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!

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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

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