Demolition of the Draper Plant
Hopedale Street Side - Freedom to Social

To go to a page of photos of demolition of the
Freedom Street side of the Draper plant,
click here.

For a page of photos of demolition of the
south end of the Hopedale Street side,
click here.

    The arrow in the picture above shows the sign for the Dutcher
    Temple Company. It was originally  owned and operated by Warren
    Dutcher and George Draper. That section of the shop, across from
    the barber shop on Hopedale Street, was razed on or about March
    15. As I write this (March 18, I don't know if the sign has been saved.

    This view looks in from where the windows had been removed
    on the Hopedale Street side. On the right is where the Freedom
    Street side windows had been removed.

    On March 17, with the use of a crane, the bell, whose
    sound was so familiar to Hopedale people for generations,
    was removed. I think that when it was being rung by hand,
    this wheel was used for that purpose.

    Thanks to Don Howse for this view of the bell being taken to put in
    storage for now. Behind it is part of the G&U yard, and at top center,
    a glimpse of the Gen. Draper tomb at Hopedale Village Cemetery.
    Below are some thoughts about the bell written by longtime Draper
    employee, Charles Merrell.

       I dedicate this paragraph to The Shop Bell; that worthy instrument for
       telling off the divisions of Hopedale time, calling all good people to their daily
       labors, and closing that day with the ancient admonition to cover one's fires
       for the night. The daily rites of ringing the Shop Bell perpetuate a
       custom of long ago, and link us closely with the past.  Here is a thread of
       continuity running unbroken through the years when other remnants of
       antiquity have all but disappeared, the places thereof knowing them no more.

       I first heard The Shop Bell ring curfew on the evening of my arrival so long
       ago.  I heard it open the gates of day next morning at six.  I heard it call
       people to work at seven, and again at one.  I have heard it perform this
       routine thousands of times in almost half a century, and its sound falls as
       pleasantly in my ear as it did when I first heard it.

       I have learned the moods of The Bell; sharp and metallic on a zero morning;
       soft and muffled in a snowstorm; clear and mellow in the rain; sometimes
       almost inaudible when a strong wind carries the sound away from me.  When
       it was rung by pulling a rope, I could say that this man or that was counting
       off the strokes and the measure of rest between peals.  The people of
       Hopedale, perhaps without ever thinking about it, have a unique and
       distinctive symbol of their community, with a voice proclaiming that here
       abideth industry, order and peace.  May the tongue of The Shop Bell never
       be stilled! From Charles Merrell's memories, Hopedale As I Found It.


    This picture was taken a couple of days after
    the section with the DT Co sign was razed.
1977

    HOPEDALE — Downtown could swap its most prominent former feature — towering, abandoned factory
    buildings — for a river, park and bicycle path alongside shops, offices and apartments.

    “We have a vision that we can daylight the river, open it up from Freedom Street all the way to Rte. 16,” said
    Philip Shwachman, principal of Hopedale Properties LLC, which owns the acres of former factory, “and have
    a linear park …. a pedestrian, bicycle path that travels along that river and is an asset to the entire
    community.”

    Demolition of nearly the entire 1.7 million square feet of former Draper Corp. buildings began last August
    and, after significant time spent removing asbestos, should be complete by the end of June. This month,
    Worcester Business Development Corp. representatives, hired by Shwachman to redevelop the site,
    revealed some of their ideas.

    “We know we’re not going to get a single industry to come and use the entire space,” Shwachman said,
    referring, in part, to how the buildings were once owned by a single company that employed and even
    housed a huge population in and around Hopedale. “The days of Draper and Rockwell are long gone.”
    Excavators dig into the former Draper Mill factory in Hopedale, March 24, 2021.

    Instead, Shwachman and the Worcester Business Development Corp. are pitching multiple uses: office
    spaces, some kind of retail showroom and possibly a supermarket or restaurant were suggested during a
    recent public meeting.

    The river Shwachman referred to is the aptly named Mill River, already beneath the mill.

    Housing would be key, with between 400 and 600 units. Units could be duplexes, condominiums or town
    homes, site planners said, and could take at least 10 years to complete.

    “It doesn’t come without cost, and if housing is the catalyst that starts the project, it’s a tradeoff,” Shwachman
    said.

    A recent survey by the town’s Master Planning Committee found residents placed rental apartments below
    other types of development in town, such as small retail shops and restaurants.

    “It basically comes down to economic viability,” Shwachman said. “A new development isn’t going to build
    itself, and it has to have a strong economic foundation.”

    Likely off the table at this point is any kind of distribution center that a major retailer like Amazon would use
    to warehouse and deliver goods, site planners saidPlanning could be completed within a year, and
    development could begin within two years, WBDC senior project manager Julie Holstrom said during a recent
    public meeting, though she qualified that time frame by calling it “very loose.”

    The company may conduct a traffic and parking study, an impact assessment of the Grafton and Upton
    Railroad’s expansion, with tracks right behind the property, and a feasibility study of the Mill River project.

    WBDC President and CEO Craig Blais said 10 years is about average for the amount of time his company
    completes a project. The Draper site is different, he said, because it’s so close to Hopedale’s downtown hub,
    and development will need to balance what the community wants with which businesses might be interested
    in the site, which is relatively far from major highways.

    “This is different, because of the importance of the impact of this property on the downtown,” he said. “Here,
    it’s going to take a little bit more focus, and coordination, and input from the community that we get it right.”
    Current view of demolition at the former Draper Mill factory in Hopedale, March 24, 2021.

    The WBDC is also working with the town’s Master Planning Committee, which is trying to create a
    comprehensive, long-term plan for Hopedale.

    Alison Bosma can be reached at 508-634-7582 or [email protected] Find her on Twitter at
    @AlisonBosma.