Day/Date: SUNDAY -1/16/22
Towns visited: Westborough
Had you ever been to any of these towns before? Yes / No
Drive to 1st town: 27 miles Time spent in town: 5-6 hours
What did we do in the town/area?
Well… we had every intention of making it to 100 towns in the year 2021, but Jenny got Covid in the last week of December, so that idea got tossed out the window. But all is well now, and we are super excited that we finally made it to our 100th town visit! And what better place to go than the 100th town incorporated in Massachusetts: the town of WESTBOROUGH. (we even made a couple of signs to mark the occasion, because, well, we are dorks)
We started our day off with a 2-mile hike at the Wayne F. Maccallum Mass Wildlife Management area. The trail had plenty of ice mixed with crunchy snow, so we were glad to have slip-on traction spikes that helped us walk the trail with ease. The area had two small ponds that we walked by, and both were recently frozen over. We kept hearing the vibrational sounds of ice expanding and contracting, which we thought was cool. Our walk was beautiful and peaceful. We saw several folks with their dogs along the trail and a guy with a pretty big camera (I wonder what he was in search of).
As you may know, we always look for an independent coffee roaster or cafe to visit, if possible. Today, we went to Red Barn Coffee’s Westborough Cafe. Red Barn Coffee Roasters is an independently run roaster in MA. Their Roastery is in Upton, and we look forward to visiting that someday. They have several cafes in the state, and we were glad to come upon this one. We were helped by a delightful young woman named Sonya. She made me a delicious decaf redeye (Decaf coffee with a shot of regular espresso) and was really excited about our project. She even agreed to pose with our “100” sign (see pic).
The downtown area of Westborough is cute and has some cool old buildings. A lot of stores were closed because it was Sunday, but we managed a little window shopping and Jenny found a particular tea towel that she liked with the quote, “My body type is like you can sorta tell I work out, but you can also tell I don’t say no when someone offers me a cookie.”
We walked to Town Hall and across the street from there was the library which, to our surprise, was open! We were hoping to find out if there was a sign or marker in town that declared that this was the 100th incorporated town in MA, so we went into the library to ask. We were immediately impressed with this library. It had a very welcoming feel and seemed to really celebrate Westborough’s history. There was a Westborough History & Culture Room that had a ton of old town records, some historical documents, information on some of the town’s past, such as an old reform school once known as Lyman School for Boys. There were old maps of Westborough and a plaque that noted the history of the Westborough Sleigh- a one-horse open sleigh that was made famous by sleigh makers from Westborough in the 1800s. We weren’t able to get the answer to our question but we enjoyed our library visit a lot. After that, we moved along to see what else we could see in this town. We walked past three churches (all beautiful) along Main St. and then headed east a bit to a more modern commercial area, passing a Roche Brothers and a small strip of businesses. Across the way, we noticed some Girl Scouts selling cookies under a tent near the parking lot. We just had to go over to buy a box (or two) and say hello to the girls. We asked them if they had any suggestions regarding other places to visit, and they told us about the Eli Whitney birthplace.
Eli Whitney was an inventor who is most famous for inventing the Cotton Gin in the late 1700s. In our research, we learned that there were some recent efforts to change the official town seal of Westborough, which features the image of the cotton gin, because, according to the Boston Globe, “The Selectmen got feedback that having the cotton gin as part of the seal might not convey the inclusion and diversity that the town’s trying to convey,” Town Moderator John Arnold said in an interview. “The cotton gin was regarded by many as essentially an invention that made it easier or more profitable for the slave trade in the South to exist because the cotton gin made the production of cotton more efficient.”
The house was a beautiful house that has a current resident but maintains a marker on the small hill in front of the house, noting its historical significance. We’ll be keeping an eye on whether or not they’ll progress to changing that seal!
Westborough has an independent small-batch brewery called Cold Harbor Brewery. They are located right off Milk St. (Rte 135), and they have a very small indoor space to grab a draft beer or some of their to-go 4-packs. Just outside is an area with picnic tables for hanging out. Because of Covid and the small space, we opted to just head in and get Jenny a four-pack to go. She got the golden ale called ‘Last Light‘ and later that night (which was last night) reported that it was really good. I could rephrase that to say that last night she had ‘Last Light’ and liked it. (ha!)
Our final destination for the day was the old campus for the Lyman School for Boys (1886-1971). This place is now considered a national historic landmark probably because of its history as a place where the courts appointed boys ages 9-18 to go if they were considered criminal and in need of reform (the notable Boston Strangler went here-yikes). We drove up a hill to get there, and at the top were several abandoned and boarded-up buildings on a campus where a few other buildings were being renovated, and a brand new Division of Fisheries and Wildlife building had already been built. It’s hard to tell if there will be a complete makeover of this area or not due to its historical significance- but it seems both like time was standing still up there and new growth was emerging.
Behind the Fisheries building was a beautiful view of the land we walked in the first part of our day. It seemed like the perfect place to end our 100th town visit.
Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Nipmuc