Thursday, June 30, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 120: Marlborough, Massachusetts

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 120:  Marlborough, Massachusetts
April 14, 2011

The John Brown Bell
            With a connection to one of the pivotal events that began the Civil War the city of Marlborough has a rich history that you can reach out and touch.  Founded as a town in 1660, a city in 1890, and named for the market town in Wiltshire, England, Marlborough’s history began with the local Native Americans.  First they were one of seven so-called ‘praying Indian towns’ because the local Natives were converted to Christianity by Rev. John Eliot.  Then the entire settlement was nearly destroyed in 1676 during King Philip’s War.
            The connection to the Civil War that Marlborough has is through the John Brown Bell.  Perhaps the second most well known bell in the country behind Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell, the bell named for the famed abolitionist has a good story behind it.  The story has it that there was a company of men from Marlborough assigned to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia on the night that John Brown last battled for the emancipation of the slaves.  The company took the bell from the firehouse where Brown’s last stand took place and then left it in the hands of a local woman for over thirty years; they returned in 1892 to bring the bell back to Marlborough.  It now sits in a tower near the street corner of Main Street and Rt. 85.
            Granted you can’t touch the bell, it is up a good fifteen feet, but it is easier to get to than the Liberty Bell is.  There is a nice park area around where the bell resides with a really nice brick walkway leading off into the distance to the front steps of a church.  On this sunny day with the rows of trees casting shadows it was an awesome photo opportunity. 
A class posing for a photo outside of City Hall.
            I parked further down Main Street in Marlborough so that I would have the chance to walk and see more of the city up close.  I enjoyed stopping in the shadow of City Hall while a class of young children were getting their pictures taken in front.  I did not mind waiting as getting to see the looks of joy on their faces reminded of when I was a child and how much fun field trips were for me.  The huge gray stone building built in 1905, blocked out the sun as I stood below it on this day and is the centerpiece of Downtown Marlborough.  It was a nice walk on a good day but there was more to see in this town turned city.
Peter Rice Homestead
            The home of the Marlborough Historical Society resides in the Peter Rice Homestead on Elm St.  The house is said to have been built in 1688 with many additions made to the large white home in the centuries since.  The Rice family is considered to be one of the most prominent of old Marlborough with Peter being active in civil affairs including serving as a Representative to the General Court of Massachusetts at varying times from 1709-1730.  He also acquired land that stretched deep into neighboring Northborough and Westborough.  Besides the house there were a couple of oddities on the property including the cornerstone from the Grand Army of the Republic building built in 1891 on the front lawn.  There was also a store sign for the Frye Boot Company which manufactured their famous footwear in Marlborough up through the 1970’s.  The sign behind the home says the company was established in 1863 and their center of operations is in Great Neck, New York today.
            The final spot I checked out was to satisfy my love of nature.  The conservation area known as Cider Knoll is located over 105 acres with a few parking areas where you can enter.  I parked at the end of Woodland Drive where there is a sign alerting you to Cider Knoll.  The walk through is easy but there are some nice views and on this day there were some interesting things to see as well.
Looking down on the small river at Cider Knoll.
            Almost immediately the trails cross over a small river and the sound of the rushing water fills the area.  I stopped on a foot bridge and listened while taking photos and hoping to see some wildlife.  With no luck there I kept on walking up a little hill.  Up at the top there was a tractor skeleton partially covered by leaves that was unexpected but made the hike more interesting.  Not to mention the incredible view looking down on that small river I had crossed over, I was able to get a better view standing on a couple of large rocks on the edge of the hill.  I do not recommend that to everyone, you can still get a good view without risking injury like I did!  Cider Knoll is a large area but the trails only make up two miles so you can hike it in short time.  It also ends up behind some houses so don’t trespass.
            Marlborough is a city that grew from a small town in the last century.  It has a city feel when you’re downtown but retains that small town vibe when you are in places like Cider Knoll.  I highly recommend taking a walk on Main Street past City Hall to where the John Brown Bell resides.  Then afterward you can hike Cider Knoll and who knows maybe that tractor skeleton will still be there, or maybe there will be something even more unexpected.  Have fun and happy traveling!

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Directions:  John Brown Bell:  From I-495N take exit 24A for Rt. 20E.  Turn right onto Granger Blvd., follow .6 mi., turn left onto Main St.  Park where the bell is sits on right, parking is along Main St.
            Cider Knoll:  From I-495N take exit 24A for Rt. 20E.  Turn right onto Granger Blvd., take slight left onto E. Main St., turn right to stay on E. Main St.  After .5 mi., turn left onto Concord Rd., follow 1.6 mi., left onto McNeil Cir., take 1st right onto Vega Rd., take 1st left onto Juniper Rd.  Turn left onto Woodland Dr., Cider Knoll is all the way at the end. 

            Marlborough, Ma. - Official Site
            The Frye

Friday, June 17, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 119: Natick, Massachusetts

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 119:  Natick, Massachusetts
April 14, 2011

            Consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in the United States the city of Natick caught my attention the moment I saw it and never let it go.  Ironically I got my first glimpses of Natick while driving through it during a previous trip and was mesmerized by the downtown area that I saw.  I immediately made plans to return as soon as possible.
Cochituate State Park
            My return to Natick took off at the first stop, Cochituate State Park.  A relatively small state park I was not expecting very much in the way of things to see and was pleasantly surprised.  The main part of the park consists of the large Lake Cochituate which is divided into three smaller connected ponds: South, Middle, and North.  I parked at South Pond and took a walk to enjoy the scenery.  There is a boat ramp and swimming area along the shore and a picnic area away from it.  The flowers and trees were in full bloom and the sweet scents coupled with the warm temperatures made me want to spend the entire day there.  There is also a hilly area good for a relatively easy hike, it gives a great view down over South Pond. 
Henry Wilson Shoe Shop on the right.
            There is a little historic spot that can be a bit hard to stop for but I made time for it.  The Henry Wilson Shoe Shop on West Central Street is quite literally a little piece of history.  The tiny red building was where the former Massachusetts Senator and Vice President under Ulysses S. Grant learned to make shoes in the pre-Civil War days.  He was known then as the ‘Natick Cobbler’ but surprisingly not many people today know of who he is or what his significance was to Natick and the United States.
            The building is known as a ‘ten footer’ because that was the dimensions used to create cobbler shops in the 19th century, ten by ten.  In order to get out and walk on the grounds I had to park across the street at a small plaza but it was worth it as it is an interesting area.  The constant rush of Rt. 135 did not take away from the historic and beautiful scene, the sun and warmth makes everything look great.  An old bell sits just to the left of the little red building and only a few steps further away were a bed of daffodils.  I tried to get some photos from the other side of the daffodils that showcased then entire Henry Wilson site and they did come out all right.  A little inconvenience with parking should not stop you from a walk here.
A wide view of Natick looking toward Natick Center.
            The next spot I visited in Natick was actually what attracted me to the city in the first place, the downtown area.  It is hard for me to describe the feeling I had upon returning here in the bright spring sun and getting to walk Central Street, both the East and West sides.  There are so many really pretty brick buildings with historic meaning that line the street, too many to detail but I will do my best to give you an idea. 
            I parked in a lot off of Central Street near the well known Casey’s Diner.  It is one of the oldest operating diners in the country having been built in 1922.  I wanted lunch there but the line was out the door, obviously I was not the only one who had that idea!  I walked out to Central Street and just took it all in.  Even the police and fire stations had a different feel to them because they were part of historic Natick Center.
The scenery behind the Bacon Free Library.
            Of course as with most town center’s there is a town common and the town hall as well.  The original Town Hall was destroyed by a great fire in 1874 along with an amazing eighteen business blocks.  If I hadn’t known that fact I’d have had little idea that the Natick Center area hadn’t always been the way it appears today.  I walked all the way down to where Main Street intersects Central Street and took it all in, snapping as many photos of as many buildings and scenes as I could so that I could remember why I loved it so.
            The final place I visited was the Bacon Free Library on Eliot Street which also houses the Natick Historical Society.  While I parked in front of the historic building it was what lay behind it that I was actually interested in.  Behind the library there is a river and a falls that takes the water underneath a neat stone bridge on Pleasant Street South.  The constant rush of the waterfall added to the beautiful scenery with flowers in bloom and green grass along the river.
            There are benches along the water as well as the green grass I mentioned which is a perfect spot for a picnic lunch or to just relax to the sound of the water.  I found myself mesmerized by the sights and sounds and believe this was a perfect way to end a trip to a place that had me excited before I had even stepped foot in it.  Natick has been routinely named one of the best places to live in the United States and I can see why.  Even as a visitor I could tell that there was something different about Natick.  Don’t just stick to the places I have seen, I am sure that there are plenty that I missed, but the spots I did see were amazing.  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! 

Directions:  Cochituate State Park:  From Rt. 3 take exit 20A for I-93, continue onto Rt. 1S and I-95N, take exit 23-24-25 for I-90, continue toward I-90W, keep left at fork in road follow signs and merge onto I-90W.  Take exit 13 for Rt. 30E, park is 1.8 miles up on right.  
            Natick Center:  From Rt. 3 take exit 20A for I-93, continue onto Rt. 1S and I-95N, take exit 17 for Rt. 135, turn right onto Rt. 135W, after 2 miles take slight left onto Great Plain Ave.  Take 3rd exit at rotary for Wellesley Ave., turn left onto Washington St. after .6 mi., continue onto W. Central Street, follow 3 miles and you are in the heart of Natick Center.

            Natick Historical

Thursday, June 9, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 118: Walpole, Massachusetts

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 118:  Walpole, Massachusetts
March 30, 2011

            Named for the first Prime Minister of Britain the town of Walpole has a history that goes back to the time of the original British settlers.  Only eighteen miles south of Boston this spot has a small town feel and charm to it that I of course gravitated to.
The barn at Adams Farm.
            A perfect place to start a trip into Walpole is at Adams Farm.  The farm land consists of 365 acres with more land on adjacent lots.  Upon driving down the dirt road to the parking area the first thing I noticed was the classic big red barn standing alone against the spacious backdrop of trees and plowed fields.  There are more than ten miles of trails to hike and the photography opportunities are everywhere once you step foot on the property.  One new attraction at Adams Farm that I found interesting was the Butterfly Garden just behind the big red barn.  It took four years to go from an idea to a beautiful piece of landscaping but the garden feels like a part of the farm now.  A ‘butterfly garden’ essentially is what it says, a garden with plants in it that attract butterflies.  It is a popular hobby from the research that I have done.
            In my travels through Walpole I came across an odd site that made me stop my car to investigate.  There was a gigantic seventy-two foot tall clock tower on the corner of Washington and Chestnut Streets in East Walpole.  The wooden tower seemed very much out of place until I came home and researched it to find its true origins.  The tower is in fact all that remains of Bird Hall which was a building erected in 1884 in tribute to Francis R. Bird.  The tower was built ten years later.  His name comes up again later. 
The clock tower formerly part of Bird Hall.
Once considered the ‘pride of East Walpole’ the building burned down in 1995 but the clock tower remains.  Thanks to a fallen piece of fence I was able to get onto the grounds and snap a few closer photos of the majestic clock tower.  There have been rumors of the tower being torn down for a few years but as of when I visited it was still standing tall overlooking some folks waiting for a bus to arrive.  This is a spot that you should check out but you have to do your research to find it.  When I was looking for places to visit in Walpole the clock tower was not listed by name, I liked a photo I saw and went from there.
A nice walk is located in the downtown area of Walpole where the Historical Society, in the Deacon Willard Lewis House, is located on West Street.  There are a couple of green areas along Common Street which were perfect to check out on such a nice afternoon.  I parked across from the Deacon Willard Lewis House to start.  Built in 1826 the home was not purchased by Deacon Lewis until 1863 yet it is named for him.  I have tried to find more information about who exactly this Deacon Lewis was but have not had much success, obviously if the historical society is in his old house he must have been someone of importance to Walpole.
The possible war memorial on one of Walpole's commons.
There was a really cool stone gazebo on the first common closest to the Deacon Lewis House which was definitely out of the ordinary.  On the second common there is a stone and wood structure that appears to be some sort of war memorial that is a really nice piece of art.  The downtown area of Walpole is a great place to walk and take in the scenery but there is another spot that takes the cake for scenery in this town.
Bird Park, an eighty-nine acre park is an amazing area to spend an afternoon.  The park was created in 1925 by industrialist Charles Sumner Bird and his wife Anna in memory of their son Francis who had died of the flu during the epidemic of 1918.  The landscaping of the park was done by John Nolen, protégé of famed architect Frederick Law Olmstead who created The Rockery in Easton, Massachusetts which I previously covered.
Bird Park
I parked in the parking area on Rhoades Avenue in the same lot as the Union Congregational Church and immediately knew I was going to enjoy my time there.  Obviously there was not enough time to explore the entirety of the park but what I saw was great.  Upon entering there was a spacious field with various people walking, playing Frisbee, and having picnics.
Straight ahead was a small pond filled with ducks and geese.  I had to laugh as a female duck was quacking loudly at her mate for five solid minutes while he sat quietly; he must have done something wrong!  There are a couple of small creeks running through the park with stone bridges going over them, it was lush and green even early in spring.  This is a great place to spend an afternoon as I said before, I figured I might as well reiterate it.
Walpole has many places to see, that are fun for the whole family.  I immediately think of Adams Farm and Bird Park as places that anybody can go to and enjoy themselves.  There is of course history to be found everywhere with the unique clock tower remains of Bird Hall and the Deacon Lewis House where the historical society is located.  It is a town that needs to be on anybody’s itinerary.  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! 

DirectionsFrancis Bird Park:  From Rt. 3 take exit 20A to merge onto I-93S toward Canton, continue onto I-95N.  Take exit 15 for Rt. 1S, follow 5.4mi., turn right onto Union St.  Turn left onto Washington St. after less than a mile, take quick left onto Rhoades Ave.  Parking area is on right.
            Adams Farm:  From Rt. 3 take exit 20A to merge onto I-93S toward Canton, continue onto I-95N.  Take exit 16B to merge onto Rt. 109, follow 4 miles, turn left onto North St., follow 1.2 mi., turn right onto Bittersweet Ln.

            Walpole Historical
            The - Bird Park

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 117: Medfield, Massachusetts

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 117:  Medfield, Massachusetts
March 30, 2011

            Never had I been so excited and so scared to visit a place as I was when I visited Medfield.  No, there is nothing scary about Medfield itself, it is a beautiful town about twenty-five miles southwest of Boston.  It was getting to step foot on the grounds of an abandoned mental hospital that made this trip different from any I had taken before.
Peak House
            Originally part of Dedham, the town of Medfield was particularly ravaged during King Philip’s War during 1675.  Half of the town was burned to the ground by the Native Americans.  The first spot I visited, the Peak House, was burned to the ground and rebuilt shortly thereafter.  Rebuilt in 1680 the small home on Main Street has a very high pitched steep roof which makes it look different than the average house.  It is said that the house has the steepest roof on record for a 17th century house in Massachusetts.
            Taking a break from the historic homes of Medfield I ventured to a secluded hiking area called the Noon Hill Reservation.  I parked on the similarly named Noonhill Road and hiked the trail that led to the summit of Noon Hill.  The reservation itself is 204 acres which would take a lot of time to see, but the trail up to the summit of the 370-foot Noon Hill will give you a great idea of what the area is all about.  There are some clearing areas at the top which allow you to see neighboring Walpole, Norfolk, and even Great Blue Hill.  It is definitely a worthwhile hike.
Dwight-Derby House
            Returning to the historic areas of Medfield I went to check out the Dwight-Derby House on Frairy Street.  Built in 1651 the house is one of the ten oldest homes in America.  As if that wasn’t enough if you simply turn around there is an amazing scene.  Sitting just on the other side of Meetinghouse Pond is the First Unitarian Church built in 1789.  When the weather is right there is a near perfect reflection of the church in the pond’s peaceful waters.  The weather was right on this day which is why I am mentioning it.
            Despite all of the other wonderful spots to check out in Medfield there was one that I was excited to see well before my arrival and that was the abandoned Medfield State Hospital on Hospital Road.  Built in 1892 the hospital was for the clinically insane, a mental hospital.  At its peak there were fifty-eight buildings on 900 acres housing a maximum of 2,200 patients.
Part of the 'neighborhood' of buildings at Medfield State Hospital.
            The property was closed down in 2003 but recently reopened to the public; it has even been used for movies like Shutter Island.  I knew upon arrival that this was going to be different than almost any place I had seen thus far and it was.  I parked in an abandoned field across the street and approached the guard shack.  The guard let me in and I was soon on my way into another world.
            This ‘hospital’ was more like an abandoned neighborhood, there were so many buildings, red brick with red plywood over most of the windows.  The blood red color only made the long walk from the guard shack to the neighborhood of abandoned buildings more eerie.  There were hardly any sounds, no birds, no animals foraging around, really creepy.  I also noticed signs with red ‘X’s’ on some and single slashes on others.  I can only assume that this is marking which buildings are to be torn down and which are to remain standing.
The creepy 'crying' windows at Medfield State Hospital.
            It was easy for me to get lost in thinking of what the place was like when it was active having seen so many clichéd horror movies dealing with mental hospitals.  It was only made creepier by the other security guard slowly patrolling around the grounds in his car.  There were things about the Medfield State Hospital that were odd and added to the experience.  Once such thing was the trails of white paint running underneath many windows of the buildings, it made it seem like the windows were crying which was really unsettling. 
            It may be a little unnerving to walk the grounds of the Medfield State Hospital but I would recommend it to anybody who likes a little bit of terror with their travels.  If not there are plenty of other awesome places to check out like Noon Hill and the historic Peak and Dwight-Derby Houses.  Medfield was a great spot for me and I think it has something for everybody’s tastes.  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!  
Directions:  Noon Hill Reservation:  From Rt. 3 take exit 20A to merge onto I-93 S, continue onto Rt. 1 S, continue onto I-95 N.  Take exit 16B for Rt. 109 W., follow 7.6 mi., turn left onto South St., turn left onto Rt. 27 S., take 1st right onto South St., take 3rd right onto Noonhill Rd., parking area is on the left.
            Medfield State Hospital:  From Rt. 3 take exit 20A to merge onto I-93 S, continue onto Rt. 1 S, continue onto I-95 N.  Take exit 16B for Rt. 109 W., follow 7.7 mi., turn right onto North St., take a slight left onto Harding St., slight left onto Hospital Rd.  Main entrance to hospital grounds is .7 mi. up on right.  I parked across the street when I visited.

            Medfield Historical