How Hopedale Parklands Evolved
By Gordon E. Hopper
Charles Roper and George O. Draper, in 1889, the inhabitants of the town had been
interested in the subject of a park since the incorporation of the town. Details prior to this
year are meager, but it is known that attempts by town meeting action to purchase land
from Adin Ballou in 1888 and 1889 had failed. The Ballou property was purchased later
by the Draper Company, (Ballou died in 1890) and continuations of Prospect and Peace
streets now run through it. The chapel of the Union Evangelical society is located on the
southerly part of the original Ballou property.
Although a committee had been appointed in 1890 to report on a suitable tract of land for
use as a town park, nothing definite had developed by 1893. Committee members were
Edward S. Stimson, Charles M. Day and George A. Draper. They secured the services of
Warren Henry Manning, who, in 1891, recommended the taking of about 40 acres of land
located between Freedom and Adin streets and about 20 acres in the vicinity of
Hopedale Pond. (Manning was probably the second most famous landscape architect of
that era, and he had worked with the No. 1 man in that business, Frederick Law
Olmstead. To this day, much of what we see in the layout of the Town Park and
Parklands is the result of Manning’s design.) No action was taken because the value of
the land was such as to prevent consideration of its acquisition by the town. An informal
committee, consisting of Edward Stimson and George O. Draper recommended the
taking of a few acres from the original tract recommended by Manning. Upon learning
that some of the property owners involved were not favorable to the plan, this matter was
By the passage of an article in the Nov. 8, 1898 warrant, the town was ready to acquire
land for park purposes. The March 6, 1899 town meeting chose three park
commissioners, who employed Manning as advisor and Gordon H. Taylor as surveyor. At
a special town meeting held on July 21, 1889, the commissioners recommended that 187
acres of land starting at a point opposite Cole’s boarding house at the (southeast) corner
of Freedom and Dutcher streets and extending northerly on both sides of Hopedale Pond
to Hazel Street be taken for park purposes. (It seems as though 1889 must be a typo.
1899 would make more sense in the context of this paragraph)
Land damages of $9,000 were allowed and appropriated for properties owned by Henry
Patrick, Draper Company, George A. Draper, J.C. Henry, John S. Mead, E.B. Taft, heirs
of Carra V. Sadler, J.B. Bancroft, W.F. Draper and Town of Hopedale. An additional
$3,000 was appropriated to defray the surveying costs and to grade and drain the ball
ground section. The six acres of land opposite the Cole boarding house was developed
into today’s town park, the rest, mostly near the pond, is now known as the Hopedale
Parklands. The larger tract was selected with reference to the future growth of the town, it
being back land not fitted for building purposes. Proper stone bounds were erected at
the corners where the line changed. Although access to the area, which contained
patches of pine timber and groves of other varieties, was difficult, the area was known to
have a natural scenic beauty.
The park commissioners stated in their report for 1899 that Hopedale should
congratulate itself on the ownership of lands more extensive than are held by many cities
and including natural features that many more elaborate reservations fail to realize.
During 1900, the Draper Company drained the pond and workmen removed the unsightly
projecting snags and tree limbs and blasted out several large boulders that were
dangerous to boating activities.
A rustic bridge (eventually called the Rustic Bridge) was constructed at the so-called
Second Bridge, allowing foot or team passage to the western side of Mill River. In 1901,
the bridge was raised enough to allow boat clearance beneath it, and Maroney’s Grove,
a tract of pine timber, was cleaned up in order to be used by picnic parties. A roadway
was built starting at Hazel Street, passing over the new rustic bridge and through the
woods as far as the Grafton and Upton Railroad line where trolley cars ran to Grafton
and Upton. There were several springs nearby.
At this time it was decided to post the Parklands from shooting and trapping and to make
the river land a wild animal refuge. During 1902, Fred A. Smith, working superintendent,
thinned out trees at the northern end of the Parkland. In 1903, land was given to the town
and additional land, including a spring, was acquired near the northern end of the
Parklands. Jack Gardner replaced Smith as superintendent in 1904, followed later that
year by Walter F. Durgin, brother of Herbert Durgin’s grandfather.
By this time, the upper section of the Parklands had been cleared and made available for
picnic parties, access being gained by way of Hazel Street. In addition to this, the electric
cars would stop upon request at the Park Station shelter. The entire area was available
by boats and a boat landing was built near the bridge.
Plans were made to utilize the lumber from an old ice house being dismantled for a bath
house until the old building caught fire and was destroyed. However, the bath house was
built at a higher cost than first anticipated. (The ice house was owned by Henry Patrick
and was located just about where the bath house is now. The much larger Hopedale Coal
and Ice Company ice house on the opposite shore was torn down in the 1940s.)
During 1905, a system of pathways was made on the eastern side of the pond from the
bath house to the “second bridge,” so called, with a branch from Dutcher Street and
connecting side path loops. Dry footing was provided for through the swamps and brooks
and the whole region was available for hikers. Tree thinning continued and the wood was
sold as it came available. Scores of people were now visiting the Parklands and the
woods were filled with game birds and squirrels. Several deer had been sighted in 1905.
Hundreds of skunks, foxes, muskrats and snakes were destroyed during the same year.
In 1907, the bridge was replanked and the footpath system was extended to provide
another entrance at Freedom Street and Salt Box Road. A new pathway to the top of
Darling Hill was opened, as was another path through the park property near the Old
Cutler Ridge. Several permits were issued for the erection of boat houses on park
property. (I think “Old Cutler Ridge” may be a typo. The 1913 Manning map shows “Site
of Cutler Bridge” about midway up the pond, but I’ve never seen a reference to “Cutler
Ridge” anywhere else. As to Cutler Bridge, I presume that would have been the "First
A shelter and seats were built on Park property at the summit of Darling Hill in 1908. More
than three miles of foot paths connect the bath house, the Park Shelter, Rawson’s Bridge
and the street railway station. A good spring was located at the foot of a slope in the pine
grove on the eastern side of the pond, and two more were found on the western side.
A large number of bird houses was provided and put up during 1911. In 1912, a large
section of Darling Hill became accessible after trees had been thinned, underbrush cut,
and new roads and footpaths put in. There were now six miles of roads and paths in the
Parklands. The territory around the upper end of the pond and along the side of Darling
Hill were being used more as people began to appreciate its beauties. New paths
connecting “Rawson’s Bridge” with “Maroney’s Grove” and the big boulder in the “Texas”
district with the “White Oak Spring” path were opened in 1914. Some of the older trails
were widened, old culverts and water courses replaced, and some paths resurfaced and
a number of seats were placed along the easterly side of the pond in 1915.
During 1916, the building of a 50-foot wide roadway from Freedom Street to the height of
land on Darling Hill was started. Also, during this same year, a piece of land west of the
“Lookout” was purchased. This gave the Parklands the “high point” of land in Hopedale.
Commissioner C.F. Roper passed away in 1916, and was replaced by F.E. Douglas. By
1917, more than 1800 feet of the road between Freedom Street and the top of Darling
Hill had been constructed. Due to a blight, the chestnut trees had to be removed
throughout the entire Parklands. Pine, spruce and hemlock seedlings 12 to 18 inches
high were set out during 1916 in part of the cut-over portion of Parklands property. By
1920, the white spruce trees were about six feet high.
During 1923, the shelter on Darling Hill was repaired, 1500 Scotch pines were planted,
two culverts were built and stone shelters with fireplaces were built on “Fisherman’s
Island” and in “Maroney’s Grove.” During 1925, 10,000 red pines were planted.
As the years went by, the automobile cut into the activities of the Parklands. Attendance
dropped to a very low number, and today only a few people avail themselves of the park.
A recent examination shows scenic roads are still passable, numerous trails and paths
are still accessible and the Rustic Bridge, large fireplace and shelter are still in excellent
Picnic benches have been placed throughout the area. Important trees are recognized
and several brooks are seen emptying into Hopedale Pond. Milford Daily News,
August 29, 1980. Comments in italics by Dan Malloy
landscape design and emphasized a more naturalistic approach of native plants and
naturalistic groupings. The formal gardens of the late nineteenth century relied heavily
on a more symmetrical design and an extensive use of ornament. Manning describes his
wild gardening as “that form of floriculture which is concerned with planting in a nature-
like manner colonies of hardy plants that require a minimum of care” (Karson, 2001). In
his early, unpublished essay “The Nature Garden,” Manning writes:
"I would have you give your thoughts to a new type of gardening wherein the Landscaper
recognizes, first, the beauty of existing conditions and develops this beauty to the
minutest detail by the elimination of material that is out of place in a development scheme
by selective thinning, grubbing, and trimming, instead of by destroying all natural ground
cover vegetation or modifying the contour, character, and water context of existing soil."
This idea of selective thinning and pruning was at the core of Manning’s landscape
theory. He celebrated the smallest details in the landscape, emphasizing lichens and
fungi in his design, which was contrary to his counterparts and unusual for this time in
Parklands history on Park Department site.
A Walk through the Parklands
Park, Pond and Sports Menu HOME
The Parklands road on the west side of the pond. The
G&U Railroad tracks are just to the left of the photo.
The Parklands rock known as Texas.
The Rustic Bridge.
Maroney's Grove - Fourth Fireplace
Vandalized Parklands fireplace - 1964.
Warren Henry Manning - the landscape architect who
designed the Hopedale Town Park and the Parklands.
A photo of the rock called "Texas" taken during the
Manning work in the Parklands about a century ago.
Timeline by John Butcher
The timeline mentions a new bath house and a new stone bridge in 1930. Both are
pictured in the town report for that year. The bridge is the Rustic Bridge. The 1928
report shows that $1300 was budgeted for it.
What was meant by a "new bath house is a bit of a mystery. There are plenty of
pictures of it in earlier years and it looks pretty much the same as the 1930 and
later pictures. Also it cost $1048.09 to build in 1904. The 1929 report lists $348.46
for "preliminary work on new bath house." The 1930 report shows $562.66 was
spent for "Bath House, labor and upkeep." The report narrative doesn't say a thing
about the building of a new bath house. The one difference that I can see in
comparing pictures is that the distance from the doors to the ends is greater in the
1930 picture than it is in the earlier ones. It appears that a few feet was added to
Town Report. The Park Commissioners' report says, "The illustrations in this
report are of the New Bath House and the New Bridge near 'Maroney's Grove.'"