Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Village of Fiskdale

Fiskdale is a village within Sturbridge. From the western shore of Cedar Lake to the Brimfield line, north on Route 148 a couple of miles, and south on Holland Road for a bit, Fiskdale occupies a good portion of the town. Long ago the original Bay Path ran through Fiskdale and on to Springfield. The Quinebaug River flows through the village parallel to Route 20. This river was vital to the region years ago. Its water supplied the needed power to run the textile mills. At one time, the mills in Fiskdale supplied a large portion of the textiles for the new country. Today, one old mill building is located on Route 20 and has been nicely converted into many shops. Behind the old mill is the river and an old mill pond. The river flows from Holland into the mill pond and then over the falls and on into Sturbridge and beyond. The remnants of another, larger old mill is at the corner of Route 20 and Holland Road.

Today, the village is having its problems, mostly related to the drop in tourism since 9/11 and before. Restaurants, shops, and motels have either changed hands frequently or have closed up for good. BASKETVILLE, a fixture in the village for 30 plus years, closed its doors for good last spring, and has remained vacant since. The Holiday Inn Express has changed hands twice in the last six months as has the motel on the top of the hill at the corner of Cedar Street and Route 20. It is now a MOTEL 6. The restaurant, BIN 479, the towns only wine bar, closed over the summer, and is currently being resurrected into a sushi bar and grill. I wish them all the luck in the world. The Van Heusen store is currently having "Going out of Bussiness" sales, and the lodges at Old Sturbridge Village have been vacant and for sale for over a year. This is only a fraction of the closures, sales, and store relocations here in the village.

What to do?

Well, we need a make over. Badly.

Fiskdale is where most of the antique and craft stores are in the town, and with the exception of the Publick House on the town Common, all of the fine dining is located here as well. It has become "Walking Village", but the infrastructure does not lend itself to that, so, I've been thinking.

First, we need to make the Fiskdale stretch of Route 20 more pedestrian friendly. If you have ever been out to the Lee/Lenox area and noticed how they have constructed their sidewalks, crosswalks, and lighting to augment their "Walking Village" you will understand what is needed here. Sidewalks are essential on BOTH sides of Route 20. More crosswalks, too. and make them fancy. Use those machines that cut a brick pattern into the asphalt and paint them a brick color for the crosswalks. Nice.

The sidewalks need to be redone, and need to be on both sides of the roadway. Concrete is fine with granite curbs, but leave cut-outs all along the sidewalks for the planting of trees. The street, at one time, was tree lined, but witht he widening of the road, the Hurricane of 1938, and disease, the trees are no longer there. The village needs them.

Next, is lighting. We need nice street lights. Not the "on-the-telephone" pole yellow light kind of lights, but nice ones. Look at what Southbridge has done with its down center, and look at the street lamps it installed. Very nice. Black ornate poles with "antique" glass enclosed lights at the top. The little town of Millis, MA did the same a few years back when it redid Route 109. New concrete sidewalks where there had been none, and new street lamps all along the roadway were added. It's a small town, but the look of it has changed dramatically.

Finally, we need more siting areas like the one recently built at the corner of Route 20 and Cedar Street. This is a great addition to the area, and the Town and the Rotarians should be strongly commended, but we need more. After all, if we are to attract business from pedestrians walking our streets, we need to make it as comfortable and convenient as possible.

This is a start. If the Town of Sturbridge is serious about reversing the trends, it needs to invest some dollars to facilitate those changes. It will pay off. When business sees the town taking an active role to attract both business and tourists, more will come of both.

In my next post I will ramble on about the newly purchased land on the south side of the Quinebaug River by the Town of Sturbridge. Extraordinary foresight, or monstrous boondoggle? In the meantime, I'll be thinking.

Note: Photo of cows was taken on Douty Road, Fiskdale.


  1. Agreed about the street lighting. One problem the Town will face is the right-of-way owned by MassHighway, it's the edge of the sidewalks, so there's not much room for expanding unless the private property owners cooperate.

    The Town looked at burying the overhead lines and installing period style lighting in 1995 and even had a non-binding election on it that year which turned out about 49% in favor. At the time, the project was about $7 million, now it must be $10 million plus.

    BUT there is hope, MassHighway has a complaint filed against them with the Architectural Access Board due to the poles being placed in the center of the sidewalk putting the sidewalks in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. I understand the Town staff is working with MassHighway to see if there is a way to bury the lines...

  2. So, there is hope...

    I am surprised that the project has not been looked into again during the past 12 years. Actually, I am not surprised. Stuff happens. New projects come along, and things get shuffled off to the shelf in the closet.

    You are right, it will cost way more today, but if the poles must be taken care of to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, then it may open the way to further reconstruction. If the Town must abide by the ADA, and if additional land is needed, then we know that will mean land taking by eminent domain, unless the lines can be buried. However, for just the aesthetic purposes alone, you are right, the private property owners would need to cooperate if the lines were not buried.

    Nice to know that there was some thought about this at one time. Would be nicer if there was more thought about it today.


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