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! 

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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

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