Leominster. January 18, 2023

Day/Date:  WEDNESDAY -1/18/23
Town visited: LEOMINSTER (city)
Had we ever been to this town before?  No
Drive to town:  38 miles    Time spent in town:   6 hours

What did we do in the town/area? 
LEOMINSTER:  
When we love our hairdressers, we sometimes have to make tough decisions about whether or not to follow them when they move locations or find someone else. My favorite hairdresser’s recent move to the JC Penney Salon in Leominster forced me into this dilemma. I am not ready to give up this gem of a guy and stylist, so, we decided to combine our town (well, city) visit with my need for a haircut. 

We rolled into the Mall at Whitney Field, where the JC Penney Salon is located. It was great to reconnect with Andy and get a great haircut. Jenny also had fun making the most of a sale in the store’s jewelry department!

Since we were only a mile or so away from the City Hall and center, we decided to head there next. We went into City Hall to learn more about some signs we had been seeing about a “Coffee Crawl” happening in the upcoming week. All the staff at City Hall were so welcoming. We got lucky in meeting Wendy, a woman who not only gave us the coffee crawl info but who also showed us around the City Hall and gave us the feel of this friendly city of Leominster. She was proud to show off the Mayor’s Wizard of Oz collection and the “Winter Wonderland” decorations in the auditorium. She boasted of the 40+ city-sponsored events that go on throughout the year as well!

She recommended lunch and coffee at the Main Street Gift and Cafe. We are a sucker for a good sandwich and a good cup of coffee, and this place had both! The sandwiches featured locally made bread, and they served up Dean’s Beans (one of Worcester County’s best coffee roasters).

After lunch, we stopped in the library, noting an exhibit about the actress Martha Sleeper. Martha was known for her “gadget jewelry,” and in her later career began designing and manufacturing these decorative pieces. Many of them were made here in Leominster. In fact, Leominster has a long history in plastics of many kinds, (including Tupperware). At one time, the city had 60 “plastics” factories! Leominster is also home to the original plastic pink flamingo! Don Featherstone designed these flamingos in 1957, and their popularity really took off!  

For our outdoor adventure, we hiked part of the Monoosnoc Trail. It was a beautiful 50-degree day in January, with some sun! We took a 2.2-mile loop hike that afforded us a lovely hilltop view of the city and surrounding areas. 

After our hike, we drove to Sholan Farms and orchard. This is a beautiful orchard owned and operated by the city. There are even public hiking trails through the orchard and beyond.

We couldn’t leave without stopping at the memorial birthplace site for Johnny Appleseed, a nomadic nurseryman who was hellbent on spreading apple seeds in his journeys, specifically in Pennsylvania and Ohio in, through the late 1700s and early 1800s.

We were pleasantly surprised by all that this city had to offer. We would love to come back here to participate in one of the many city-sponsored events or to pick apples next year at the orchard!

Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Nipmuc, Agawam

Needham. January 15, 2023

Day/Date:  SUNDAY -1/15/23
Town visited: NEEDHAM
Had we ever been to this town before?  Yes
Drive to town:  8 miles    Time spent in town:  3 hours (plus many other visits)

What did we do in the town/area?  
NEEDHAM:  
We have a few friends living in Needham, so we’ve been there several times. Our friend Carie and her son, Matthew, live there, and we have had a few of Matthew’s birthday dinners at the Needham Bertucci’s and a couple of Carie’s birthday dinners at the restaurant- Blue on Highland. And, I must say, my meal at Blue just this past October (the Thai steak salad) was fantastic.

We’ve walked through neighborhoods, have been to the public pool, and even had a drive-by birthday party during Covid. 

Today, we went for a pastry from French Press Bakery & Cafe, which has homemade croissants, danishes, scones, and more. It was delicious!

We also walked around the neighborhood and the field at Memorial Park, just behind Needham High School. 

And we took a peek at the small but sweet Needham Bowlaway, where kids were having a small birthday party and bowling their little hearts out.

For our walk, we took a 2-mile stroll at Cutler Park, which is on the Needham- Dedham border. We walked along the power lines path, taking in occasional graffiti art along the way. 

Before leaving town, we stopped and grabbed a treat from Volante Farms- a local farm and store that has been in Needham for over 100 years. Our friend and local Needham resident, Molly, has worked at Volante Farms on and off for over 20 years. She says they are really good people who have made a lasting contribution to this town. And, we must say the place was stocked with so much yumminess; prepared foods, fresh breads, lots of fruits and vegetables and an array of locally made products.

Molly also knows a lot about flowers, and she told us that pansies were developed in Needham by a man named Denys Zirngiebel, dubbed the “Pansy King.” The flowers are a spinoff of a cute viola you may be familiar with, called Johnny-jump-ups. Zirngiebel developed a few pansy varieties, and one popular one was called the Giant Swiss pansy. We think it is interesting to note that this man who developed the pansies also happens to be the grandfather of the painter and illustrator NC Wyeth. (NC was the father of the painter Andrew Wyeth.)
Anyway, Needham celebrates Pansy Day every April with activities, exhibits, and, of course, flower sales.
Want some more fun facts?

There are 4 Commuter Rail Stops in the town of Needham and many buses that go through town.  

The astronaut, Sunita Williams, is from Needham, and the town named the beautiful (and very big) new elementary school after her. Our recently retired Governor, Charlie Baker, is also a Needham native.

While we didn’t get a chance to go there- word on the street is that Cafe Fresh Bagel is the place to go when in Needham.

We enjoyed our afternoon learning about Needham and seeing it in a different light than we usually do.

Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Massachusett, Pawtucket

New Braintree and Hardwick. January 7, 2023

Day/Date:  SATURDAY -1/7/23
Towns visited: New Braintree & Hardwick
Had we ever been to these towns before?  No
Drive to town:   58 miles    Time spent in towns:   6 +hours

What did we do in the towns/area?  
NEW BRAINTREE: 

This rural town of New Braintree, located in central MA, was known initially as “Braintree Farms,”. Yes, there is a connection to the city of Braintree, which is 65 miles to the east, near Boston. Residents of Braintree were “granted” equal interest in the purchased farmland to the west, way back in 1669, and began their journeys there. The town officially settled as New Braintree in 1709.

As we drove west from our home in Newton, the terrain started changing, and we began to see snow sticking to the trees and an inch or two covering the ground. It was such a pretty change of scenery.

After driving along some windy 30 MPH roads, we arrived at a small cluster of buildings, including the town hall, the library, and a grade school building. In the background was a small Christmas tree farm nestled on the hill in the snow. We went into the library for helpful information about what to do or see here. We were lucky to meet three women inside, one librarian and two women from the historical society.  They were all very friendly and told us where the historical markers in the town were and made a few suggestions of places to visit. We learned from these women that there are 927 residents in the town and that the grade school right next store now served as a multi-use building as there would need to be more kids here to utilize that building as a school. 

We also learned about “horse rests” from these women, so we drove along Hardwick Road to see the markers for these rests. These leveling-off points gave the horses a much-needed rest to continue up the hill as they would be carrying heavy loads. We got a first-hand feel for the steep road that leveled off a few times between the steep sections.

After a little more driving past farmland, and an ostrich (or maybe Emu?) siting on West Brookfield Road, we headed to the site of the old railroad station, now a part of the Mass Central Rail Trail. We walked along the trail located just beyond another picturesque farm.  This section of the MCRT is managed by the East Quabbin Land Trust.  Eventually, this trail will span 104 miles from Boston to Northampton!

Our next excursion in New Braintree took us to June’s Bakeshop, a shop located at the end of a dead-end road next to the home of the owner, June Glidden. This magical place, which produces unique, wonderful cookies (and more), was closed, but as we got out to take a quick photo, June came out of her house to greet us. Even though she was closed, she offered to show us around. She didn’t have any treats as she was still recovering from the Christmas season, but she was decorating for Valentine’s day, so we got to see the inside her shop and learn a little about her and her process. Her adorable dog and kind husband came to greet us as well. We would love to come back to see this place in action and were touched by how gracious she was in welcoming us. 

On our way out of town, we drove by a sign that said “Farmer Matt’s Farm Store,” and it looked open so we quickly turned in. A very kind young man showed us around this small farm store and we walked away with some fresh sausage and some homemade bacon kale soup that we had for dinner upon arriving home. We enjoyed it immensely.  Farmer Matt operates a 400 acre farm, producing many types of meat.  He also operates a restaurant next to the store, which hosts many events in the warmer months.  We were excited to hear about the BBQ and Brews events that were very successful last summer!  

HARDWICK

By the time we got to Hardwick, we were ready for lunch. We had read about a place in town that people raved about called Rose 32 bread, but sadly, they are closed until sometime in February. Hence, we decided to go to the very quaint “Mimi’s Coffeehouse,” where we could get some sandwiches and a decent cup of coffee. But on our way there, we happened upon Clover Hill Farm and noticed a flag waving in the wind that said: “Open.” We couldn’t pass it up, so we turned in and parked. The cute little farm store was a self-serve operation with various prepared foods, frozen meats, eggs, local honey, and t-shirts. They make it easy to pay with Venmo, so we got some “town visit food” to take home and enjoy later. It was a fun excursion.

We finally made it to Mimi’s, and it was great. Everything hit the spot and helped to renew our energy for our continued exploration. 

Hardwick comprises several villages: Hardwick, Gilbertville, Old Furnace, and Wheelwright.

We found it funny that we were walking around Hardwick: a village in Hardwick. The town green is where the famous annual Hardwick Fair is held each year. Apparently, the fair is the longest-running summer fair in the U. S., with games, races, agricultural and livestock exhibits, and more. We walked down the street a bit to the Paige Memorial Library. It was closed, but we thought the building was fantastic, and they had a cute fairy mailbox outside, which was kind of awesome.

Our next stop was the village of Gilbertville, which is home to the 19th-century Ware-Hardwick covered bridge which was definitely a draw for us. The village of Gilbertville seemed more populated than the village of Hardwick, and not too far from the bridge, we noticed an old abandoned mill building along the Ware River. We tried to get closer to the building but couldn’t navigate our way there. The trusty internet tells us that it was an old Wool Textiles mill that was abandoned in the early 1900s after a flood.

One thing that was prevalent during our exploration of Hardwick is that there was great debate over a proposed one-mile thoroughbred race track at the Great Meadowbrook Farm. There were many signs both opposing and supporting the move and we learned that just 2 days before our visit here, the town rejected the proposal. We aren’t terribly surprised by that as we saw many more “No” signs than “Yes” ones.

The highlight of our time in Hardwick was when we stopped at Mandel Hill (also part of the East Quabbin Land Trust) and took a 1.5-mile hike. The initial part of the loop trail is on an open pasture with views of the farmlands to the south and of Mt. Wachusett to the Northeast. There is even a small wooden observation tower you can climb, designed for bird watching. The sky was cloudy, with bits of light breaking through, which amplified the beauty of the snowy landscape.

Blue markers led the way along the path as the trail entered the woods. The 38-degree weather made it a comfortable walk. As we turned out of the woods and looped back to the pasture, we spotted 5-6 bluebirds moving from ground to tree and back as we tried, unsuccessfully, to take their picture. It reminded us of another walk we took with great views on an open hilltop when we visited Leyden, MA. We came upon bluebirds there, too, doing the same thing!

This was a great visit in Worcester County! Oh, and the food from Clover Hill Farm was delish!

Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Nipmuc and Agawam

Winthrop. December 22, 2022

Day/Date:  THURSDAY -12/22/22
Town visited: WINTHROP
Had we ever been to this town before?  No
Drive to town:   14 1/2 miles    Time spent in town:   3 hours

What did we do in the town/area?  
WINTHROP:

Happy Birthday to Jo! What better way to celebrate than to do one of her favorite things: go on a town visit! Winthrop is an interesting small town located at the north entrance of the Boston Harbor. It is an ocean-side suburb of Boston. You don’t typically think of towns being East of Boston, but Winthrop actually is! We had to go to Winthrop to pick up a desk we had purchased on Facebook Marketplace, so we thought, why not make this our next town?

After picking up our desk and getting a coffee recommendation from the lovely people selling the desk, we came across a tiny beach called Simon Donovan Beach in their neighborhood. We found a dollar on the beach (yeah, we pocketed it), so we figured it would be a good day!  

Next, we visited the Town Hall and Library in an area known as Metcalf Square. The library had a small museum on the 2nd floor full of old artifacts, many of them from the Winthrop area. There were a lot of old postcards from Winthrop Beach, which made us think it would be a great place to check out. A cool-looking Penny Farther high-seat bike, along with an old ship model, was also on display.

But first, well second, coffee!!! The desk people told us to grab coffee at the Shoreside Cafe. So we did, and we also grabbed some yummy sandwiches for lunch. They served Atomic Coffee, which is roasted nearby in Danvers, MA. The coffee was great, and the atmosphere was charming, with a kitschy nautical theme.  

After lunch, we realized we were very close to a beach, so we walked a block toward the ocean and took a stroll along Winthrop Shore Drive. The actual beach where we were was very rocky, but further down this extensive beach was a more sandy area. The rocks were beautiful, and we could see a plane taking off from nearby Logan International Airport (in East Boston) every minute or so. It was a gray, mild December day, not too cold.  

Next, we went to Deer Island, at the end of the large peninsula that makes up Winthrop. It is not an actual island anymore. A channel was filled in by beach erosion due to a hurricane in 1938. The island has a lot of history (some not so favorable-), but it now serves as the 2nd largest sewage treatment facility in the US! Two-thirds of the island houses the Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant. The remainder of the island is a park with wonderful walking/biking trails near the water, offering superb city views. And fortunately, it doesn’t stink (we thought it might!).  

For our last stop, we visited the Winthrop Marketplace, a small grocery store in town (pretty much the only one there). It seemed like everyone knew each other there. A woman at customer service got on the store mic and wished a customer a happy birthday, and another customer said it was her daughter’s birthday, too. So, she started singing fo her, and all the staff joined in. When we checked out, Jo said, “It seems to be quite the day of birthdays here!” Then, Jenny told the checker that it was Jo’s birthday too. Wouldn’t you know they pulled out that mic once again, and we ended our town visit with the store singing “Happy Birthday” once again, this time to Jo.   

Thanks Winthrop!

(click this link to read more about the history of Deer Island)

Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Massachusett, Naumkeag, Pawtucket

Shrewsbury. December 18, 2022

Day/DateSUNDAY -12/18/22
Towns visited: Shrewsbury (+ revisit to Boylston)
Had we ever been to this town before?   No
Drive to town:   30 miles    Time spent in town:   5 hours

What did we do in the town/area?  
SHREWSBURY:  
It was a crisp day in December when we headed out to explore Shrewsbury, a town of about 40,000 people near Worcester. The old town center was still active, with many shops, a library, and an old church. We walked around this area and saw Santa taking pictures with local kids. After the sun went down, this area lit up with many festive holiday lights. We noticed small plaques on the ground by the sidewalk; one that talked of a “Shrewsbury Tea Party,” a protest against taxation that occurred ten months before the Boston Tea Party, and another that told about a history of watchmaking and tanneries in the town. 

Next, we ventured to Prospect Park, which used to be the estate grounds of the Matthew Whittall mansion. All that is left are some ruins, but it appears that folks are keeping up the surrounding gardens.  

Dean Park is another large park in town and one that seems like it gets a lot of local use with all of its ballfields and walking paths. There is also a beautiful large pond. After walking a bit, we stopped by the pond and communed with the geese for a little while. 

Just across the street from Dean Park is the Artemas Ward House and Museum, currently owned and maintained by Harvard University. This historic large plot of land with a stone wall and a big yellow house and barn is from the 1700s. It was closed for the day, but we did learn that Mr. Ward was a major general in the American Revolution and later a Congressman. He was in charge during the Battle of Bunker Hill, and he was later appointed to the Continental Congress and later became Speaker of the Massachusetts House. How was this guy not in Hamilton, the broadway musical?

To contribute to the economy and feed our cravings for sweets, we made our way to the Hebert Candy Mansion. We learned that the Hebert family has been making candy in Shrewsbury for over 100 years! The stone mansion has been the retail outlet and manufacturing sight since 1946. We bought a few delicious chocolates (for ourselves) and some stocking stuffers for the holidays and journeyed to our next destination.  

This next destination was quite a sight! Known as “The Secret Garden,” this area is a 1/2 mile or so trail through someone’s property across from a pond. Around every corner, there are statues, decorations, things to read, water features, places to sit and rest, and more! It was so eclectic and unique. Online, we read that it is the work of “Chief Joseph,” who lives on the land. We did a little digging to find out more about him, and it turns out that his actual name is Bob Terkanian, and he was nicknamed ‘Chief Joseph’ by some of his native American friends. Clearly, he puts a lot of work and heart into creating art and maintaining this space. We would love to come back in the spring or summer when the plants and trees add to all he has built.  

Finally, our last stop in Shrewsbury was at a small ski area called “Ski Ward.” This place has been in operation since the 1930s and even offers tubing in the summer. It is also the location of the Shrewsbury Farmer’s Market! They offer skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and dining, all in a small, low-key environment.

We had a great day exploring this town! As the sun set, we headed to dinner in Boylston (ramen and rice bowls at Maken Zii). Then, it was off to the New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill for their annual “Night Lights” event. We already visited Boylston back in 2021 but wanted to come back when we heard rave reviews of this festive light show. It was well worth it – with a rainbow bridge to walk through, glowing mushrooms, a fake campfire made of lights, and many beautiful jellyfish in the greenhouse. It was a spectacular way to celebrate Jo’s birthday (#54), and discover even more about our state and Worcester County!  

Revisit to Boylston- Botanical Garden Light Show Pics

Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Nipmuc, Agawam

Holland and Wales. December 10, 2022

Day/Date:  SATURDAY -12/10/22
Towns visited: Holland & Wales
Had we ever been to these towns before?  No
Drive to 1st town:   60 miles    Time spent in towns:  3 hours

What did we do in the towns/area?  
HOLLAND:  
Before visiting our friends in Connecticut for the weekend, we took a look at our map and picked a few small towns we could see on the way. We started off in Holland, MA as it was easily accessed off of Hwy 84. Our day began with a hike in the Quinebaug Woods (a Trustee’s property). We trekked on a 2-mile loop trail along beautiful the Quinebaug River, which led us to some old chimney ruins and a limited scenic view. It was a chilly, but really lovely morning.

Next, we headed to the town hall, across the street from the elementary school and just next door to a tiny and cute library. We were so psyched that the library was open as so often in small towns, the hours are limited. This library used to be the home of the Fiske family. Inside the library, we met Megan, and she told us just how small the town was (only about 2600 people). She said she grew up in the next town over, Wales. She suggested that we also visit Wales today, as it is even smaller than Holland. 

There were a few large portraits framed in the small library. The librarian told us that she believed that they were of the original two owners of the house, that is now the library, and that they were socialites of their time. Megan pointed out another framed photo up on the wall of a bearded man. She told us his picture was on display because his body had been mysteriously found in the lake- a drowning, unexplained.

Well, now we just had to see this lake! Holland has a lot of lakes, and we aren’t sure which one he was found in. The largest is the Hamilton Reservoir. This body of water was made back in the 1860s when the Hamilton Woolen Company dammed the Quinebaug River.  

Another lake we found in Holland is Lake Siog. We drove to go and see it but, alas, it was closed for the winter, as made evident by the big yellow gate closing the road.  We’ve been known to walk through gates like this at times, but there was no place to park nearby so we just moved on.

There were hardly any stores in the town. There was an Italian restaurant that had closed in the last year as well as a seafood restaurant that is only open in the summer when there are more visitors on the lakes.  

But we did find a convenience store called the Holland Market, where we grabbed a seltzer and a lollipop. It was our way of contributing to the economy of Holland! 

Since Megan had told us to check out Wales and she thought that their small library might be open as well, we decided to head west to this next small town before taking the turn south to Connecticut. 

We did come back through Holland the next day on our way home and drove around the residential part of the lake. There were a few run-down homes on the outskirts of the loop but several cute houses right along the lake.

WALES We drove to Wales at the suggestion of Megan, who was from there. She told us to definitely go to the town library and said that there wasn’t much else going on in the town.  She said it was about as small a town as it gets. She mentioned living by a lake when she lived there, so, like Holland, the local lakes seem to offer up the bulk of the available recreational activities around these parts. 

As we were heading toward the library, we noticed a small pull-off with cars parked nearby, and a cute yellowish building which was very adorned for Christmas with ice skates hanging on the doors. It was only as we were looking around that we saw a sign off to our left that said Meeting House Quilt Shop. Maybe the pale yellow house was the shop? Our curiosity was piqued, so we went in. And instantly we felt so glad we did. When we walked through the doors, we were pleasantly surprised and instantly transported into a world of wonder. The shop was full of vibrant fabrics neatly displayed and arranged by color, artful quilt designs hanging on walls and on shelves, books and tools, and all kinds of wondrous things. The light in the space was beautiful, as many of the windows were yellow, casting a golden hue on everything. As we walked in even further, we saw shoppers and quilters working together, perhaps in some kind of class. It was truly a marvel and a highlight of this very small town visit.

After that excursion, we found the library and went in. The librarian there was busy, so we didn’t get to converse with her, but we took some pics of the place. This library was also in an old house, but it wasn’t as cute as the one in Holland.

The Town Hall was nearby and up on a small hill.  There was a large bell on display just next door. This building used to be an old Baptist Church. There was also a separate Town Office building nearby. This building had a cement planter outside designed with the town seal and their motto, “The past our heritage, the future our legacy.”

Lastly, we passed by Lake George, which gets used quite a bit in the summer but on this late fall day was just quiet and peaceful. 

We ended our day here and headed to Connecticut to see our friends.

Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Nipmuc, Agawam

Milford and Holliston. December 4, 2022

Day/Date:  SATURDAY -12/4/22
Towns visited: Milford & Holliston
Had we ever been to these town before?  No
Drive to 1st town:  26 miles    Time spent in town(s):   5 1/2 hours

What did we do in the town/area?  
MILFORD:  

It’s a great feeling to walk into a new business owned by two cool women who have made it their mission to serve up coffee and community. Blooming Hearts Coffee Roasters, a reasonably new cafe and coffee roaster in the Nathaniel Plaza in Milford, was the perfect place to start our day. They opened less than six months ago, and you can tell that people love it! It has a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere, and we were pleased with our lattes! 

And to add to the yumminess, the next store over was Basic Batch Donuts, a “from scratch” bakery with some pretty fun and delicious-looking donuts. We’re talking donut flavors like “Fruity Pebbles,” “Maple bacon,” Cranberry cheesecake,” and “Butter cookie.” They looked and sounded so good that although we weren’t hungry at the moment, we couldn’t resist buying a couple to take home (and to share with family). 

After all of that deliciousness, we decided a nice walk along the Milford Upper Charles Rail Trail was in order. We parked at the Cedar Swamp pond and walked towards Louisa Lake. The trail is mostly paved, but a couple of off-shoots by the lake granted us some views of the lake and a beautiful swan gliding along the water.

After our walk, we drove through the downtown area, completely missing the hard-to-miss town hall. We had to turn around. We laughed when we finally saw it because it’s beautiful and grand and unlike the other buildings nearby and we really shouldn’t have missed it. 

Lastly, we stopped at the Historic old St Mary’s Cemetery to see a round Irish tower we had read about. It is believed that there is none other like it in the U.S. Built in 1896, a local Irish parish priest intended this tower to be like the watch towers of Ireland.

It had a striking and unique presence.

HOLLISTON: 

Just 6 miles from our last stop in Milford was the first stop in Holliston: the Town Hall. Another pretty building next to a New England-y painted white church amidst the downtown area. We parked the car and walked down to Fiske’s General Store. This store has been in existence since 1863, and it feels like there is something for everyone inside. There were handwritten signs everywhere promoting everything from made-to-order Holiday Bows to Pokemon cards. The assortment of inventory included: cards and gifts, candy and crafts, games and housewares, holiday fare, a squealing pink rubber chicken dressed as Santa, and more. It was fun to shop around, and we walked away with a sweet little tree for our mantle and a few holiday gifts. One of the owners showed us an x marked on the carpet, telling us that this was the very spot where he met his wonderful wife 50 years ago (she was right behind us and glanced over with a smile). 

Hungry and ready for lunch, we crossed the street to the Superette, where we waited in line to order a homemade sandwich for lunch. After gobbling those up, we drove to the site of the old, lost site Darling Woolen Mill just across the street from the 8 arch bridge; a recently restored bridge incorporated into the Holliston portion of the Upper Charles Rail trail, and that is where we headed next. 

Just off the rail trail (and just past the post with W, aka-whistle post), was the entry to the Wennakeening Woods where we made a 3/4 mile long loop trail in the woodlands.

Historically, a whistle post means to inform the train conductor to blow the train’s whistle so as to warn anyone in or near the crossing that the train is coming.

Then we headed to the “Open House” at the Historical Society’s Asa Whiting house.

We felt a little out of place here as there were many people mingling who clearly all knew each other there, but the house was filled with artifacts & toys on display from many different decades from the turn of the century to the 1970s. We enjoyed some hot apple cider and noticed a portrait of Dr. Timothy Fiske, the first trained physician in Holliston. It turns out it was his grandson, James Ferdinand Fiske, who founded the Fiske General Store that we visited earlier! It was a fitting way to end the day.

Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Nipmuc

Whitman, Abington and Holbrook. November 26, 2022

Day/Date:  SATURDAY -11/26/22

Towns visited: Whitman, Abington & Holbrook
Had we ever been to any of these towns before?   No
Drive to 1st town:   24 miles    Time spent today in these towns:   6 hours

What did we do in the towns/area?  

Three little towns

Today we visited three small towns south of Boston and Quincy that are practically stacked on top of each other (at least, that’s how it looks on the map). We started at the southernmost town and worked our way north. 

 WHITMAN: We started the day at Restoration Coffee, a local coffee roaster with 3 locations (Bridgewater, E. Bridgewater & Whitman). We learned about them when we went to Plympton in October at the Mayflower Market days fair. We were so glad to discover them as the vibe of the place was lovely, and the coffee was dee-licious! It was located in the old downtown part of Whitman, complete with an old-timey drugstore called Duval’s pharmacy. With our coffees in hand, we walked to the town hall and to the large local park near the center of the town. Whitman Park is on the National Register of Historic Places, designed by the Olmsted Brothers. It was a little windy, so we had to cinch up our hoodies for our walk! Later we walked by the Emerald Isle Shop, a store full of ‘all things Irish,’ and we were intrigued and just had to go in. It was a great little shop with friendly staff. One of them asked us if we had been to Ireland. Jo said, “Yes,” and Jenny said, “No.” To this, she responded, with a smile, “Not yet!” We purchased some creme cookies and some fig bars. And Jenny scored a great wool sweater from the sale bin for less than $35!  

Our last stop in Whitman was a sign marking the Toll House Inn (its location, next to a Wendy’s parking lot, was kind of funny). It was here that the “toll house cookie” was invented in the 1930s. Ruth Wakefield, a baker at the Inn, ran out of nuts for her basic butter cookies. So, she chopped up a Nestle chocolate bar and put that in instead. Voila! A wonderful creation was born! 

Before the town of Whitman split off and became known as Whitman, it was once a part of the next town we planned to visit, Abington.

ABINGTON: Our 2nd and most populous town of the day was Abington, to the North of Whitman. The Town Hall, Public Library, Middle School, High School, and a Pre-K school are all in the same area, a bit out of the main part of downtown. We went into the lovely library, where after spending a little time working on a puzzle, we struck up a conversation with Jill, one of the librarians. We told her about our town visit project and asked if she had suggestions for things to see in Abington. Jill told us about Island Grove Park, a local favorite. Intrigued by this place that hadn’t been on our list, we decided to drive over there immediately! What an interesting park; it’s kind of on a peninsula jutting out into a lake. As with the park in Whitman, it was also designed by the Olmsted Brothers. There are picnic areas, trails, and a sand-bottomed, perfectly round, outdoor swimming pool. There were also some small wood-framed buildings nearby, one with a red cross on it (for the lifeguards?) and probably a snack bar, making it feel like a camp. It seems like it would be enjoyable to come and swim here in the summer or ice skate in the winter. We walked the trails, noticing a very decorated house for the holidays and an interesting memorial along the way. This memorial, in a pine grove in the park, marked the meeting place of abolitionists in the 1800s.  A very cool place indeed. Thanks for the recommendation, Jill!

Having worked up an appetite, we decided to grab some subs or “grinders” from a spot that we had driven by earlier called Submarine Galley. They were pretty yummy. Then, we went for a short hike at Ames Nowell State Park. The trails hugged the shore of Cleveland Pond. This park area seemed to be popular for hiking, fishing, and mountain biking.  

HOLBROOK: Heading northeast, we visited the small town of Holbrook. Holbrook used to be part of Braintree and then part of Randolph. We happened upon a house with a historic marker on it that said “John Adams House 1770”. We pulled in to see what it was, and it turned out to be a private hairdressing business. Knowing that John Adams was born in what is now known as Quincy, we searched for some more information about the house but, we couldn’t seem to find any information online about the history of this house or who lived there, but it does seem like former president John Adam’s younger brother, Elihu, was born in the area now known as Holbrook, so maybe it’s related to that (as their father’s name was John).

Next, we visited the downtown area’s town hall and library. Looking at the map, we realized Holbrook is surrounded by four cities (Brockton, Braintree, Randolph, and Weymouth). Although the smallest in population of the three towns we visited today, it definitely had the busiest roads.  

Our final stop was a hike in the Cranberry Pond Conservation area; a tucked away spot on the Holbrook/Braintree border. This sweet little hike was the perfect end to our 3-town day. Now it is off to our nephew’s piano recital back in Newton!

Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Wampanoag, Massachuset, Pokanoket