Hopedale History
June 15, 2008
No. 110
Dirty Old Town

Hopedale in June   

Movie being made, in part, at Drapers,
photos from May 27 to June 5    Photos starting on June 7          Letter to Hopedale residents concerning the movie.

Hopedale High state baseball champs, 1968. Maybe you know some of these guys.

More G&U Railroad pictures. Link sent by Peter Metzke.

Mary Jean Newhall Seaburg – Those of you who knew the Newhall, Stringfellow or Sadler families may be interested this story of Jean, who grew up in Hopedale.


About a century ago there was evidently much interest in improving housing for factory workers. Enough so that there were competitions at world fairs for the best designs.

“We are informed that the Superior Jury of the St. Louis Exposition has awarded us a gold medal for exhibit in Class 136, referring to the housing of workmen. Visitors to Hopedale have frequently commented on the superior houses furnished by our company for its help. We believe in making our town as attractive as possible as a matter of good business policy, since we are anxious to retain the services of high-class labor.” Draper Company announcement, 1904.

By 1973 however, not everyone felt that the “model company town” look had survived, as indicated in the article below.

Hopedale Slapped With “Dirty Old Town” Label

HOPEDALE – A letter sent to selectmen here by a former resident chides the town for its appearance and calls Hopedale “a most depressing town.”

Kenneth E. Steele, 62, now of Washington, N.J., came up with this “image” after visiting here two weeks ago.

His stinging letter notes what he claims is the changing appearance of the community.

Steele says, “Back in the early 1920s, a writer for a Boston Sunday newspaper wrote a piece on the town of Hopedale. He described it as, ‘The prettiest town in Massachusetts.’ I would doubt that this same writer would call it so today.

“After seeking Hopedale a few days ago, the first thought that came to my mind was that someone had gotten a low price on dirty gray-green asbestos siding shingles. These have been applied to many houses in town making them look like barracks.

“It would seem that Boards of Selectmen down though the years have not (or have not been permitted to) plan for the future of Hopedale.

“I’m confident that Bristow Draper, Sr. would not have permitted Hopedale to go down in appearance in such a fashion. I did observe a diligent crew putting the finishing touches to the expansion of the cemetery. At least that’s in good shape and ready. A most depressing looking town, gentlemen.”

Steele’s letter provoked many comments from those hearing it read at a meeting of the Board of Selectmen.

One thought to back the writer’s memories on the “mill town” was that in 1904 the town or the company received a prize at the St. Louis Exposition for having constructed the best quality company-type homes in America.

Another person present at the meeting recalled the fact that the homes as they were originally constructed were beautifully designed as English Tudor structures.

Still another person hearing the letter read, smiled at the reference to Bristow Draper, Sr., saying, “He was the one who purchased the dirty gray-green asbestos shingles.”

At any rate, a motion by selectman John Hayes will send a copy of the letter to the Planning Board. Perhaps in the town by-laws there may be a ruling against dirty gray-green asbestos siding shingles, or at least a law against letters like Steele’s.
Milford Daily News, October 3, 1973.

I don’t know who made the decision to side all the Draper houses with asbestos shingles, but I’m quite sure it wasn’t Bristow Draper. I remember when the work was being done. Several of my friends and I spent a lot of our time going around picking up dropped nails and other castoffs from the job to use in building our huts in the woods. Bristow died in 1944. I was three at the time; probably a bit young to be going all around the neighborhood picking up nails.  I think I was probably between ten and twelve (1951 - 1953) when the siding job took place.
Click here for more on Draper housing.


Recent deaths:

Alice J. (Robertson) Moore, 92, May 8, 2008, HHS 1935.

Janet L. (Coffin) MacLean, 75, June 7, 2008, HHS 1951.

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