation of the 700-plus acres is living proof of D.W. Field’s beliefs.
            The park is a great way to spend a sunny day.  There are several ponds and nearly seven miles of paved roads around the park.  Porter Pond is split by Oak Street into Upper and Lower sections.  Lying next to the park is the D.W. Field golf course as well as a tremendous stone observation tower simply called the Central Tower(left).  The tower, ponds, and golf course wrap together and make an incredible scene that seems to be so far removed from the downtown area but yet it fits right in perfectly.
            After all of the sites had been seen it was time for me to discover the areas that were important to my family in Brockton.  I enjoyed the drive out to a beautifully quiet section of Brockton on West Elm Street where I found the house my mother grew up in.  According to her and my grandparents it still looks the way they remember it.
            The last spot I needed to see was the location of my grandfather’s doughnut shop on Warren Avenue.  Sullivan’s Donuts was a staple of Brockton in the 1960’s into the 70’s.  It was after my grandparents moved down to the Cape my grandfather opened a new Sullivan’s Donuts on Bearses Way in Hyannis that was a popular meeting place into the early 1990’s.  I was truly able to appreciate where my family came from after seeing these spots with my own eyes. 
            Brockton is a mix of city life and history with a splash of natural beauty.  It is also very important in my own life as it is where my mother’s side of the family originated.  I highly recommend that everybody who has the ability takes a trip to areas where their families originated.  Brockton has a lot of culture and things to see, the fact that it holds personal significance only added to the allure.  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!

DirectionsDW Field Park:  Take Rt. 3 North, continue onto Yankee Division Highway.  Merge onto I-93 South, take Exit 4 to merge onto Rt. 24 South.  Take Exit 18B to merge onto Rt. 27 North.  Turn right at Oak Street.  The park is on either side of the road.
            Brockton Edison Building:  Take Rt. 3 North, continue onto Yankee Division Highway.  Merge onto I-93 South, take Exit 4 to merge onto Rt. 24 South.  Take Exit 18A to merge onto Rt. 27 South.  Turn left at Pleasant St., turn right at Montello St., turn right at School St.  The building is now called Metro South Chamber of Commerce.
            Central Fire Station: Take Rt. 3 North, continue onto Yankee Division Highway.  Merge onto I-93 South, take Exit 4 to merge onto Rt. 24 South.  Take Exit 18A to merge onto Rt. 27 South.  Turn left at Pleasant Street, follow it for a mile and a half, fire station is on the right.
            City of Brockton Homepage
            DW Field


Ken C said...

Thanks for your trip down memory lane. I grew up in Brockton many years ago. I remember some of the old buildings, like the Keith School and the old Brockton High School where my father had attended before me. After my dad retired, and in his 70s, he walked 4 miles a day, with a friend, along the paths at Fields Parkway, until he could no longer walk.

I knew the connection between Brockton and Bridgewater from childhood, but don't recall ever hearing about the soldier named Brock. So, I have learned something new today. Thank you.

I left Brockton many years ago, after college and have ended up in Maryland. None of my family members live in Brockton now, but many do live in the Boston area.

Thanks for your blog and the news about Brockton.

Christopher Setterlund said...

Thank you for your comment. When did you live in Brockton? Just curious if you had ever heard of my grandfather's doughnut shop, Sullivan's Donuts on Warren Ave.?