Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 116: Newton, Massachusetts

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 116:  Newton, Massachusetts
March 30, 2011

            Ranked third on the list of best places to live by CNN Money for 2010 the city of Newton is unique for a variety of reasons.  First is the fact that it is made up of a whopping twelve ‘villages’ which is amazing in and of itself.  Though it is a suburb of Boston, Newton has a feel of its own, not merely a smaller Boston.  It is also known for the famous ‘Heartbreak Hill’ which is part of the Boston Marathon.  A fun bit of trivia is that the Fig Newton cookie is named for the city.
City Hall from the walking bridge.
            I began by visiting the Heartbreak Hill area which is close to City Hall.  I did not run it but it did look imposing.  I knew Newton was special when their City Hall was such a cool area.  From where I parked I crossed over a small creek thanks to a bridge to get to the building.  I don’t know many City Halls with bridges and creeks around them.  I stuck around in the warm spring sun shooting for a bit but there was so much more to see in the twelve villages of Newton.
            I took a spin down to Crystal Lake in the village of Newton Highlands next.  Being a fan of the Friday the 13th movies when I heard the name Crystal Lake I immediately began to think of the famed horror movie franchise.  Luckily for me the lake is nothing like that.  In fact the majority of the shore is dotted with private homes; the recreation and swimming area is relatively small.  The beach area was seemingly only large enough for a few people, though there is another swimming area that I did not visit which might be larger.  The crews were cleaning up the picnic area in anticipation of the upcoming season while I was there so I did not hang out there very long.
            An historic home I checked out after Crystal Lake is far more important in the history of America than any other in the city as far as I am concerned.  The Jackson Homestead is so meaningful because of the fact that it was used as a stop on the Underground Railroad before the Civil War.  William Jackson, who was elected to Congress in 1832, was associated with other abolitionists which led to him using his home as part of the Underground Railroad. 
Jackson Homestead and Museum
            Located on Washington Street the home was built in 1809 and stands out with its yellow exterior and green shutters.  It became a museum showcasing the early history of Newton in 1950 after being given to the city a year earlier.  It is open year round but closed on Mondays and most major holidays.  The tours show you areas such as the cellar where runaway slaves may have hidden during the time that the house was used on the Underground Railroad.  It is a very deep and unique experience to say the least.
            As you know by now the natural beauty of the places I visit are what I enjoy the most and this was the case in Newton as well.  In the village of Newton Upper Falls there is a really great place called Hemlock Gorge, named for the trees which cluster around the gorge.  It is known more for Echo Bridge which I will get to in a moment, but this small area along the Charles River needs to be expanded on a bit more.
The dam at Hemlock Gorge
            The first thing I did was follow the sound of the rushing water to a small dam where a muskrat or something like that was swimming around.  The water runs north and continues underneath Rt. 9.  I never did see that muskrat again once I shot some photos of the dam.  After shooting that area I began to walk my way up the rocky cliff faces of Hemlock Gorge toward Echo Bridge.  The cliffs get pretty high, well thirty feet or so which is high when it’s a drop onto more rocks below.  The views are amazing though, just watch your step.
Echo Bridge
            Echo Bridge, completed in 1877, was an aqueduct which carried water from the Sudbury River to Boston during its prime.  It is no longer in use but is still maintained by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.  There are two observation areas associated with the bridge.  The one I checked is underneath it which is where visitors can hear the echoes of the flowing water against the stone arch of the bridge overhead.  While I believe this to be the case the water was so calm when I was there that the only echo I heard was that of a pair of geese arguing on the other side of the river.  I did enjoy the peace and serenity of Hemlock Gorge despite not hearing any echoes underneath the bridge.
            Newton may be made up of twelve villages but there is one vibe to the city when you arrive.  Whether you want to see a piece of American history in the Jackson Homestead, or take in a more natural spot like Hemlock Gorge you cannot go wrong.  Make sure to try to time it right to catch the Charles River when it’s a little rougher going under Echo Bridge.  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!   

DirectionsJackson Homestead and Museum:  From Rt. 3 take exit 20B for I-93 N, take exit 20 toward Worcester.  Merge onto I-90 W, take exit 17 toward Newton.  Take a slight left onto Washington St., after .6 mi., turn right onto Jackson Rd.  Museum is on left.
            Hemlock Gorge:  From Rt. 3 take exit 20A toward I-95, continue onto Rt. 1, continue onto I-95 N, take exit 19B.  Merge onto Highland Ave., turn right Gould St., turn right onto Central Ave., continue onto Elliot St.  Turn left at Chestnut St., take 1st left onto Ellis St., there is a small parking area on the right at the intersection.

            City of Newton, Ma.

Friday, May 13, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 115: Attleboro, Massachusetts

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 115:  Attleboro, Massachusetts
February 24, 2011

            Once known as the ‘Jewelry Capital of the World’ because of its many jewelry manufacturers the city of Attleboro is filled with amazing places to see.  Much like Foxborough the town’s name has been seen written two different ways.  It was incorporated as a separate town from Rehoboth in 1694 and was spelled as ‘Attleborough.’  It was reincorporated as ‘Attleboro’ in 1914 and ironically the town of North Attleborough kept the original spelling which I found a bit odd but it does keep the towns separate.
Falls Fire Barn Museum
            I began my trip in North Attleborough by checking out the Falls Fire Barn Museum.  Built in 1893 the building on Commonwealth Avenue was a fully operational fire station until 1976.  The pastel blue building is now a fire museum as well as town museum in general.
            Anybody that visits Attleboro quickly hears of the name ‘Capron.’  The Capron family is credited by some as being the first settlers of Attleboro.  Banfield Capron, listed as the Capron in the colonies is seen as the patriarch of the family that settled Attleboro; he arrived in 1674.  John Capron, born in 1797, seems to be the most well known member of the family.  He was a state legislator, military officer, and along with his two sons he established one of the first textile mills in the nearby town of Uxbridge.
Capron House c.1740
            The Capron House on North Street, built in 1740, was originally lived in by Banfield Capron’s son Joseph.  The red and yellow house though is only the tip of the iceberg of where the Capron name is seen throughout Attleboro.  Dennis Capron owned more than 100 acres of land that he farmed during the mid-19th century, part of this land would go on to become a big part of modern day Attleboro.
Heirs of Dennis Capron, descended from Joseph, donated the land for Capron Park in 1901.  In the 1920’s a fund drive was started to create a children’s zoo on the park lands.  Capron Park Zoo opened in 1937.  Of the thirty-three acres donated for the park eight of them were set aside to create the small zoo.
Entrance to Capron Park Zoo
In an ironic twist I spent a lot of time walking around the park grounds, so much in fact that when it came time to go inside the main zoo building it was closed.  Although I do regret not getting to go inside the zoo itself I did enjoy my walk around the park grounds.  There are many different statues and pieces of art that are hard to pass by.  I think a sunny, warmer day might have been better for the photos themselves but even on a cold, raw day I still found a lot to see.  I enjoyed the statues commemorating the Civil War as well as the pretty marble patterned one that featured the Spanish-American War.  The only bright side to missing out on going inside the zoo is that it gives me a reason to head back to Attleboro when I get the chance.
Angle Tree Stone
Saving the best for last is a unique spot back in North Attleborough.  If you don’t keep your eyes open you will miss it as I did a couple of times.  Set back a quarter mile from the road is the Angle Tree Stone.  In a nutshell it is the border marker between North Attleborough and Plainville.  Built in 1790 the term ‘Angle Tree’ comes from the fact that an actual tree once designated the border between the Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth Colonies and was replaced by the slate pillar.  The ‘angle’ word is because the county border turns at an angle when it reaches the stone.
It is a cool walk back to where the stone resides.  In 1985 it was put inside a brick building with plexi-glass windows to save it from weather and vandalism.  The glass is a bit clouded which made clear photos a tough chore.  Also any straight on shot featured my own reflection so all of my good shots came from an angle, ironically.  Despite those problems the stone itself is an impressive sight knowing it is more than 200 years old.  I do wish I could have laid my hands on it, but what are you going to do?
The Capron name is well known in Attleboro to this day with the famous zoo but there is much more to see in this city.  After checking the zoo out take some time to visit the Falls Fire Barn Museum and Angle Tree Stone in North Attleborough as well.  The stone is a perfect end to a trip to the Attleboro towns.  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!

DirectionsCapron Park Zoo:  From I-495 take exit 10 for Rt. 123.  Follow Rt. 123 7.3 miles, turn right onto Emory St., continue onto County St., zoo will be on the right. 
            Angle Tree Stone:  From I-495 take exit 14B for Rt. 1, follow 4 miles turn right onto Fisher St.  Turn left onto N. Washington St., take 2nd right onto High Street, follow 1.5 miles, dirt road for stone is on right, keep your eyes open. 

            Capron Park

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 114: Woonsocket, Rhode Island

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 114:  Woonsocket, Rhode Island
February 24, 2011

            Lying directly south of the Massachusetts border the city of Woonsocket is one of the largest in the state of Rhode Island yet maintains a smaller town feel.  Now the corporate headquarters of CVS Pharmacy when Woonsocket began it was home to three separate tribes of Native Americans.  The Nipmucs, Wampanoags, and Narragansetts were the tribes and when Roger Williams purchased the land in 1661 the town was referred to in a letter as ‘Niswosakit,’ a possible precursor to the Woonsocket name.
Market Square Pavilion
            A perfect place to start a trip into Woonsocket is at Market Square.  It is an actual road between S. Main St. and Bernon St., but I stopped for an unusual structure located at the edge of a parking area.  The first center of Woonsocket, Market Square is home to the unique Market Square Pavilion.  It is a really cool brick structure on the corner of Market Square and stands where another well known historic building once stood.  The pavilion stands where the old George C. Ballou Mill stood from 1846 to the 1960’s.  Seeing the downtown area of Woonsocket it is hard to imagine a mill fitting in, that is until you turn to the west and catch the sound of the rushing water.
            Located only steps from Market Square is Woonsocket Falls, the largest waterfall on the Blackstone River.  Woonsocket Falls was a sort of double-edged sword for residents for a long time in the city.  While it provided power for the city’s industrial growth it also frequently flooded.  Records show this from as far back as 1807.  The most recent flood in 1955 caused the dam to be restructured into the current concrete and steel structure.
Woonsocket Falls
            The sight and sound of the rushing water can be hypnotic and I found it easy to lose myself in time just staring at the falls as the water flowed underneath the street continuing its trip down the Blackstone.  There was some work being done on the dam on this day but I am sure it wasn’t anything too serious.
            A great place to park and take a walk is the area around Woonsocket’s City Hall.  The City Hall building is an impressive sight; it was originally known as the Harris Block when it was built in 1856.  This building was the first public library in the state of Rhode Island with President Abraham Lincoln actually speaking inside of it in 1860.  There was a large addition to the building in 1889 and it officially became the City Hall in 1902.
            Where I parked, almost directly across the street from City Hall was an amazing colorful mural with the words ‘Keep Woonsocket Beautiful’ painted across it.  I have had trouble finding out information about this mural but it ended up being a really pretty surprise when I was there just to shoot City Hall.  Also within walking distance of City Hall are two more historic landmarks of Woonsocket.
Mural in the parking area across from City Hall.
            The Harris Warehouse on Railroad Street looks like something out of a horror film.  Built in 1855 it is a three-story gray and white brick building.  The woolen mill was built by leading Woonsocket citizen Edward Harris; he also was the man behind the Harris Block which as I mentioned became City Hall.  At its peak the Harris Woolen Company had six mills employing over 1,000 people.  Only two remain today including the eerily beautiful one on Railroad Street.
            On the corner of Main Street and High Street is the Woonsocket Depot, a former railroad station built by the Providence and Worcester Railroad in 1882.  Today it is the headquarters of the Blackstone Valley Heritage Corridor.  I liked the clock on top of the building which was a green and brown color reminding me of a chocolate mint for obvious reasons.  In addition to the mural across from City Hall there is actually another one on the side of City Hall which is a little obscured by trees.
Stadium Theatre
            Finally only a few hundred feet from the former Woonsocket Depot is the Stadium Theatre.  It was built in 1926 under the supervision of R.E. Hall who also supervised the construction of the Paramount Theatre in New York City.  The Stadium Theatre stopped daily operations in the 1970’s but thanks to the efforts of the ‘Save Our Stadium’ Committee the theatre was purchased in 1998 and restored to its former glory.  It still runs today and the Wizard of Oz and Annie were among the shows playing there when I was in town.
            Just across the Massachusetts border Woonsocket is a city with a lot to see.  Market Square and Woonsocket Falls are just the beginning, a walk around the center of the city will lead you to many historic and beautiful spots that will make the walking seem less of a chore!  You will definitely enjoy your time in Woonsocket.  Have fun and happy traveling!

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DirectionsMarket Square:  From I-495 N take exit 16 for Woonsocket, turn left onto King St.  Continue onto Washington St, then Pulaski Blvd, total of 6.5 mi.  Continue onto Rt. 126, continue onto Main St., after .3 mi. Main Street turns slightly right and becomes Market Square.  Parking is on right, Woonsocket Falls is within earshot when you park.
            City Hall:  From I-495 N take exit 16 for Woonsocket, turn left onto King St.  Continue onto Washington St, then Pulaski Blvd, total of 6.5 mi.  Continue onto Rt. 126, continue onto Main St. total of 1.5 mi.  Parking is on left, Harris Warehouse, Woonsocket Depot, and Stadium Theatre are within walking distance back north, you will pass them all on the way to City Hall.
            Woonsocket, RI - Official Site