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
Friday, December 28, 2012
As I passed a small group of girls, one looked up at me from under her quilted, cotton hat, and greeted me with a happy, "Good day!". I wished her a good day in return, and smiled as I walked ahead of the crowd. Her clothes of a long ago time, had given her permission to greet me as she had. It would never have had happened in the parking lot of Walmart. We have become to cautious with our interactions today, and we teach our children the same.
The day was bright, and the landscape glistened in the snowy frosting, but that wonderful greeting from such a happy little lady truly made my day. It was obvious she was not only comfortable, she had been learning as well. Salutations in the 1830's were very important, and showed good manners. I wish the same could be said today.
|Dirt road leading out of Old Sturbridge Village towards|
the Quinebaug River.
|School children spending their vacation in the 1830's|
at Old Sturbridge Village.
|Wool clothes and a metal lunch buckets, essentials of the|
|A pair of girls scurrying across the common to catch up|
with their friends.
|It's always warmer in a flock of friends.|
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
The photo below is how the farm looked around 1905. Do you know where it is?
Sunday, December 9, 2012
This is one of our favorite walking places that we try to hike a couple of times each month, but the past six months, or so, we have been a bit busy, and had not seen the current changes along the river.
|A view of Shuttleville from around 1900 to 1910.|
|The view of the Quinebaug River today. The area in the center of the|
of the photo to the green grass was once tall brush blocking the
view of the river.
|The LItchfield Shuttle Works on the Southbridge side of the river|
looking toward what still is a grassy area in Sturbridge. The
remnants of the factory can still be seen along the river.
Saturday, December 8, 2012
I read the article below, and a smile sprung to my face immediately. They got it. Not only did the selectmen get it, they got it en masse, and acted in public for an immediate moratorium on "non-municipal solar voltaic installations".
They then took it further, and are seeking the help of our state senator, our state representative, and the Governor, to enact "special moratorium legislation" for solar voltaic installations.
The words that made me smile the most were these:
Moratorium on solar farms moves forward
Sunday, December 2, 2012
"Henry Haynes began making and repairing carriages and wagons in Sturbridge center in 1834. The business became H & M Haynes when he and brother Melvin became partners. In the photograph, from left to right, Henry D. Haynes, William Booker, Jack Wright, Melvin Haynes, Henry M. Carpenter, John P. Haynes, Henry Haynes, William Perry, ? Trask, Harrison Craig, Lotson Harnant. The shop closed about 1910 under the name H. Haynes & Son."-- Digital Treasures: A Central & Western Digital Library Project
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
I pay attention. I also have an enormous imagination, which also can be quite helpful at times.
Case in point: the recent decision of Sturbridge land owner to take 40 acres of forested hillside on Shepard Road, clear cut the trees, and then erect 27,000 solar panels. Obviously, the decision to construct an eco-friendly power source was not born out of a desire to better our world, eliminate carbon foot prints, or anything else ecologically beneficial. The decision was born out of what the heck to do with land that could no longer be used for its original purpose, a housing development, because of the economy, and the max benefit per acre had to be found. This doesn't take any imagination to figure out.
Clear cutting 40 acres on a hillside for solar energy is beyond oxymoronism, it is a desperate move to recoup an investment.
Now, here is where being "far removed from something" comes in to give one some a better view. It could also be viewed as stupid.
Destroying a wildlife habitat, disturbing the ecosystem of a hillside that would eventually subside into residents back yards, the destruction of 40 acres of trees, and the benefits they give us, all to supply the electric grid with 6 megawatts of solar power.
What is wrong with picture? No imagination needed here, either.
But, wait, there's more.
Now, the land owner has decided to cut back his initial project from 40 acres to 25 acres, and to downsize the power production from 6 megawatts to 4 mw in order to avoid the input of the Conservation Commission. Another action that is more financially driven since the denial, and/or restrictions the Conservation Commission would make would most likely shut down the project.
Mr. Krevosky said the concept now is in “the 4 megawatts range” and would involve fewer than 25 acres.
“There will be a reduction in the size of the project. That is a definite,” Mr. Krevosky said. “Now the discussion is to … move the project 200 feet away from wetland boundaries and, if that is done, it will take it out of the Conservation Commission's jurisdiction.” --Worcester Telegram November 26, 2012
Hmm. Blatant admissions of just how one wants to circumvent the powers that be in order to have their way is not usually done with this much forethought; unless there is another motive.
Imagine this: a developer desperate to use the land he purchased, and can no longer make money on. Selling it to another land developer won't happen for the same reasons he is stuck with it, but maybe, just maybe, if a really ludicrous plan is announced it might work in their favor. How about a plan to remove a forest in order to make electricity from the sun? Once it is made public it will stir up the town folk to stop it, ad the town would feel reasonably safe since the Conservation Commission would be there to stop it, too.
Then, comes part 2.
The owner then backs off on the original projects size, and openly states that the reason he has done this is to take the Conservation Commission out of the equation. This gives the impression that they are still going forward with the project, and are willing to cut back its size in order to circumvent closer scrutiny, and possible rejection. In other words, we are still going through with this, and now there is less you can do to stop us.
Now, you don't have to be a screenplay writer, or have an overactive imagination, to see what comes next. The town runs out of options, or money to fight the project, and the developer doesn't really want to build a solar power plant. All they want to do is unload the land. How much does this land, the hillside, the forest, and the happiness of the abutters really mean to the town? Enough to buy it? Preserve it forever from developers. That would eliminate the threat of development, save the land, and send the developer happily away. Sound familiar? We've been down this road a few times. Our past actions speaks volumes.
Silly scenario? Maybe, but destroying a forest to offer eco-friendly power is pretty silly, too. I've seen sillier things get accomplished, but from here, this may not be so stupid. In fact, the plan is actually brilliant, but I think the developer is a few years too late. Sturbridge's land buying days are over for awhile.
At least I hope so.
I can't wait for the third installment.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Saturday, November 24, 2012
Now, remember, back in 2006, Old Sturbridge Village was in a large amount of debt. The Lodges were closed, and the Oliver Wight Tavern, built a few years earlier at the entrance of the village, had been closed as well. Millions of dollars in debt at the start of the Great Recession, things looked very bleak for the Village. Then, in 2007, Jim Donahue came into the picture as the Villages new leader. With a plan to revitalize OSV, stimulate attendance, and increase membership, Donahue has succeeded. July 4th fireworks drew thousands, and introduced the Village to a whole new generation. The costumed interpreters were re-introduced, and long put off maintenance of the buildings was begun again.
The spirit of recovery, benevolence, and history has come together once more at Old Sturbridge Village. As they have for 66 years, the Village has shown yet another great example of fine leadership, cooperation, problem solving, and planning to inspire the rest of us. Teaching all of us willing to learn.
Thank you, OSV, for not giving up on our history, and thank you Mr. and Mrs. Reeder for giving them the chance to do so.
Past posts about the Oliver Wight House, and the Lodges.
Worcester Telegram November 24, 2012
STURBRIDGE — Since he took over as president and chief executive officer of Old Sturbridge Village in 2007, James E. Donahue has probably heard this question the most: “When are you going to do something with the Oliver Wight building and the Lodges complex?”
Now he has an answer.
“We expect it will open the first weekend in June,” Mr. Donahue said last week.
While renovating the 1789 Oliver Wight house, which sits on its original site facing Route 20, has been on the radar screen of Old Sturbridge Village board members for some time, their focus has been on the living history museum.
“We were focused here, on the museum and on rebuilding our audience,” Mr. Donahue explained.
The house is near the guest lodges alongside Route 20 and is separate from the Oliver Wight Tavern, which is closer to the living history museum's entrance.
When Mr. Donahue took over, Old Sturbridge Village was struggling with a decreasing number of visitors. Since then numbers have grown and the museum has more members, as well.
With OSV facing a $4 million deficit, the Lodges, built in the 1960s, and the Wight house were closed in 2005, as was the Oliver Wight Tavern that had been built in 2000 but had been losing money. The tavern reopened in 2007, but the Lodges have been vacant since the town offices moved back to Town Hall.
In 2009, the town leased space in the Lodges for temporary town offices while the Town Hall was renovated.
Mr. Donahue is optimistic about the museum's future, but he and the trustees weren't feeling secure enough to devote the money needed to the Oliver Wight house at the time.Then a trustee from New York stepped up and offered to fund the entire project — including any losses in the first two years of operation.
Robert W. Reeder and his wife, Lorraine, of Bedford, N.Y., had visited the Lodges with their family and said the place became part of their “family history.”
Mrs. Reeder remembered warmly a romantic stay she and her husband had at the Oliver Wight house back in 1988, during their second trip to Old Sturbridge Village.
“The Oliver Wight house holds a very special place in Bob's and my hearts,” she said.
Trustees had commissioned a study of the site before receiving the Reeders' offer. The study showed that renovations would be costly, with an estimate of just under $700,000, and it projected losses for up to two years as the lodges and house were put back into business.
Mr. Reeder agreed to cover losses up to $200,000, and Mr. Donahue said that has trustees working hard to try to stave off any losses at all.
For many visitors to Old Sturbridge Village, the Lodges evoke warm memories. They were built in the 1950s and operated as Liberty Cap Motel back in 1962, and folks from out of the area often spent a few days at the Lodges while visiting the museum and other area attractions.
Mr. Donahue said a design committee has been working to keep the old feel of those buildings while offering amenities that today's travelers might require.
“Things like television and Internet.”
The trustees and Mr. Donahue are hoping the Lodges and renovated Oliver Wight house, which features original wall murals dating back to the 1830s, will encourage more brides to choose Old Sturbridge Village as the site for their weddings.
Mr. Donahue said having lodging available will also help increase attendance at evening events, encourage families to spend time in Sturbridge while children attend special programs, and offer a place for summer interns and visiting scholars to stay.
“We're confident that it can be profitable,” Mr. Donahue said. “And we will reach back out to people who might have traveled here from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.”
The Lodges and Oliver Wight house wouldn't compete with local motels, but would offer a different experience, which might include some facets of a museum exhibit being displayed there, or events such as an afternoon tea.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
This past summer we had the opportunity to tear out our main bathroom and start from scratch. One of the things we considered was how to heat the water in the new second floor bathroom. Would the boiler be able to supply ample hot water for the new tub? How about the new shower? Our pressure was always low, and it took several "fill 'n wait's" to get the old tub temperature to where it was not painful to sit in.
A new bathroom needed a new system. I talked hot water systems with Dave at Pioneer Oil, and he offered a lot of great advice. The neat thing about talking with Dave was he is a wealth of knowledge, and my decision to go with an oil fired system would be good, but if I didn't he was fine with that, too. He just wanted to share what he knew, and he knows a lot. So after researching, listening, and doing the pro's and con's thing many times, I decided to have a Bosch On Demand Hot Water System installed.
|This small box is the Bosch tankless water heater, and|
now takes care of all our households hot water needs.
My fear was the electricity it would take to to heat the water, especially for the large jetted tub, would be a lot, and although no oil would be used to heat it, I may loose out to the electricity. The research I did said otherwise, but still...
After air conditioning season passed, and I could begin to see the "true electric usage" I was amazed that our kilowatt hours were returning to our pre-remodel time for a year ago. There had been no huge hike in electrical usage despite the tub, and shower being used multiple times daily.
The last time we had oil delivered was in June, until this week. That oil usage was for heat, and for heating the hot water for the rest of our house. The delivery was for 121 gallons; not bad for almost half a year of heating water for the rest of the house, and the steam boiler for heat. I opted to see how well the On Demand heater would do with only the bathroom before I chose to flip the valve, and have the rest of the house on the On Demand System. Yesterday, we put the whole house on the system, and shut down the hot water heater in the boiler.
With our decreased oil usage to date because we put the new bathroom on the new system, and now putting the rest of the house on the system, I expect to save some more money that would normally be spent on oil. Sorry, Dave.
It will be interesting to see how our kilowatt hours do next month. Except for the dishwasher, we seldom use hot water elsewhere, and we use cold in the laundry.
When it comes time to change out your electric hot water heater think about an on demand system. The initial cost is more, but you will save a lot of money every month. It makes no sense to heat water in anticipation of it being needed, not with todays technology. Electric hot water heaters that heat 'n store are archaic, and a thing from the past.
Today, we have new technology, and its waiting for the rest of the world to enjoy it. My wallet is already smiling.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
For years the owner of the property has fought to have the property connected to the towns sewer system, and now they are looking to an alternative solution. So why give up on the connecting to the towns sewer service? Cost. It would be cost prohibitive to justify spending $8 million to connect the sewer for the 273 residents of the the retirement community, and the town has said no to the request many times. If there were large corporations, very large residential developments, or retailers setting up shop along Route 15, then it would be a whole different story, but that is not the case. The retirement community must build their own sewerage treatment facility for $1.15 million, and they are under a state mandate to either connect to town sewerage, or build the treatment plant, otherwise they will have to shut down.
The community has applied three times for a grant to offset the cost of building the facility, and this year they are trying again, but to be successful they need to show town support, that is one area the state felt was lacking in the past.
A grant is not going to cost me anything, and I do not want to see 273 retired people with low to moderate incomes, being displaced because of not having the proper amount of sewerage.
This has been going on for far too long without a resolution. There are petitions going around town for residents to sign to show their support for this grant. I am not going to wait for the petition to find me, I am going to email my support to firstname.lastname@example.org , with my name and address. This counts as well.
There are close to 300 Sturbridge residents that need our help in order to keep living in their homes, and an email is the least I can do.
How about taking a moment an doing the same. Those retirees would certainly appreciate your thoughts, and effort.
Click here to read the Worcester Telegram article.
Monday, November 5, 2012
Some seem to feel that the removal of the fog lines on Main Street, and the repainting of the lines further from the curb have made the curb to the line an official bike lane. I haven't seen any signs, or bike symbols painted on the road to indicate this, or even a mention in the paper that this was the intent. It doesn't really matter though, for bicyclist it is a welcome change.
I have a bike, have used it on the road. Before official bike trails there was no where else to ride. Having a skootch more room on Main Street will make riding a bit easier. Yes, the "bike lanes" get narrow at some turns, and eventually disappear, but the road is till there, and one is free to ride on any road in the Commonwealth except for the limited access highways (interstates), and highways specifically marked prohibiting bicycles. Contrary to what was written in the last post comment section Route 20 is not considered an interstate highway like I-90 is. Yes, they both wind their way between states, and in both cases go from coast to coast, but Route 20 is not limited access, nor is biking prohibited from that road.
Since I don't know who's idea it was to widen the curb to line area, whether it was MADoT, of the Town, or what their true intention was, I really can't comment further.
In any event, if it is an attempt to make the roads a bit safer for those on their bikes, that's great, and if it is for another reason all together, then the indirect effect for those pedaling their butts around town will be welcome as well.
Riding a bike on the road is nothing new. Kids may be restricted to riding their bikes only in their driveway nowadays, and riding to the ball field, or school a ritual of the past, but someday they'll enjoy the trails, and the roads of Central Massachusetts like so many others
We just need to keep in mind that bicyclists are not intruders on our roadways, they are welcome, and there are laws that protect them, motorists, and pedestrians as well. If you don't feel riding your bike on Route 20 is safe for you to do, then don't.
Massachusetts General Laws
Monday, October 15, 2012
I could say, "Shaun, me lad, read the past five years of this blog, and take notes", but let's assume that the TA has no clue this page exists, and has never read any of the input, suggestions, comments, and postings concerning improvements along the corridor from New Boston Road to Route 148 that have been made over that past 60 months, or so.
I will list the Top 21 here, and hopefully the TA will add them to his list. I believe many of them are on his "To Do" list already.
- First, develop a design theme for the area.
- A large, well designed "Welcome To Sturbridge" sign on the median on Route 20.
- Traffic light at the intersection of Rout 20, and New Boston Road.
- Sidewalk from New Boston Road to the existing sidewalk on the north side of Route 20.
- Sidewalks on both sides of Route 20 to Route 148.
- New wider, sidewalks.
- Traffic light at the intersection of Route 20, and Arnold Road with pedestrian "button" to control the walk signal.
- The addition of a crosswalk, with a pedestrian controlled traffic light, at the existing traffic lights in front of the former Picadilly Pub, and across the street from the Mobil gas station. This would allow safer access to Route 131, and the Common District.
- Bury the utility lines.
- Install new lighting along the sidewalks the entire way from New Boston Road to Brookfield Road.
- Install more crosswalks, and upgrade the existing crosswalks with simulated brick (stamped concrete), or some other design that will be permanent, and not require re-marking every year.
- Banners, and or signs that promote our area hanging from poles along Main Street.
- A municipal parking lot.
- Frequent sitting niches beside the side walk for people to rest while walking along our very long Main Street.
- Refurbishment of the stone walls that border the sidewalks.
- Revitalization of the mill area at the intersection of Route 20, and Holland Road, our western gateway.
- Removal of some of the trees along Cedar Lake on Route 20 in order to beautify the area with an unparalleled view of the lake.
- Consistent, well designed, easy to read signage indicating the local points of interest, trails, shops, and lodging along the road, and at intersections.
- Markers, signs, plaques, like those in the small park beside the mill store, that explain the local history of our area.
- A river way park, with a footbridge, that will connect Main Street to the trail on the south side of the Quinebaug River.
- Flower boxes / plantings on the median strip from the former Picadilly Pub to Cedar Street.
From the Worcester Telegram
Sturbridge wants plans to upgrade Main Street
Town Administrator Shaun A. Suhoski said the town wants to make streetscape, pedestrian, parking and roadway improvements along Main Street (Route 20) from its intersection with New Boston Road at the eastern gateway through its intersection with Brookfield Road at the western gateway.
The estimated cost of the planning project is $120,000.
“Sturbridge has seen a resurgence in new and re-investment along its commercial corridors over the past 18 months,” Mr. Suhoski said. “The focus of this study will be to support and re-invigorate the traditional commercial tourist area along Main Street while enhancing the gateways to the community.”
At the eastern gateway, selective demolition and asbestos removal have begun at a vacant hotel.
Plans for a new Holiday Inn Express were approved for the site several years ago, but the property owner has begun talking with the Planning Board about potential zoning adjustments for a restaurant and small bank branch on the site as well, Mr. Suhoski said.
And at the western gateway, some have shown an interest in a commercial redevelopment of a former mill site at Holland Road and Main Street, Mr. Suhoski said.
“The potential for keystone developments at each gateway location is very favorable if developers work with the town planner and planning board to meet the town’s vision for these areas,” Mr. Suhoski said. “Local officials realize that an open dialogue with the business sector to achieve the best possible development is also good for the residential sector, its tax base and local employment. Sturbridge is open for business.”
Friday, October 5, 2012
Yes, our infrastructure has changed bit over the past several years. A bridge was rebuilt on Haynes Street. Route 20 was widened 20 plus years ago, as was Route 148. Route 131 was rebuilt over the last couple of years. A new High School, a new elementary school. Restoration of the Town Hall, and the Center School. A new water treatment plant. These are all great accomplishments, but the town itself, the view offered to visitors has changed little, and is ignored.
Currently, we are a place to drive through on the way to the Village, or a restaurant, nothing more. I love the trails, but we are not anywhere near the point of attracting throngs of hikers to our town.
We need to admit to ourselves that major improvements are needed immediately, and put teams of people into office that have the same vision. People that will be strong leaders, and work towards our resurrection. An agreed upon agenda, and plan, to develop this Pot O' Gold we call home.
Currently, since there is little movement in that direction I can say we don't have the leaders that see Sturbridge's resurrection as a priority. They may wish, and dream that it may happen someday, but they don't have the ability to take us there. No fault of their own, we just need people that have that ability, and desire.
Is there anybody out there willing to work in this direction?
We also need to decide who we want to be. Do we want to be a tourist destination? A retail destination? Or, just a border town with nothing more to offer than a bed and a meal to those taking their wallets elsewhere?
I think we have decided on the latter by default.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
|Do you know what this building once was?|
He asked if I knew anything about the building, and since I didn't, I am asking you. If you know the history of the round building, drop me a note, and I'll share it here.
Now, the rest of the story.
|Future Gateway To Sturbridge?|
I drove to the round building this morning so I could take a few photos to post here. As I was driving across the bridge over I-84, and approaching the former Hebert Candy Property I had an epiphany. What if the town, or the Chamber of Commerce, purchased the buildings and land and turned it into a Gateway to our area?
The property has been empty for several years now, although it was supposedly sold to a laboratory from Southbridge last winter the For Sale sign is still up. It looks as though a gallery has set up shop in the far end of the main building.
The property has everything one could ask for. The main field stone building could not only be the Chambers headquarters, but could also be a great information center, a gift store selling local items, and possibly a small restaurant as well.
|This building could very easily become the headquarters|
for Trek Sturbridge offering maps, canoe, and
The rustic building at the other end of the parking lot could be the headquarters for Trek Sturbridge, and offer trail maps, outdoor books, supplies, canoe, and bike rentals rentals.
The round building in the center of the the three buildings could be a small museum with displays telling the visitor about our areas history.
- There is more than ample parking.
- The property is directly off the exit from I-84.
- The trail system will eventually come directly behind the buildings.
- The Quinebaug River is a short distance away for canoeing.
- Old Sturbridge Village is practically across the street as is hundreds of acres of land for hiking, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, and biking.
- The site is more accessible to a larger number of travelers than the current building on Route 20 which could continued to be used as it is.
- Location, location, location.
- Oh, and what route does the property border? Route 15. Another bonus.
October 3, 2012 9:40 PM ADDENDUM
Sturbridge, MA 01566
1 River Rd
Type of Comm.: Commercial
Space Available: For Sale
Driving Doors: 1
Total Units: 4
Parking Spaces: 50
Master Bath: Unknown
Lot Size: 87,991
Total Sq. Ft.: 12,984
Year Built: 1961~
Approx. GLA: 12,984
Sub Dividable: N
Description: Prime 2+ acre Site at River Road and Rte 15 across from I-84 Exit 2. THE Corner location on the Rte 15 Corridor! Formerly Hebert Candies. This timeless stone and frame construction has great character with flexible space on 3 levels for many Commercial uses. The large up-dated septic has expansion potential. Town Water. Plus 620 sf frame office/retail and a 1230 sf round building ready for rehab or more parking. Sale subject to permits. List # 71075282 @ 2.36 A. Commercial land at 6 River Road.
Sq. Ft. Units
Residential: 3,652 1
Office: 620 1
Retail: 4,356 1
Warehouse: 4,356 1
Manufacturing: 0 0
Total: 12,984 4
Space Dividable: Yes
Handicap Access: No
Lot Size: 87,991
Parking Features: 21+ Spaces, Paved Driveway, On Site
Parking Spaces: 50
Construction: Stone/Concrete, Frame
Railroad Siding: No
Roof Material: Asphalt/Composition Shingles
Site Condition: Dry, Level, Open, Improved
Traffic Count: 0 Underground Tank: No
Location: Suburban, Free Standing, Interstate, Highway Access, Corner Lot
Utilities: Public Water, Private Sewer, Bottled Gas, 220 Volts
21E On File: Yes
Assessed Building Value: $361,100
Assessed Land Value: $141,600
Mill Rate: $17.63
Tax Year: 2012
Plat Plan: Yes
Special Financing: No
Total Assesed Value: $502,700
one Description: Legal Non-Conforming
Lender Owned: No
Short Sale Lender Approval: No
Condo Assoc.: No
Lien and Encumbent: No
Disclosure: The zoning is Special Use Commercial, check the Town's By-laws and Zoning Map at < town.sturbridge.m