August 1, 2012
Model Company Town
Hopedale in July
Canoe kids, 1982 – Milford News photo of five teenagers.
Hopedale High Class of 1962 – kindergarten, Washington trip, and now the 50-year reunion photo has
Hopedale High School Athletic Hall of Fame
Oakledge Manor Nursing Home
Here’s an interesting site I ran across last week – the Historical Marker Database. I found it because it
includes a page on Adin Ballou Park, but among many other things, it has a page on the accidental
dropping of an atomic bomb in South Carolina. It’s listed as No. 1 in Most Viewed Markers This Year.
Walker. Also in the band are Hopedale native Dan Sutton on bass, and Milford native Chris Rando on
sax. Rain date is Thursday at 7pm.
Twenty-five years ago – August 1987 – First Meeting of Hopedale Friends of Elders to Be Held
The FCC rescinds its Fairness Doctrine which had required radio and tv stations to fairly present
Two Manned Soviet Spaceships Orbit Earth
Fifty years ago – August 1962 – Marilyn Monroe dies.
(George) Romney Romps in Primary to Hike Presidential Stock
Model Company Town
It comes at no small sacrifice to our democratic form of government and free enterprise economy that
private and unrestricted land development so often results in poorly conceived and socially disruptive
urban environments. Nowhere was the lack of planning, design and management more evident than
in the nineteenth-century industrial town. Little thought was given to environmental issues as
businesses prospered and factories expanded. But one type of industrial town, despite its other
failings, proved to be an exception.
Though born of the “age of enterprise” and once a symbol of exploitation and repression, the “model
company town” also embodied positive advances in planning and architecture. It was a forerunner of
the “garden city” and “new-town” in that it imposed long-range planning goals for controlling growth
and avoiding decline. Its purpose was to provide and then to maintain a productive environment for the
interest concerned. The idea has been around for some time, but it has never been widely adopted,
Designed communities tend to limit personal initiatives in land speculation and construction. Though
this sometimes produces good architecture, it also restricts certain kinds of business and
employment. The result usually benefits the controlling interests more than the individual worker or
tenant. But during the middle decades of the nineteenth –century, the negative and visibly corrosive
aspects of the Industrial Revolution, stemming from a lack of planning, called attention to the need for
taking comprehensive measures in hand. For a time, at least, the model company town served as a
favorable alternative to other types of industrial settlements.
In America the company town appeared first in the Northeast, especially in New England, and
elsewhere thereafter. Its history is tied to the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the
factory system. Though barren in soil and harsh of climate, New England contained some of the first
experiments in American town planning and management, and as agriculture gave place to
manufacture it became a proving ground for later industrial settlements.
To harness waterpower for factories, to excavate or drill for metals and minerals, or to mill timber,
entire towns were constructed by single businesses. Each laid streets and built houses to
accommodate a work force. Some of these towns were superior to others and therefore termed
“models.” One of these was Hopedale, a small communitarian settlement purchased in its entirety in
1856 by George and Ebenezer Draper, who founded the Draper Company. The Drapers made textile
machinery to supply cotton mills with spinning and weaving equipment. Although two small shops and
several dozen houses had already been built, they proceeded to expand these and to build a town of
their own design. Expansion continued until 1916, after which the business declined and construction
ceased. Not until the 1950s, however, were the houses sold off; and much of the town still remains
with the enterprise, which became a division of Rockwell International in 1967. (The book was
published in 1984.) The Draper family controlled every aspect of the business and the town, including
decisions regarding planning and architecture. They took pride in their manufacture as well as in their
town and were of the opinion that attractive surroundings drew the best workers. They employed two
landscape architects, Warren Henry Manning and Arthur A. Shurcliff, to lay out subdivisions and a park
in the period 1886 – 1916. Manning and Shurcliff were former associates of Frederick Law Olmstead
and among the founders of the American Institute of Planners. Fred Swasey and Robert Allen Cook,
among several architects employed by the Drapers, designed a variety of handsome buildings.
Hopedale received from them a practical as well as an attractive landscape, and their initiatives in
urban design were carried forward in later years in new-town experiments. A result of this professional
employment, to cite one example, was that the Draper Company dwellings received awards from
international housing congresses held at trade fairs in France, Belgium, Italy and the United States.
If, in instances, the model company town would seem to appear as a “New Jerusalem” among
otherwise “dark satanic mills,” then of course the subject will have been misrepresented. There was
nothing saintly about Hopedale or the other towns of its type. Despite the sentiments of some
observers, these places were hardly “industrial paradises.” But neither were they as grim and
oppressive as sometimes depicted. Workers were probably better off in company housing than in city
slums. And despite the big-brother implications of paternalism, many employers made a genuine
attempt to attract, satisfy, and retain skilled labor. What is more, initiatives in architecture and planning
with long-term benefits emerged from the best of these places. John S. Garner, The Model Company
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