How Hopedale Parklands Evolved

                                                                          By Gordon E. Hopper

    According to the first annual report of the Hopedale Park Commissioners, Frank Dutcher, 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 dropped.

    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 Bridge.")

    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 condition.

    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

    The paragraphs below are from a Wikipedia article on Warren Henry Manning.

    Early on in his career, Manning went against the then popular formalistic approach to 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 landscape design.

 
             
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    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 each end.

    The pictures of the bath house and the Rustic Bridge below are from the 1930 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.'"