Hopedale Town Park Has A Long History

                                                                          By Gordon E. Hopper

    HOPEDALE – Almost since the incorporation of the town, the residents were interested in the subject
    of a town park. Town records show that steps were taken in 1888, 1890, 1891, 1892 and 1893 to
    obtain property for use as a town park, but each attempt was turned down during town meetings.

    The first property that was desirable contained about five acres and was owned by Adin Ballou. Since
    then, it was purchased by the Draper Company and continuations of Prospect and Peace streets now
    run through it.

    Members of a committee appointed in 1890 consisted of Edward S. Stimpson, Charles M. Day and
    George A. Draper.

    In 1891, a report was submitted that recommended the taking of about 40 acres of land in the vicinity
    of Freedom and Adin streets and about 20 acres of land in the vicinity of Hopedale Pond. The value of
    these properties prohibited any action being taken and the matter was dropped.

    An action that does not appear in the town records was a recommendation by an unauthorized
    committee consisting of E.S. Stimpson and George Otis Draper. They wanted to take a few acres out
    of the original tract. The matter was dropped after it was learned that some of the property owners
    were not favorable to this proposal. In order for the town to take land for park purposes, if necessary,
    the following act in the town warrant was voted on favorably:

    Nov. 5, 1898 – Art. 5 “Shall an act passed by the legislature of the Commonwealth in the year 1882
    entitled: ‘An act authorizing towns and cities to lay out public parks within their limits’ be accepted.”

    At the March 1899 town meeting, George Otis Draper, Charles F. Roper and Frank J. Dutcher were
    chosen as Park Commissioners. This board employed Warren H. Manning as an advisor, and
    Gordon H. Taylor, a civil engineer, as surveyor. Following this, another town meeting voted $12,000 to
    be used in acquiring a 187.54-acre tract of land to be used for park purposes.

    Individual properties in the large tract were owned by Draper Company, Henry L. Patrick, George A.
    Draper, John C. Henry, John S. Mead, Edwin B. Taft, heirs of Carra V. Sadler, Joseph B. Bancroft,
    William F. Draper and the  town of Hopedale. Ownership of a small island in Hopedale Pond was
    retained by the Draper Company.

    The Park Commissioners determined that the first necessity was a public playground for sports like
    baseball, football, etc. Preparation of an unoccupied field at the corner of Freedom and Dutcher
    streets was started after an additional appropriation of $2,500 had been obtained.

    This area was swampy and barren and had never been cultivated. Installation of an extensive system
    of sub-draining, with catch basins was done by Solon M. Allis. During this construction work, a large
    amount of loose rock was encountered. Rather than haul it away, it was utilized in the building of a
    wall along Dutcher Street.

    The remaining large tract of land eventually became known as the Hopedale Parklands and the only
    expenditure in 1899 was for the installation of stone bounds at the corners. During the year 1900, the
    grading, draining, and fencing of the playground was completed. The public was prohibited from
    using it while the first grass crop was growing.

    A border of trees and shrubs were set out around the playground during 1902 and it was surveyed for
    two ball grounds, fitted with home plates and bases, and a tennis court was laid out and furnished
    with posts and nets.

    Seats for the park were purchased in 1901 and a temporary bandstand was placed on the
    playground lot. School children made daily use of the playground, the tennis court was well
    patronized and ball games were frequently played.

    Employees of the Draper Company held their annual Field Day activities on the playground for many
    years. [The first was in 1901.] Nearly 3,000 people attended these affairs and it was gratifying to the
    commissioners to see that no damage to the shrubbery of other park property was perceptible.

    Another tennis court was laid out in 1902. A dozen additional seats were purchased and a faucet for
    drinking water was added. In 1909, there was a new layout made for the baseball diamond and the
    area was regarded. A comfort station was erected and opened during 1913 and a grandstand was
    erected in 1914. During 1917, the tennis courts were rebuilt, the baseball diamond was regarded,
    and a new entrance to the playground was provided.

    Baseball teams from various departments in the Draper Company, which had been formed into the
    “Twilight League,” started to use the baseball diamond nightly in 1918. Statistics for the year 1923
    revealed that there were 33 Twilight League games played, five high school games, and six others.
    The average attendance was 263 while the largest attendance at these games was 1200 people.

    An examination of the property at the corner of Dutcher and Freedom streets today shows it to be a
    large grassy playground containing many things including several sets of tennis courts. A nearby
    rectangular-shaped concrete pad serves as a shuffleboard court.

    The entire length of the town park that borders Freedom and Dutcher streets is nicely landscaped
    and includes several evergreens, trees and a large white birch. There are four entrances to the
    playground. One is through a pair of very old circular millstones and another is made through four
    stone posts. The remaining two are through curved sections of a stone wall which encircles the entire

    A blacktopped basketball court and a baseball diamond with a wire backstop are on the property
    along with some metal bleacher sections. A utility house is located across a large grassy section that
    is occasionally used for football or soccer practice sessions.

    Hopedale’s picturesque bandstand is located at one end of the park. It has been electrified and
    appears to still be in very good condition. There is a blacktopped walk area on all four sides of the

    A very tall flagpole has been set near one of the highest corners of the park and there are several sets
    of high-powered lights strategically placed around the park. The corner of the playground located
    nearest the bandstand contains rides, games, and swings for the young children. It also includes a
    very large sandbox and a rack for holding bicycles. Most of these are made of metal and are
    permanently installed. A comfort station and outdoor water bubbler are on the property as well as
    several park benches.

    All in all, it is an attractive playground, completely equipped and is enjoyed by the hundreds who use it
    including the Hopedale youngsters who guided me through the entire playground. Milford Daily
    News, January 2, 1980.

                              Park Department History                     Draper Field Days Slideshow on YouTube  

The Millstones at the Park   

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