Saltbox Road and the Parklands Beyond the Railroad Tracks

    Saltbox Road is an abandoned road (to car traffic, anyway) that extends from Freedom Street a few
    hundred yards beyond the railroad crossing, up to Overdale Parkway. Originally it continued on to North
    Avenue in Mendon. In the top picture you can see the road, the yellow gate at the entrance, and a bit of
    Freedom Street on the right. It runs more or less parallel to Freedom Street, from behind the old dump to
    the intersection at Overdale Parkway.

    In recent decades that section of Freedom Street has often been referred to as Saltbox Road, and
    sometimes as Soapbox Road. In town records and the street listing books, an Old Salt Box Road is
    included up to present time. One house is shown as having 1 Old Salt Box Road as its address. It's the last
    house on the left, as you travel up Overdale Parkway. You'd think it would have an Overdale address,
    since Old Salt Box Road almost looks like its driveway. (photo below) As to the nearby section of Freedom
    Street, from behind the old dump to the Mendon line, Saltbox is evidently an informal thing, resulting from
    people attaching the name of the old dirt road to the newer paved road that replaced it. Town records
    wouldn't be calling a piece of Freedom Street by another name. Informal names that people tag onto things
    can be an entirely different matter. There has been quite a discussion on Facebook during the past couple
    of days (in July 2015) about whether the correct name is Saltbox or Soapbox. I'd say there's no doubt that
    the old dirt road is Saltbox. (Frank Dutcher, who knew a thing or two about Hopedale, wrote that it had
    gotten that name because there had been a family by the name of Dillon who had lived in a saltbox-style
    house along the road.) It may be that saltbox sounds close enough to soapbox that some started calling it
    by that name. Some commenting on Facebook thought there had once been soapbox derby races there.  
    My guess is that the younger you are, the more likely it is that you call it Soapbox Road or Soapbox Hill.

    Soapbox derby races, sponsored by the American Legion, were held from 1950 to 1952. The races were
    on Freedom Street, but not on the "Soapbox Hill" section of Freedom Street. The starting line was near the
    Oak/Freedom intersection and the finish line was at Dutcher Street. It's possible that kids made their own
    cars and raced down Soapbox Hill from time to time, but I'm sure there were never any formal races there.
    Click here for a page on the races.

    For most of its length, Saltbox Road looks much like what you see in the first three pictures near the top of
    the page. Stone walls run along most of it on both sides. The last hundred yards or so, as you get near
    Overdale Parkway, are overgrown.

    Several old foundations can be seen near the road. They're fairly close to each other, and I think at least
    one of them was probably for a barn.

    There are several paths that branch off of Saltbox Road. One of them leads to the fieldstone shelter called
    the Lookout. The bottom picture, which shows Hopedale Pond, was taken near the Lookout.

    Saltbox (or Salt Box) Road got it's name from the saltbox style house on the street. It was probably the only
    house in the area at the time it got the name. One of the fieldstone foundations shown on this page may
    have been the cellar of the saltbox house.

    Freedom Street at that time (during the days of the Hopedale Community - 1842 - 1856) went to Mendon,
    up the steep hill past the "Saltbox" place, now (1910) occupied by the Dillon family. Frank Dutcher,
    Hopedale Reminiscences.

                                          The Lookout        Back to Parklands Walk, Page 1       

Overdale Parkway   
The note here was written by Mendon historian Jane
Coleman. Thanks to Dick Grady for sending it.

    It's interesting to see that this little clipping of the 1922 town directory shows that there
    was an occupied house on Saltbox (or Salt Box, as it's also spelled) Road. The last
    year Hapgood's name appears is 1925. For some years after that, I haven't found
    anyone listed as living on Salt Box. My guess is that the house was very old and in
    such poor condition that no one wanted it, and it was eventually razed or fell down on
    its own. In recent years one house is shown being on Old Salt Box Road. Possibly
    that's where the Hapgood home was. I've looked through the street listing books, but
    the fact that for many years the Overdale houses didn't have numbers adds to the
    difficulty of figuring what was where.

    I've included this clipping here because, according to Frank Dutcher,
    it was the Dillon saltbox-style house that gave Saltbox Road its
    name. The house may have stood on one of the foundations shown
    in pictures above. "Overlook" must refer to what's now called
    Overdale Parkway. I don't know if that's what it was called at one
    time, and later changed to Overdale, or more likely, it's a typo.

    Here's part of an article from Wikipedia on saltbox houses. Click here for the entire article and pictures.

    The saltbox originated in New England, and is an example of American colonial architecture. One theory
    holds that the saltbox form was popularized by Queen Anne's taxation of houses greater than one story.
    Since the rear of the roof descended to the height of a single-story building, the structure was exempt from
    the tax. More likely, though, the saltbox shape evolved organically from the need for additional space for
    growing families; adding a lean-to was an economical way to enlarge the house.

    The earliest saltbox houses were created when a lean-to addition was added onto the rear of the original
    house extending the roof line sometimes to less than six feet from ground level. Old weathered clapboards
    are still in place on parts of the original rear exterior walls of some of the earliest New England saltbox
    houses. The hand-riven oak clapboards on both the Comfort Starr House and Ephraim Hawley House are
    preserved in place in the attic that was created when the lean-to was added onto the original house. The
    style was popular for structures throughout the colonial period and into the early Republic, perhaps
    because of the simplicity of its design.

    The "winter pictures" were taken in December 2006. Those showing leaves on the trees are from September
    2011 A path off of Saltbox Road leads to the dirt road that begins at the end of Overdale Parkway and ends at
    The Lookout. The picture above, looking down at Hopedale Pond, was taken from that road.

    A saltbox house. Evidently the one on Saltbox Road was of this style,
    but I'd think it was far smaller and probably quite rustic. Anyone
    farming that rocky hillside couldn't have afforded much of a house.

Old Salt Box Road - 2015

    Below - Google Earth views of the Saltbox Road section of
    Freedom Street, and, faintly visible in this March 1995 view,
    the dirt road which was the original Saltbox Road. I've included
    one view with, and one without street lines and names. The
    Mendon town line is on the left, parallel to Overdale Parkway.
Milford Daily News, June 25, 1985

    HOPEDALE — Jennifer Moore takes her dogs into Hopedale’s 280-acre Parklands conservation land every
    day, year-round.

    “When we had those big snows, I put on my boots and broke the (fresh) snow walking around,” she said.

    Moore lives in her parents’ Overdale Parkway home, where the Hopedale High School graduate moved
    back for the duration of the pandemic. The paved section of Overdale Parkway ends just past the last
    house on the road, at which point it continues as a wide trail deep into the forest. Rules for the Parklands
    are listed on a large sign a short distance down the road.

    Used for decades by residents like Moore as the entrance to the Parklands, the woodland road and land to
    either side of it are now part of a local controversy.

    Hopedale resident Ricardo Lima, also a police officer in town, and Hopkinton-based Black Brook Realty are
    looking to build a total of 10 houses on either side of the unpaved road. Lawyers for the two entities asked
    selectmen last month to authorize a 1985 Town Meeting article they said would allow use of the road to
    access their lots and proposed new homes. The developer would pave the road under the new agreement.

    “The intent of the town is to have Parkland,” said Denise Linder, Moore’s mother, as she and a small group
    of residents walked up the path on Thursday. “You start to take that away, what are you doing to the town

    Though lawyers for Lima and Black Brook Realty said the land on which they are looking to build is not
    Parklands — which is protected from development — and that they will be restricted to the 10 homes,
    Overdale Parkway residents disagree.

    “I think most people feel a little bit threatened,” Linder said. “You take an inch, put a house here, and next
    thing you know there’s 60 houses.”

    Moore, Linder and others produced stamped town records showing the area labeled as Parklands, old town
    reports saying the Park Department has jurisdiction over the land, and a typewritten letter from 1917
    advising a park commissioner on how to make it obvious that the area is town-owned.

    A group of concerned residents meets virtually every week, Linder and fellow resident Joyce Lovewell said,
    and includes about 15 families from the neighborhood, as well as people from other sections of town.

    “It’s not strictly an issue for Overdale,” Linder said.

    On a nice day, 20 families might drive up and park at the dead end to use the trails, the group said, and
    Overdale Parkway residents like Moore use it all year. The cross country teams use it to get into the
    Parklands trails, Moore said.

    “Where are people going to park?” Lovewell asked.

    In addition to wanting to protect the Parklands, Overdale Parkway residents worry about possible
    contamination of their drinking water wells, and the availability of water for new homes. A previous attempt
    to develop the area proposed widening the road, which would have meant paving swaths of residents’ front

    “The rationale might be revenue for the town,” Linder said, of approving the developers’ request and
    allowing the homes. “You’re not saving the budget on 10 homes. It’s not worth the risk.”
    Jennifer Moore, of Hopedale, stands on an unpaved road near her home on Overdale Parkway as she talks
    about growing up near the Parklands, Hopedale's conservation land, March 11, 2021. With her are her
    dogs, Buster and Dobby. Developers are looking to build a series of luxury homes between her
    neighborhood and the Parklands.

    Residents and a Park Commission member raised concerns about rights to the land at a meeting with
    selectmen last month, and selectmen requested a title search, which is ongoing.

    This is not the first time development has been proposed for the land, then opposed by residents. In 2000,
    a much larger development was planned, and residents prevailed in land court. Residents this past week
    pointed to other instances in their unearthed town documents in which the Park Commission in particular
    continued to assert its authority over the land and denied commercialization of any kind.

    “The frustrating thing is we already went through this,” Lovewell said, walking along the wooded path with
    Linder and her daughter.

    “It should be a non-issue at this point,” Linder agreed.

    Proposals for either Lima’s or Black Brook Realty’s developments would need approval from other town
    boards, in addition to securing the access road. Actual plans have not yet surfaced.

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