Wednesday, April 27, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 113: Smithfield, RI

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 113:  Smithfield, Rhode Island
February 24, 2011

            With a rich, and sometimes controversial history, the small town of Smithfield is a very interesting place to visit.  Settled by British colonists in the 1600’s as a farming village Smithfield was considered a part of neighboring Providence until it was incorporated as its own town in 1731.  Once known as ‘Apple Valley’ due to its many orchards in the early 20th century Smithfield is now more of a suburban area though not losing its grip on small town charm.
Smithfield Exchange Bank
            The first place I stopped which captured the quieter side of Smithfield was the Stillwater Reservoir, also known as Stump Pond on Log Road.  There are many spots to stop and walk or fish, I stopped at the appropriately named Stump Pond Fishing Area.  The pond was covered in ice and snow but the views from the boat ramp were impressive.  There is an even better view further up the road where Log Road splits between Stump Pond on the right and a smaller pond on the left.  The only trouble was finding a safe spot to park to get out to shoot those photos.
            I did a little park and walk near the center of town to get a better view of a building famous to those who live in Smithfield.  The Smithfield Exchange Bank, or Resolved Waterman Tavern, on Putnam Pike has long been purported to be haunted so of course I had to go and check it out for myself.
Winter at Georgiaville Pond
            I parked at a nearby law office and crossed over to where the Smithfield Exchange Bank is located.  It was a little different experience as the building is undergoing repairs so it was not in its natural state.  Of course I did not see or hear anything out of the ordinary while I was next to the historic building but that does not mean that it is not in fact haunted.  Despite the fact that I did not see or hear anything I did enjoy my walk around the downtown area of Smithfield.
            The next place I visited was Georgiaville Pond, located in the historic village of Georgiaville.  The controversial history I spoke of in Smithfield has to do with the Ku Klux Klan meetings which took place in Georgiaville during the 1920’s.  The village was named for the Georgia Cotton Mill located near Higgins Street.  I had to park on the outside of the Georgiaville Pond parking area since it was closed, but a little walking did not hurt.
The Smithfield 'flag stop' station.
            The beach at the end of the parking lot showcases much of the massive pond which extends almost a mile all the way up to the end of the Smith-Appleby House property.  There is a pair of small islands just to the left of the beach which I imagine must be a lot of fun to swim to during the summer.  It was cool but not cold at Georgiaville Pond and without anybody else around it was a really peaceful experience.  I think this would be a great spot to visit during the summer.
The crown jewel of Smithfield for me was definitely the Smith-Appleby House on Stillwater Rd.  It was here where the snow pack in Smithfield made the experience all the better.  I was the lone car at the end of the driveway and was able to fully enjoy the grounds with the hum of I-295 in the distance.
            The pale-yellow home at one point stood on 700 acres of land, it began as forty acres granted to John Smith by Roger Williams.  It has since dwindled down to the current seven acres it stands on, but that is more than enough to take in.  Before I even got to the house there was an interesting item to my right: a small railroad station.  The station is the same color as the house and was first located on Brayton Road off of Farnum Pike when it was built in 1873.  This tiny station was what is known as a ‘flag stop.’  That means that the train would only stop there if a red flag was hanging from the front of the building to alert the conductor that there was fright, mail, or passengers at the station.  It was used until 1931 and fell into disrepair until being purchased and brought to the grounds of the Smith-Appleby House in 1975.  Now it looks much like it must have when it originally opened.
View of the Smith-Appleby House from the cemetery on the hill.
            I enjoyed walking down behind the house and over a small creek to where an old cemetery dating back to the 1760’s sits on a hill.  Unfortunately most of the oldest graves are marked by regular stones and only one has any sort of etching on it; the rest are a mystery.  The view of the house from the cemetery hill is amazing.  I think the snow covered land added to it, but I also imagine that being there in the summer when everything is in bloom must be even better.
            The history of Smithfield may be rich and a bit controversial but there is no denying it is a nice small town to make part of a day trip or longer if you so desire.  I do think that a summer visit might help a visitor appreciate it more as I mentioned there were several great spots that I could imagine look even better with flowers and trees in bloom.  Have fun and happy traveling!

            For more In My Footsteps items follow my Twitter Feed, view more photos at the In My Footsteps fan page on Facebook, or visit my homepage at   Thanks for reading!

DirectionsSmith-Appleby House:  From I-295 S take exit 8A for Rt. 7 S.  Follow 1 mi. turn right at Limerock Rd., right onto Ridge Rd.  Continue onto Stillwater Rd. house is on left.
            Georgiaville Pond:  From I-295 S take exit 8A for Rt. 7 S.  Follow 1 mi. turn right at Limerock Rd., right onto Ridge Rd, take 1st left onto Stillwater Rd., continue onto Cross St.  Turn right onto Whipple Ave., turn right onto Higgins St., take sharp right onto Stillwater Rd.  Pond entrance is on left.

            Smith Appleby

Saturday, April 16, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 112: Georgetown, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 112:  Georgetown, Massachusetts
March 9, 2011

Sign marking site of Goodrich Massacre.
            Originally settled as the West Parish of Rowley by a group of farmers looking for fertile meadowlands the small town of Georgetown has a long history.  Georgetown was called New Rowley until it was large enough to be incorporated on its own in 1838.  It is now considered a distant suburb of the amazing North Shore.
Brocklebank House
            Though the colony was not directly involved in King Philip’s War, from 1675-76, it was the recipient of Native American raids.  This tied in directly to the first place I visited once I entered Georgetown.  On North Street sits an unassuming sign, what it says is very important though.  It marks the site of the Goodrich Massacre which happened in 1692.  The story is that Benjamin Goodrich, his wife, and two daughters were killed by a group of Native Americans during their evening prayer.  There is no known reason for the slaughter but it is an anomaly as there are so few Native American massacre sites on the North Shore.  Besides the sign there is not much to see.  There is a regular home on the grounds and I was not okay with walking the ten ‘rods,’ or about 165 feet, to the proper site of the massacre.
            While stopping periodically to photograph various historic homes I ended up having a pretty odd experience.  The spot I was supposed to shoot was the Samuel Brocklebank House.  I parked across the street from it at the end of Elm Street in front of a very eerie dark green antiques shop building.  The name said Auntie Lil’s and I cannot find much information about it.  The reason it was an odd experience was the banging on the windows when I stepped out of my car.  I made a point to stop and look around for any people moving around in a neighboring house but there was nothing as far as I saw.
Auntie Lil's antiques, haunted?
            I went and shot the Brocklebank House and returned to my car only to hear the same banging on the windows of the old antiques shop.  It intrigued me so much that I took a few photos of the building hoping to maybe see something in one of the windows.  There was nothing but I would love to hear if anybody else ever heard or saw something around that building or if it was just my imagination.
            The Brocklebank House was built in the late 1600’s with the land the house stands on being deeded to surveyor Samuel Brocklebank in 1661.  Brocklebank was killed in 1676 during King Philip’s War but the house remained in his family until 1754 when it was sold and turned into a tavern.  There is a sign depicting a redcoat soldier with the year 1754 on it which I figure represents the time the home became a tavern.  It was under repair while I was there which made visiting inside impossible.
Georgetown Town Offices, home of 'Old Nancy.'
            Something I found interesting about Georgetown was the fact that their town hall was not always used as such.  The yellow building where the town offices reside was formerly a school, the Central School built in 1905.  Inside the historic old school sits ‘Old Nancy.’  Old Nancy is a Revolutionary War cannon supposedly taken from the British warship ‘Nancy’ which was captured off of Gloucester.  The best part of the story is that the cannon was left by major Eben Boynton to his two sons, one from New Rowley(Georgetown) and the other from Rowley.  The cannon has spent time in both towns and they both lay claim to it as their own.
            A small town with a rich history Georgetown is a spot that everyone will enjoy.  Take the time to visit the historical society at the Brocklebank House and gaze upon ‘Old Nancy’ the Revolutionary War cannon.  Also if anybody knows whether Auntie Lil’s antiques shop is haunted let me know.  Have fun and happy traveling!

            For more In My Footsteps items follow my Twitter Feed, view more photos at the In My Footsteps fan page on Facebook, or visit my homepage at   Thanks for reading!

DirectionsBrocklebank House:  From I-95 N take exit 54B for Rt. 133/E. Main St.  Follow 2 miles, house will be on the right.  Auntie Lil’s antiques is across the street.
            Georgetown Town Hall:  From I-95 N take exit 53B for Rt. 97 N.  Follow 3.5 mi., turn right at Library St., town hall is on right.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 111: Ipswich, Mass. - Trip 2

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 111:  Ipswich, Massachusetts
March 9, 2011

            Yet another amazing jewel of the North Shore of Massachusetts the town of Ipswich is bursting at the seams with history.  This was not my first time visiting Ipswich though I will admit that my first trip and article were subpar for me.  I did not get the chance to see a lot of what I wanted to due to time constraints.  This time I made certain that all of the sites of Ipswich passed before my eyes and were captured by my camera.
John Whipple House c. 1677
            Originally called ‘Agawam’ by the local Native Americans Ipswich got its name from the corresponding town in Suffolk, England in 1634.  The first European settlers became farmers, fishermen, and shipbuilders while the Ipswich River provided water power for mills.  At the turn of the 20th century however it was stockings, made by the Ipswich Hosiery Mills, which became the town’s greatest export.
            The sheer number of historic homes in Ipswich is mind boggling, though it shouldn’t have surprised me that much since the town has nearly 400 years of history.  Rather than try to shoot all of these homes as I tend to try in other towns I chose to concentrate solely on the 17th century homes which are so rare to still be standing.  I photographed nine homes built before 1700 in Ipswich, there might be more I am not sure but that is an unbelievable amount of houses from that era.  Each home has the date it was built as well as the original occupant.  I don’t believe that any of them had historical significance, I suppose just the fact that they still stand is significant enough.
Choate Bridge
            One of the 17th century homes that has historic significance is the John Whipple House on South Main Street.  The first thing I noticed about this home was the fact that the year it was built has been changed on the sign.  The year 1677 is in bright paint yet underneath can clearly be seen the year 1655.  I have since discovered that the reason for this change in the established year is due to a dendrochronology test in 2005.  This is the process of tree-ring dating.  This test proved the earliest part of the house was built in 1677.  John Whipple was a British soldier and entrepreneur.  It was restored and has been a museum since 1899.
            The last time I visited Ipswich I missed out on a few awesome places located a short walk from the Whipple House.  This time I was able to check them out and it was so rewarding.  One spot is the Choate Bridge which crosses over the Ipswich River.  The bridge is the oldest surviving double arch bridge in the United States having been erected in 1764.  The ‘Choate’ name comes from Col. John Choate, local treasurer who supervised the construction and was also the first person to cross over the completed bridge, by horse.  There is a great view of the river from the bridge but the best view comes from taking a tour on the Ipswich Historic Riverwalk.
Part of the mural along the Ipswich Riverwalk.
            The Riverwalk was recently completed in 2005 with a twelve-foot wide bridge crossing over the Ipswich River just below the old hosiery mill dam.  The water rushes underneath you and is mesmerizing.  Once you get across to the other side there is a stunning mural painted along the side of the EBSCO Publishing parking deck building.  The mural basically shows the history of Ipswich as well as America from the beginning up to now.  I say up to now because in the final section of the mural there is a modern cookout going on with one of the people wearing a Tom Brady jersey.
The Inn at Castle Hill
            Once again I ended my time in Ipswich with one of my favorite places I have been to thus far: Castle Hill.  It was a spot well known to the local Native Americans for centuries and became farmland when John Winthrop Jr., son of the first governor of Massachusetts, laid claim to the land in 1637.  It is on the way to Crane Beach, which can be accessed from this property along the walking trails.  I cannot explain the majesty of this area, not only the natural beauty but the amazing architecture of The Great House. 
The Great House sits atop the actual Castle Hill.  It was built in 1928 and includes fifty-nine rooms.  There are concerts on the property during the summer but even visiting now at the end of winter it was a great time.  The lawn is at the rear of the property is incredible.  It was not so much anything about the grass, but more of the spaciousness of it.  I can only describe it as a hundred foot wide swath of green which starts at the back of the Great House and slopes down for as far as the eye can see.  I was in awe of the scope of this landscaping marvel.  There are trails which encircle the property and I found out beforehand that much of The Next Karate Kid and The Witches of Eastwick were filmed on the grounds. 
The enormous rear lawn at Castle Hill.
A lot of the garden areas along the sides of the mansion are in disarray and inaccessible but I was able to see enough to imagine what it must have looked like when it was brand new.  Even on a raw and windy day I took my time and enjoyed the sights until my hands were too numb to shoot anymore photos.  I highly recommend taking the time to fully engross yourself in the natural and architectural wonder of Castle Hill.
Whether strolling the grounds at Castle Hill, crossing the Ipswich River on the Riverwalk, or simply going on the hunt for 17th century homes the beautiful North Shore town of Ipswich is something to behold.  I am so glad I went back and visited the right way, that’s the only real way to do it!  Have fun and happy traveling!

For a video showcasing Castle Hill check out - Castle Hill.

For more In My Footsteps items follow my Twitter Feed, view more photos at the In My Footsteps fan page on Facebook, or visit my homepage at   Thanks for reading!

DirectionsCastle Hill:  From Rt. 128 North take Exit 20A, take Rt. 1A North for 8 mi. to Ipswich. Turn right onto Rt. 133 East and follow for 1.5 mi. Turn left onto Northgate Rd. and follow for 0.5 mi. Turn right onto Argilla Rd. and follow for 2.3 mi. to entrance.
            Whipple House:  From Rt. 1 north take a right at Ipswich Rd., continue onto Topsfield Rd.  Continue onto Market Street, turn right at S. Main Street.  Turn sharply right at S. Village Green where Whipple House is.  Choate Bridge and Ipswich Riverwalk are a short walk away back down S. Main St.

            The - Castle Hill

Monday, April 4, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 110: Foxborough, Massachusetts

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 110:  Foxborough, Massachusetts
February 17, 2011

            When I say the name Foxborough, or Foxboro, most people get an image of the NFL’s New England Patriots.  Why not?  They have been one of the most successful franchises in all of sports over the past decade.  Still, despite that being what most outsiders know of when they hear the name Foxborough there is a lot more to see in this small town.  That does not mean I am not going to gush over my awesome time at Gillette Stadium and Patriot Place, it just means that I am going to tell you about more than just that.
Memorial Hall
            One place that is really cool is the Memorial Hall on South Street.  It is a Civil War memorial but unlike the normal ones that I have seen on the grounds of many town halls.  This one actually looks like a mausoleum and there is the small Centre Burial Ground next to it as well.  The building was erected in 1868 and there is another building based on it situated in Aurora, Illinois.  I was here near sunset so the brown and rust colors of the stones of the building were really accentuated by the orange glow of the sun.  There was a good amount of snow on the ground which made checking out the collection of gravestones a little tough but the overall experience was really neat.
            The Memorial Hall sits directly across the street from the Foxborough town green so of course I took my time to walk around there.  I love the town greens that are a bit circular in design where the cars go round and the buildings create a sort of outline encasing the green.  Foxborough’s green was like that, coupled with the slowly setting sun it was a nice walk.  There are a few memorials along the way and there is also a sign showing the ‘proper’ way to spell Foxborough, even though it is seen both ways.
Paine School(right), Reservoir at Powder House Hill(left).
            An intriguing spot I caught out of the corner of my eye ended up being a good sidetrack.  There were two buildings in the back of a parking lot off of South Street behind the town hall.  The first building is the recently restored Paine School which is all white with two red doors.  It was originally built 1790 and has been carefully brought back to its former glory thanks to tireless work of local businesses and volunteers.
A view from Foxborough's town green.
            Right behind the Paine School is a different looking stone structure on a hill.  It is in need of some repair but was neat to check out.  The snowpack made walking up the stairs a bit of a chore but I made it.  The building in question is called the Reservoir at Powder House Hill.  The stubby granite building is one of the most unique structures I have seen thus far.  It was built in 1858 by the Union Straw Works but the hill originally did house a powder house.  This was when the town decided to stop storing their gun powder in the garret at the Meeting House on Foxborough Common.  At one time there was a windmill which drew power to the odd-shaped granite building that was subsequently sent via gravity to a plant on Wall Street.  There were plans in the early 20th century to try to use the Reservoir as a museum but those were not possible and now the building sits stoically behind the Paine School.  I am very glad that I happened to spot it out of the corner of my eye as I passed the Town Hall.
             I did my part to showcase the other places Foxborough has to offer but I would not end the article without mentioning my amazing time at Gillette Stadium and Patriot Place.  I had not been to Patriot Place since its opening in 2007 but found its 1.3 million square feet to be quite a sight.  It is an outdoor shopping center complete with streets to walk between stores which is something I had never experienced before. 
            Having been a Patriots fan since I was a kid, including going to many games during their terrible period of the late-1980’s to early-1990’s, just being around the stadium was awesome.  I had a memorable experience getting to have lunch in the shadow of the stadium since football season was over.  I got to enjoy Five Guys burgers and fries for the first time and it blew me away.  I highly recommend choosing to eat there if you haven’t.  It was an hour drive for me to get to Foxborough and that was not too far for me to consider going back up there just to eat at Five Guys again.
The field at Gillette Stadium.
            After eating I got out and took a walk around the stadium area getting to see the immense CBS Scene and the Hall at Patriot Place.  What the Kraft family, the team’s owner, has done is make an area usually only populated from late-August to January a destination year-round.  I even got some amazing shots of the field from a nearby iron gate.  I did my due diligence and asked a guard if I could go out onto the field for a few shots.  He actually thought about it for a moment but the thought of getting in trouble stopped him.  I don’t blame him.
            All in all it was a great time in Foxborough, I will not lie that Gillette was the highlight for me but it was not the only bright spot.  The walk on the town green and finding the Reservoir at Powder House Hill were both amazing in their own right.  I know most visitors will spend the vast majority of their time at Gillette but I do recommend finding a few of the other great places to make your time in Foxborough complete.  Have fun and happy traveling!

For more In My Footsteps items follow my Twitter Feed, view more photos at the In My Footsteps fan page on Facebook, or visit my homepage at   Thanks for reading! 

DirectionsGillette Stadium/Patriot Place:  From I-495 take exit 14A for Rt. 1 N.  Follow 4.5 miles, take exit for Rt. 1 S.  The stadium and Patriot Place cannot be missed. 
            Paine School/Reservoir at Powder House Hill:  From I-495 take exit 13A merging onto I-95 N.  Take exit 7B merging onto Rt. 140 N., continue onto Central St.  Follow .6 mi. turn left at Liberty St., take 1st right to stay on Liberty, take 1st left onto South St.  Take 1st left just after the town hall to find both places.   
            Memorial Hall: From I-495 take exit 13A merging onto I-95 N.  Take exit 7B merging onto Rt. 140 N., continue onto Central St.  Follow .6 mi. turn left at Liberty St., take 1st right to stay on Liberty, take 1st right onto South St.  Memorial Hall is on right just before town green.

            Foxborough Official Town Page