Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Caution from TheOldLibrarian

Just as a reminder, this blog largely consists of entries from the ca1930s Federal Writer's Project guidebooks to the states and their road tour coverage of US 20. Obviously much has changed since then. Companies have closed, museum admissions and hours changed etc.

Part of the interest I think of the Federal Writers Project books is how they capture this country just on the cusp of WWII, which was to bring so many changes. So if you venture forth on US 20, and I hope you will, please, bear in mind, this blog largely consists of 60+ year old information!

I will add links to contemporary web sites, make comments and so on occasionally, but make no pretense of fully linking that world with this. That's part of the fun I think, to get out on those old highways and see where things have changed. Happy motoring!

Springfield to US 7 cont.

At 14.2 m. is the entrance (L) to Tekoa Park (picnic facilities). Directly opposite, across the Westfield River, is Mt. Tekoa (alt. 1211), a rugged, dome-shaped peak...

(Pictured here: Strathmore Paper Mill)

Woronoco, 15.5 m., is best known as the home of the Strathmore Paper Company Plant (open by permission), across the river. The village is at the junction with State 17.

At 17.9 m. is Russell (pop. 1283, sett. 1782). Here in 1858 the Chapin and Gould Paper Mils were established...

Huntington, 22 m. (pop 1345, sett. 1769), at first called Norwich, was later named for Charles F. Huntington. The town was barely a year old when it organized a military company and began to store ammunition. The townsfolk displayed little sympathy with Shay's Rebellion, and a group of rebels stormed the town, seizing John Kirkland, captain of the local militia...

The Murrayfield Grammer School on the Worthing Rd. houses a historic bell stolen by Union soldiers from New Orleans during the Civil War.

At 22.1 m. is the junction with Old US 20. (TheOldLibrarian - see Tour 4B in the book - this was called the "Skyline Trail," and ran about 20 miles through the Berkshires to State 8.)

Boulder Park (camping, swimming, picnicking), 24.1 m. (L), deriving its name from a huge rock by the roadside, is in the Chester-Blandford State Forest.

At 28.8 m. is the Cortland Grinding Wheels Plant, one of the largest manufacturers of emery wheels in the country.

Beyond the factory is a Fountain, a water spout at the end of the town water main, which in winter freezes to a glittering mosque-like dome 50 to 60 feet high.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Springfield to US 7 cont.

At 9.4 m. is Westfield, (pop. 18, 788, sett. about 1660). The first road was cut through in 1668 and travel increaded so rapidly that four years later Captain Aaron Cook opened a tavern here.

The Westfield Athenaeum (open weekdays, 9-9; Sun. 2-6), corner of Elm and Court Sts., overlooking the Green, is an attractive brick building with limestone trim, housing the library. On the upper floor is the Edwin Smith Historical Museum, which consists of a large hall divided into two parts, the one containing a well furnished Colonial kitchen brought from Connecticut, and the other a living room of a typical New England home of the late 18th century; among the exhibits are women's costumes and a number of dolls...

The State Teachers College, on Court St., established in 1844, is the second oldest institution of its kind in the state. The imposing three story building of red brick stands on a three acre campus.

Left on Smith Ave., 0.1 m. in front of the Westfield High School is Grandmother's Garden, planted with nearly all known herbs and with old-fashioned flowers. (Pictured here)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Springfield to Junction with US 7 cont.

At 5 m. the country is more open, with nurseries and tobacco fields occupying most of the land between the scattered houses. At 5.4 miles the road enters a cut through trap rock, an extension of Mt. Tom range.

At 7.5 m. US 20 crosses the Westfield River, (the US 20 crossing pictured here) tributary of the Connecticut, furnishing water-power for many industries.

At 8.5 m. US 20 crosses the Little River; just north of this point the first settlers built a fort. The last Indian raid in this region occured in 1820 (TheOldLibrarian: this must be a mistake, I should think it was 1720.)

Springfield to US 7

At 0.3 m. US 20 crosses the Connecticut River on the Hampden County Memorial Bridge.

West Springfield, 2 m., (pop. 17, 118, sett. about 1660), has a subsidiary of one of the oil corporations, a large paper manufacturing plant... Large market gardens flourish in Riverdale, and some dairying is carried on west of the town.

The Common was the campsite of three Revolutionary War armies under the respective commands of Generals Amherst, Burgoyne, and Riedsel, the latter in charge of German mercenaries...

The First Congregational Church (1800) on Orthodox Hill, now the Masonic Temple, is designed in the manner of Christopher Wren, with less modification than is usual in New England.

The Day House (open Tues, Thur., Sat., adm. 10 cents), north of the Commons, built in 1754, is a historical museum maintained by the Ramapogue Historical Society.

At the Center is the junction with State 5A.

At 3.9 m. is the junction with Churchill Rd. (L), the entrance to Mitineague Park (atletic fields, picknicking).

Monday, March 26, 2007

Sec. C. Springfield to Junction with US 7, 51.8 m.

Between Springfield and the junction of US 7, US 20, the Jacob's Ladder Trail, crosses the beautiful lower Berkshire Hills.

(US 20 or Jacob's Ladder Trail ca1920.)

Springfield cont.

TheOldLibrarian: the guidebook calls Springfield The Metropolis of Western Massachusetts. In 1937 it had a population of 149, 642, having been settled in 1636. It ...lies on the east bank of the Connecticut River, holding a strategic position in the traffic of the New England states with New York and the West. Its situation on a series of terraces and in gently rolling country produces an effect of spacious leisure... Also noted are its diversified industries, among them then Springfield Armory, still there as a museum.

The region was at the center of the post Revolutionary War event known as Shay's Rebellion, and the Springfield Armory ...became Shay's Waterloo when an attempt to capture the United States Arsenal was frustrated.

An industrial center for much of its history, Springfield served as a business site for two years in the 1840s for John Brown, who ran a wool warehouse here for a time, and had such visitors as Frederick Douglass.

Largescale immigration in the post Civil War era created a very diverse ethnic mix in Springfield of Irish, Italians, Russians, French-Canadians and Poles among others.


TheOldLibrarian: Springfield is, or was in 1937, 92.5 miles out of Boston on US 20. There's a lengthy description of Springfield as it was then in the cities section of the Massachusett's guide book. I'll just note a few highlights in the next entry or two and encourage you to look for the book itself sometime if curious for more.

Remember, to see what libraries in your area own, your local library system catalog of course, and to buy. You're looking for Massachusetts: a guide to its places and people, Federal Writers Project, 1937.

State 9 - Springfield, North Wilbraham

North Wilbraham, 47.4 m. (pop 2969, sett. 1730), is a trading village and the political center of Wilbraham...

Left from North Wilbraham on a hard surfaced road is Wilbraham, 2.1 m., the geographical center of the township. Wibraham Academy, founded in 1817..., occupies the group of brick buildings on the hill... In 1911 it became a college preparatory school for boys after having been a co-educational institution for 94 years.

On Dipping Hole Rd. is Peggy's Dipping Hole, so-called because on a certain winter Sabbath morning one Miss Peggy, who was riding to church on horseback, broke through the ice and was 'dipped' in the freezing water.

Left from Wilbraham is a mountain road to the Lookout Tower, 1 m., on the summit of Wilbraham Mountain, affording a view of the Connecticut River Valley and the Mount Holyoke range.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

State 9 to Springfield cont.

Palmer, 42.2 m. (pop 9437, sett. 1716), was known as the Elbow Tract until its incorporation, when it was named for Chief Justice Palmer. It has developed industries producing cotton piece goods, wire... At Palmer is the junction with State 32.

(Above: Chicopee River Bridge, destroyed in 1938 hurricane.)

At 43.4 m. US 20 crosses the Quabog River. A pile of stones (L) in the middle of the river is the remains of Scott's Bridge, built in Colonial days and used by General Washington on his way to Boston in 1775.

At 47.2 m. is a junction with a side road. Right on this road 0.2 m. is an old covered bridge spanning the Chicopee River. Built in 1852, this bridge is the last of its kind in Hampden County.

An aside from the Old Librarian

Interested in those 1930s guides to the states I am drawing this blog from? Most libraries will have a copy for that state, and bigger libraries may have those for other states as well. If you're curious about what's out there in libraries, check your local library website. A site that works for the whole US is, which draws on library catalogs from all over to tell what's around.

You can buy the guidebooks too, they are often available at used book dealers for modest prices. A good online site is - in the author line put writers project, and in title put "state name."

Monday, March 12, 2007

State 9 to Springfield cont.

Between Sturbridge and Brimfield, US 20 crosses rolling farm country, on both sides of the road fields slope gradually to the base of distant hills.
(L. stagecoach in Brimfield...)

At 30.7 m. is the junction with a road in East Brimfield. Right on this dirt road is Little Alum Pond, 1.3 m. (picnic grove, refreshment stand, boating, bathing and fishing)...

At 34 m. is Brimfield, (pop. 892, sett. about 1706). The village, with its white Colonial church overlooking the village Green, and street lined with closely planted elms, is on the old stagecoach route. Its few industries did not survive the introduction of mass production.
Left from Brimfield, State 19 follows Wales Brook, skirting the southern part of the Brimfield State Forest, with the summits of Mt. Pisgah and Mt. Hitchcock visible to the west.
Wales, 4.4 m., (pop. 382, sett. about 1726), is surrounded by woodlands, market gardens and dairy farms... Dominating the village is an old-fashioned New England hotel with a wide porch extending across its breadth, on which a row of inviting chairs offers a vantage point for observing the leisurely goings and comings of the townsfolk...
Right from Brimfield on Warren Rd. at 2 m. is the junction with a mountain road; left on this road (25 cents toll) is Steerage Rock, a huge boulder used as a landmark by Indians and travellers on the Bay Path during the colonization of the Connecticut Valley. It was said to be a favorite camping place for King Phillip; from here he could watch the villages in the valley below.

Route 9 to Springfield cont.

At 27.7 m. is the plant of the Snell Manufacturing Company, the oldest auger and bit factory in the country. Tools manufactured here were used in building the U.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides); a new set of tools was presented to the Navy by the company when the old ship was refitted.

(L. Icon from St. Anne's Shrine)

In Fiskdale, 28.2 m., is the Shrine of Saint Anne, containing a relic of the saint brought here in 1892. Today clustered about her statue are canes, crutches and broken casts left by the afflicted who believe they have been restored to health by her gracious intercession. About a hill on the grounds are the 14 Stations of the Cross with 49 steps leading to a cross on the summit.

Friday, March 9, 2007

State 9 to Springfield cont

Charlton City, 20.9 m., contains two woolen mills. At 26.6 m. is the junction with State 15. Left on State 15 at 0.3 m. is the junction with State 131l left on 131 is Sturbridge, 0.5 m. (pop 1918, sett. 1729), visited by Englishmen as early as 1633... Dairying, sheep raising and orchard culture were the main occupations until the water power attracted industries including tanneries etc...
(L., Old Sturbridge Village)

Opposite (the Common) is the Old Cemetery, enclosed by a stone wall that was built by four companies of Revolutionary Soldiers from Sturbridge - each company building one side.

Straight ahead is Southbridge, 4.2 m., a manufacturing community lying in a valley. More than half the inhabitants are French-Canadians, who maintain their native customs and languages...

The American Optical Company on Mechanic St., 0.2 m. east, employing 3200 people, is the most important business in town.

The Wells Museum (open weekdays, adm 25 cents), 176 Main St., is a private collection of early American, English... articles. (The Old Librarian notes that this museum, founded by the owner of the American Optical Company, is the origin of today's famous Old Sturbridge Village.)

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Sec. b. State 9 to Springfield, US 20, 57.3 m.

Between the junction of State 9 and Springfield, US 20 traverses a pleasant countryside broken by low hills sloping gently into the Connecticut Valley

At 8 m. are the drying beds and fountain sprays of the Worcester Purification Works, where the Imhoff system is used, the sludge being seperated by the 'digestive' system.

Us 20 skirts the city of Worcester; at 13.6 m. is the junction with State 12

At 19.9 m. is a junction with an improved road. Left on this road is Charlton, 0.8 m., (pop 2366, sett. about 1735), named for Sir Francis Charlton, a Privy Councillor of England.Since 1789 the population has increased by only 286, and the Puritan tradition still dominates the community. Agriculture is still the chief means of livelihood...

On the Common is a memorial to William Morton (1819-68), given by the dentists of America to honor the man whose experiments with ether first made possible anesthesia during surgical operations...

On Main St., just south of the Center, the Old Burying Ground (1750), now called Bay Path Cemetery, contains three Photograph Stones - headstones provided with small glass covered niches in which were placed daguerreotypes of the deceased. Once the vogue, few of these curious stones remain.

Here also is the 'Grizzly' Adams Headstone, beneath which one of P.T. Barnum's bear tamers was buried after a disasterous encounter with Bruin....

Boston to Northborough cont

At 33 m. is the junction with the Old Boston Post Rd. and the Southwest cut-off.

Right on this road at 2.3 miles is the Artemas Ward Homestead. Ward, first commander in chief of the Continental Army, later became chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas. The estate is now the property of Harvard University, and the house, largely unaltered, contains the Ward family furnishings.. (L, Gen. Ward)

Just west of the Town Hall is the Common, near which in Colonial days were the stocks and whipping post... The first person sent to these stocks was their manufacturer. His only payment for making them was the remittance of a fine for some previous misconduct.

Us 20 west of 33 m. is known as the Southwest Cutoff, a three lane express highway passing few points of interest and avoiding large communities.

Boston to Northborough cont.

At 26.9 m. is the Williams Inn (L), formerly the Williams Tavern. The original tavern, built in 1662, was burned by Indians in 1776; the present building was built in the following year. Many famous guests, including Washington and Lafayette, have stopped here...

At 29.4 m. is a marker giving directions for a five minute walk to the Monument and Grave of Mary Goodnow. On August 18, 1707, Mary Goodnow and a friend, Mrs. Fay, left the garrison to gather herbs near Stirrup Brook. They were surprised by a small band of Indians; Mary, who was lame, was caught in flight, slain, and scalped, her body being left beside the path.

Northborough, 31.7 m. (pop 2396, sett. about 1672), is a town that was once part of Marlborough. Market gardening and fruit raising are carried on extensively in the area. In 1884 teeth and other remains of a hige animal were uncovered in the lower part of town; these were identified as those of a mastodon and are now in the Museum of the Worcester Natual History Society.

West of the town hall on Church St. is the triangular Green, on which is the Old Congregational Church (1808) with a bell from the Paul Revere foundry... Behind the church is the Old Cemetery, opened in 1750, containing the grave of Rabbi Judah Monis (1683-1764), for 40 years Professor of Hebrew at Harvard and one of the first prominent Orthodox Jews to embrace Christianity in North America.

US 20 runs through a prosporous country of poultry farms, market-gardens, and fruit orchards as neat and gaily colored as a patchwork quilt.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Boston thru Northborough cont.

Marlborough, 25.9 m. (pop. 15,781, sett. 1657), was the site of an Indian plantation called Okammakamefit. The English knew this town as Whipsufferage. Later it was part of Sudbury. (L., Page of Wampanoag language Bible.)
Although Marlborough was one of John Eliot's Praying Indian towns, it was attacked during King Phillip's War. The following account is given:
"On the Sabbath, when Mr. Brimmead was in sermon, March 20, 1676, the worshipping assembly was suddenly dispersed by an outcry of Indians at the door. The confusion of the first moment was instantly increased by a fire from the enemy; but the God whom they worshipped shielded their lives and limbs, excepting the arm of one Moses Newton..."
Today its (Marlborough's) manufactures include paper boxes, wire goods, shoe machinery... It has a large Italian population, who were encouraged to settle here as a strike-breakers after a serious labor dispute in 1899...

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Boston to Northborough

At 21 m. a tablet marks the site of the Parmenter Garrison House, built before 1686. The carpenters building the Wayside Inn (L) took refuge here during an Indian attack.

At 21.1 m. is a junction with the Old Boston Post Rd., again an alternate to US 20.

Right on this road .3 m. is the Wayside Inn (guide; adm. 25 cents), the core of which was built by Samuel Howe in 1686 and immortalized by Longfellow in "Tales of a Wayside Inn." It is now owned by Henry Ford, who added a two story wing and restored some of the original appearance... When the Inn was first opened to the public, it was known as Howe Tavern, but after 1746, when Col. Ezekial Howe put up a new sign, it became known as the Red Horse Tavern...

At 0.4 m. on the Post Rd. is the Redstone Schoolhouse, a small red frame building set in a grove of pines. A tablet on a huge boulder near it says that the old school house is the one immortalized in "Mary Had a Little Lamb." This claim, however, is disputed.

Between Sudbury and Marlborough US 20 passes through a pleasant countryside, predominantly orchard land.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Boston to NY Line

Wayland, 15.8 m. (pop.3346, sett. 1638), was named for Francis Wayland, clergyman and president of Brown University (1827-55). He was instrumental in establishing here in 1848 a Free Library claimed by a boulder on the Green to be the first free library in Massachusetts. Shoemaking and the harvesting of meadow grass were once important in the town, today market gardening is the chief occupation.
The Unitarian Church, completed in 1815, derives its design from the work of Sir Christopher Wren. It is well proportioned and has a charming bell tower with a Paul Revere bell.
(L, wayland Unitarian Church.)

Right from Wayland on the Old Sudbury Rd. at 1.1 m. is the home of Lydia Child, a charming house of old clapboards painted black, with two brick inside chimneys... Lydia Child, author and abolitionist, gave up her work as editor of the Juvenile Miscellany, the first American periodical for children, to follow William Lloyd Garrison in his anti-slavery crusade.

At 18.6 m. is the junction with Concord Rd.

At 0.4 m. is the Israel Brown House, built in 1725... this house served as a station on the Underground railroad for slaves escaping to Canada. Brown used a stake wagon with a false bottom to carry the refugees to the next station at Lancaster; though suspected and often stopped he was never apprehended.

At 0.5 m. on Concord Rd. is a junction with a short private road; right on this road is the Wadsworth Monument, a granite shaft erected in 1852. When Marlborough was fired by Indians in March 1676, Lt. Curtis of Sudbury led a party in a surprise night attack. The leader of the Indians, Metus, was killed... later, Capt. Wadsworth arrived to assist and marched to Sudbury and was ambushed near the base of Green Hill. After fighting his way to the top, he maintained a stout defense, but toward evening King Phillip routed the Colonials by setting fire to the woods. In the ensuing battle only 14 Englishmen escaped. Capt. Wadsworth and 28 of his men were killed, and they are buried beneath this monument.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Boston to NY Line cont.

At 12.2 m. on US 20 is the junction of Wellesley St. (L) and the Upper Rd., known here as the Boston Post Rd. (R), which is an alternate at this point to US 20.
(Golden Ball tavern on L)

(a number of side tour entries follow, which I abbreviate next...)

Left on Wellesley St. is the Oliver Robbins House, (private), on the NW corner of Chestnut and Wellesley, 1.2 m. It was occupied by Thomas Allen in 1698... (and) is a fine example of an early Colonial dwelling, with a large red-brick chimney.

At 1.4 m. on Wellesley are the entrance gates of the Regis College for Women, administered by the Sisters of St. Joseph. The 170 acre campus is markedly beautiful.

Right on the Boston Post Rd. to Weston, 0.3 m. in what was originally the more 'westerly' precinct of Watertown... The town counts among its noted sons the Rev. Edmund Sears, who wrote 'It came Upon the Midnight Clear'; Carlton Coon, author of 'The Flesh of the Ox'...

The Elisha Jones Place, or Golden Ball Tavern (private), 662 Boston Post Rd., was built in 1751 by Colonel Jones, and was the headquarters of the Tories during the Revolutionary War. At this house, John How, a British spy sent out in 1775 by General Gage was discovered. Though he escaped and reached Worcester, the Weston patriots so aroused the countryside that How reported to Gage that any attempt at the movement of troops in that direction would result in certain defeat - with the result that Lexington was chosen for the British line of march.