Thursday, April 28, 2016

ArtSpace Labyrinth

More than a spiral, less than a maze, labyrinths are meditative by intent. True, a spiral pattern would compress a similar walking distance into the same area, but due to its simple symmetry, will not engage the mind to the same extent. A labyrinth’s occasional U-turns require just enough low level attention to clear the mind of intruding thoughts, whereas mazes engage more of the conscious mind in order to solve the puzzle of the path, limiting their meditative value.

The distinction between labyrinths and mazes is that the former has one entrance, which doubles as the exit, and no branching choices. The path goes to the center and returns. Mazes have multiple branching choices, so there are always “right” and “wrong” ways to go. Typically, labyrinth borders are low to the ground or even painted on a floor. The center is visible from the entrance, and from all points within the labyrinth. Walking across the lines is always an option. In contrast, mazes can be waist-high hedges, head-topping cornfields or even the claustrophobic trees in the movies The Shining or Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Whence labyrinths? Crete’s myth placed the Minotaur at the center of what was more likely a maze than a labyrinth. Hopi Indians incorporated labyrinths into woven basket patterns. Walking medieval labyrinths, famously Chartres Cathedral, France, symbolized Pilgrims’ progress to the Holy Land. Northern European peoples built hundreds of labyrinths, called “Troy Towns” on stony shorelines. In Finland these were also referred to as “Jatulintarha,” which translates as “Giant’s Yard.”

Maynard’s publicly accessible labyrinth is part of the front lawn of ArtSpace, at 63 Summer Street. Lisa Bailey, artist and landscape architect, proposed, designed, and with volunteer help, constructed this project in 2007. It uses a Classic design, which can also be called a Cretan (after Crete) or 7-path design. Bailey visited other labyrinths before constructing this one, including those at Grace Cathedral, in San Francisco.

Maynard ArtSpace Labyrinth under construction, 2007
Her project involved spray-painting the lines, digging trenches, filling trench bottoms with stone dust and then setting granite blocks weighing 5 to 20 pounds in the stone dust. The entire effort took about one month. Financial support for the project came from the Maynard Cultural Council, Maynard Community Gardeners, ArtSpace and ArtSpace artists, and individual contributions.

For the numerically curious: this labyrinth is 28 by 32 feet across and the border contains 536 granite blocks. It contains approximately 3.5 tons of stone and more than 4 tons of stone dust. Edge to center, straight line, is less than 15 feet; following the path inward and then out again is 310 feet.

Bailey wrote “There is no right or wrong way to walk the labyrinth path…you may want to reflect on where you are in your life…or simply let your thoughts go and quiet your mind. When you reach the center, take some time to reflect, if you wish. The labyrinth is a metaphor for the journey of life.”

In addition to the labyrinth, ArtSpace has recently added an outdoor sculpture exhibit in front of the building.      

An excellent site for historical and modern aspects of labyrinths is  Massachusetts has more than 90 labyrinths registered either with the Labyrinth Guild of New England ( or at These include indoor, outdoor, church, public and private. For many, the registries include photos, directions and a contact person. The Guild’s calendar lists events, and it is also possible to rent labyrinths painted on canvas for your own event. Temporary labyrinths can be stomped into the snow or shaped in damp sand at low tide. This year, World Labyrinth Day is May 7th.

A version of this column was first published in the Beacon-Villager in September 2010. Since then innumerable visits by people of all ages to the ArtSpace labyrinth have worn away much of the grass of the path.

David Mark and his son Daniel Alexander D'Amico Mark were two of the volunteers who helped build the labyrinth.   

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Maynard Founders' Day 2016

Starting in 2016, the Town of Maynard has decided to celebrate "Founder's Day" with events to acknowledge and celebrate the formation of Maynard on April 19, 1871. This year, events took place April 16 and 17. Saturday's program included a talk "How Maynard Became Maynard" by David Mark, local historian. It was taped by WAVM. The complete program was on the town's website and in the 4/14 Beacon-Villager.

The clockface should have shown 12:10 rather than 1:00 as the former was
the time of the official sounding of the fire station fire horn for more than
100 years - until the horn broke in 2012 and was not fixed. Click on
the town medal (below) to see the image that became the town Seal.
The inaugural celebrations marking the founding of Maynard, April 19, 1871, are described in great detail in the 1921 book "A Brief History of Maynard." Drawing on newspaper accounts of the time, the first town meeting, on April 27th, just eight days after the Commonwealth had granted the petition to create the town, met for the purpose of electing key officials, and then ended early, to turn to the celebrations.

The celebratory parade included the Eagle Cornet Band, IOGT (International Order of Good Templars), mill representatives, the Amateur Brass Band, St. Bridget Temperance and Benevolent Society, students, and town officials. A Revolutionary War cannon was borrowed from Concord. The Treasurer's Report recorded $14 spent on gunpowder.    

David Griffin (L) and Paul Boothroyd (R), members of the Maynard Historical
Society, hold the original of the 1870 petition to create a new town from
parts of Acton, Concord, Stow and Sudbury. Click on photo to enlarge.
A note here on the 'founders' of Maynard. Histories of the town list as founders the 71 men who signed a petition dated January 26, 1871. There is more history behind this history. Months earlier there had been a petition with 68 signees to create a town, name not yet selected, to encompass small parts of Acton and Concord in addition to larger portions of Sudbury and Stow. This was never submitted to the state legislature. The second petition gave up annexing the gunpowder mill land from the first two towns. Subsequent to this official petition there were three additional supporting petitions. All tallied, the count came to 209 men who favored the creation of a new town. (Women not achieving a right to vote until 1920.)

Stow and Sudbury were against the idea, as the proposed new town would take roughly 50 percent of their populations. Stow residents circulated petitions which garnered about 140 signatures. Sudbury held a vote at Town Meeting, 183 against and 88 for. In disregard of this opposition (and perhaps influenced by some undocumented lobbying), the request to form a new town was granted. Some people who petitioned for the new town ended up not in it, as the final map was smaller than what had been proposed.   

Amory Maynard was not among the signees although he was perhaps the largest landowner and also part owner and manager of the woolen mill. His sons Lorenzo and William signed, and Lorenzo became the town's first Treasurer and Tax Collector. An account of the day, in the Hudson newspaper, had this comment on how the town came to be named: "Mr. Maynard is the chief founder of the community now incorporated in his name. He is a taking man withal, and his personal christening of the new town is a popular acknowledgement of his agency in its birth and breeding."

Milestone anniversaries have been celebrated in various ways. There is no mention in the Town's Annual Report of 1896 about any events to mark the 25th anniversary. Nationally, there was a recession going on, and the mill would go bankrupt in 1898, so perhaps everyone was distracted.

The 50th anniversary was a huge event. According to the program, church observances on Sunday, April 17th, school observances on Monday, and on Tuesday morning a 50-gun salute and a parade of an estimated 1,000 people down Main, Nason and Summer Streets. Speeches by Governor Cox and Senator Gibbs followed. Local veterans of the Civil War (!), Spanish-American War and the Great War participated. Afternoon activities included Glee Club and choir singing, a band concert and ball game - Maynard versus Concord - at Crowe Park.

Medal struck to celebrate the 100th
anniversary in 1971. Image later
chosen to become the Town Seal.
Amory Maynard on the centennial
medal. Designed by Gerard D'Errico.
 Likewise, the 100th anniversary was a huge event. Really huge! Celebration was pushed to June - perhaps in hope of better weather? Ten days of celebrations included picnics, concerts and performances, capped by a parade and fireworks on July 4th.

The 125th anniversary celebration, in 1996, appears to have been a subdued affair. The Maynard Historical Committee published a collection of essays on town history. One puzzle: there are photos of the Olympic Torch being carried through Maynard by a young runner. It turns out that the torch was in Massachusetts on June 15th to be relayed along the entire route of the Boston Marathon, and whilst in the state, visited many other towns, including Maynard and Stow.

This year, Maynard celebrated its 145th anniversary as first annual "Founder's Day" via various events held April 16 and 17, throughout the town. Much of the organizing was accomplished by Maynard High School student Haley Fritz as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project, in collaboration with the Board of Selectmen, Maynard Business Alliance, and Maynard Historical Commission.

Looking into the future, the Maynard Historical Commission is beginning to make plans for the sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary celebration, April 2021.

Fifty of David Mark’s 2012-2014 columns were published in book "Hidden History of Maynard" available at The Paper Store, on-line, and as an e-book. It includes a chapter on how Maynard became Maynard. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Mill Buildings Demolished at Clocktower

CORRECTION: End of third paragraph states that older, wooden buildings no longer exist. Historical Society says that one building was moved to Main Street, between Quarterdeck and RiverRock Grill, where it is now an apartment building. 

Mill & Main has begun in earnest its plan to enlarge and make more inviting access to the mill complex from Main Street, by tearing down Buildings 2A and 10. The intent is to create an easy flow for foot traffic from the street into the open spaces, which will include (hopefully) a variety of retail stores and eateries. A description, map, images and a video are all posted at Marketing descriptions include "Where heritage has a heartbeat," and "All work. And all play."

Building 10 of Maynard mill complex, in front of Building 12
If the plan succeeds, the net effect will be to more than double the number of retail businesses on Main Street west of the river. Given that there are currently more than a dozen empty retail spaces on Nason and Main Streets east of the river, this does raise concerns about supply in excess of demand. The expectation is that the very large remainder of Mill & Main will be renting out to office and light industry businesses, and that this increase in the work-related population of Maynard will supply the demand to match the supply.  

Building 10 almost completely gone, mid-March 2016. Across back is 
Building 2, the oldest still standing. Click on any photo to enlarge.
What was lost in the recent tear-down? Historical Society records date both ex-buildings to 1887, during the era when Lorenzo Maynard was Agent at the mill, having succeeding his father in 1885. However, there is contradictory information. An image commemorating the 40th anniversary of the mill, 1846-1886, appears to show both buildings already in place. A few years earlier, the well-known aerial view image from 1879 shows what looks like Building 2A, but not Building 10. The oldest buildings still standing, now collectively referred to as Building 2, date back as early as 1859. (Older buildings, dating back to 1846, were wood construction and no longer exist.)    

Brickwork on Building 2A. Note headers every 8th row.
Both 2A and 10 were of brick and timber construction, two stories tall, size roughly 15x40 yards. Each building had about 10,000 square feet of floor space, and materials included roughly 100,000 bricks. (Estimates for the entire complex are five to ten million bricks.) Sharp-eyed observers can tell whether a brick-walled building is structurally supported by the brick wall versus the brick serving only as a facade. In this instance, walls of the destroyed buildings were structural in nature, three bricks thick. Outer- and inner-facing bricks consisted of rows of lengthwise bricks - stretchers - but tellingly, every seventh or eighth row had bricks end on - headers. The pattern is known as American bond. This practice attached the surfaces of the wall to the brick and mortar core.    

An example of brick as facade is the four story apartment building on Main Street, next to McDonald's restaurant. This is actually a wood-frame building; the brick facade making no structural contribution. Instead, the brick serves as a waterproof, low maintenance, outer surface, and also stylistically blends into Maynard's downtown core of brick buildings.

Removal of yellow brick chimney in October 1956.
There was a ladder up the outside. Men climbed to
the top to hammer pieces loose. Because of the
dangerous commute, they brought their lunches
with them. The entire process took 17 days.
The tear-downs of Buildings 2A and 10 were not the first time that significant structures have been removed from the mill complex. Up until 1956 the mill was graced by twin chimneys of near-equal height. One was removed in October of that year by extremely hazardous means: men stood on scaffolding affixed to the outside of the chimney and used sledgehammers to knock bricks inward. A large hole made at the base allowed bricks and mortar to be hauled away. The Historical Society has a series of photos taken over a two week period showing the chimney getting progressively shorter and shorter.

At an undetermined date the remaining chimney, no longer functioning as such, was shortened a bit and capped. It now functions as a cell phone tower.  

The aforementioned aerial image from 1879 shows two shorter chimneys elsewhere on the property - both gone by 1915. The mill also had its own coal gasification facility, to make gas for gaslight, now the site of the east end of Building 5, but more on that another time.

Working title for this column was "And the walls come tumbling down."  That is a line from the chorus of the gospel classic "The Battle of Jericho."  A near match is "When the walls come tumblin' down," which is from the 1983 John Cougar Mellencamp song "Crumblin' Down." Which is not the same as "When the walls came tumbling down," by Def Leppard. 

Saturday, April 2, 2016


Opening day was noon, Saturday, April 9, 2016.  79th year.
Hours posted at:

At end of this entry is a flavors list copied 
from the Erikson's website.

4/9/2016: The hordes waiting for the first ice cream of the year.
My 2011 Column in the Beacon-Villager:

After the floods of March 2010 the banks of the Assabet River yielded bucketsful of broken glass from beer bottles, medicine bottles, soda bottles and liquor bottles, plus one unbroken bottle which read “HALF PINT LIQUID, HANS ERIKSEN, MAYNARD, MASS.” This find begged the question – any connection to Erikson’s Ice Cream? Learning the answer helped date the bottle, and in the process, yielded a history that began with Hans Eriksen starting a dairy in Stow in 1902 and ends with the fifth generation of the family working at Erikson’s Ice Cream over 100 years later.

Family records have Hans Eriksen starting a dairy farm and milk delivery business in Stow, along White Pond Road. Home delivery was by horse and wagon. His son, Hans Eriksen, Jr., returned from serving in the U.S. Army in France during World War I, and took up the family business, which by this time had shifted to buying milk from local farmers rather than milking their own cows. Hans married Mary Boyd, Assistant Principal at Hale High School, Stow, in 1923.

Green Monsta cone with Jimmies, opening day 2011. Note traces of snow
on the roof. Click on any photo to enlarge.
1937 marks the year when Hans Eriksen, Jr., moved the dairy to its present site, just inside Maynard’s border, and started the ice cream operation next door. Cream came from Buttericks Farm in Arlington. Flavoring ingredients were purchased from H.A. Johnson Co.

Hans Eriksen, Sr., passed away in 1949. After the war ended but before his death, his son changed the family name and business name to “Erikson.” Thus, the half-pint bottle found in the river is dated to between the move to Maynard and Hans senior’s death.

Hans Jr. continued the dairy bottling, delivery and ice cream businesses until he retired in 1961, with increasing help over time from his daughter Arlene and her husband, Joe Fraser.  Once Arlene and Joe took over they reorganized the business as Erikson Dairy, Inc. Within a few years they sold the milk delivery routes to the United Cooperative Society of Maynard, and then got out of milk processing entirely, retaining only the ice cream related operations. About the same time Hans’ first cousin Henry Erikson was turning part of his farm property off Boxboro Road into an airstrip originally known as Erikson Field but now as Minute Man Air Field. 

The next generation of Frasers now manage the business and their children – the fifth generation – have put in time scooping ice cream. Over the years, Erikson’s has provided employment to literally thousands of high school students from Maynard, Stow, and surrounding towns. Many of the alumni make a point of stopping in at Erikson’s when visiting family or old friends still living in the area. The older alum might be surprised to learn that Erikson’s now offers hot dogs, soft-serve ice cream, non-dairy options plus souvenir T-shirts identical to staff wear.

Each season introduces unique flavors in addition to the large list of standards. Recent years’ offerings included Pink Mint and Green Monsta. The seven month long season begins in April. Erikson’s location is on Route 117, on the west edge of Maynard, just before the Stow border. No credit cards. Parking on the gravel/dirt is chaotic. Most visitors stand or retreat to their cars, but there are a few tables behind the building. Remember to look at the historic photos above the order windows.



*not always available

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Column about Writing Columns

Maynard, Massachusetts
In last week's on-line edition of the New York Times one of the paper's featured columnists - Gail Collins - was the subject of a Q&A about being a column writer. She led off by describing her job, which she described as very specific: "Two columns, turned in to the copy editor by 8 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday. Because I’m in the print edition, the size is very specific. There’s an old newspaper joke that goes like this: - 'What’s your column about? - It’s about 800 words.'"

Collins goes on to point out that she has been a columnist since 2008, and has yet to run out of ideas. Of course, her 'beat' is politics and culture, so she has a never-ending supply of topics.

Key points that Collins makes, which have also been true for my tenure writing for the Beacon-Villager, is that traditionally, columnists choose their own topics and do not submit those for pre-approval by the editor nor post-editing, so while her end product will be fact-checked and edited for style (grammar, spelling, punctuation...), the content will not be changed. The working rule here is that opinions expressed in a column are those of the columnist, not the newspaper. For the Times, the format is that on the last two pages of the news section, staff editorials are on the left hand page, guest editorials and columns are on the right.

The author at work
Personally, I have the luxury of only being responsible for one column a week, and can skip a week when I feel like it. All the editor asks is that my columns are turned in by Tuesday morning, and that I send in a note ahead of time when I will not have anything to submit. In looking back over six years my output has been about 35 columns per year, not counting the occasional repeats.    

My "beat" from the very beginning has been the history of Maynard (and less so, Stow), observations on nature, recreational things to do outdoors, plus infrequent columns about health-related topics. I chose "LIFE OUTDOORS" as the column header to reflect that while I have an indoor job as a self-employed consulting scientist, I prefer to be outdoors.

Why history? Because while we live in the present, we are surrounded by the past. Unless you understand that Maynard evolved as an industrial age mill town, immigrant-populated, with small houses on small lots, once serving as the retail and cultural center for neighboring communities, you cannot understand the current architecture or demographic or business climate.   

Question to Collins: Doesn't anyone read your stuff before it is submitted? Her answer: "I think most columnists do have somebody they consult about how the piece sounds, whether it could be clearer, needs more anecdotes, etc. I always send mine to my husband, who has a great ear. He’s also very good at telling me something’s boring without sending me into fits of despair." For myself, my wife is my final reader.

I am my own fact checker. That is a weakness. John McPhee writes long non-fiction pieces for the magazine, The New Yorker. He notes that after he has turned in an article, someone on staff will underline EVERY factual statement, and then check each one off as it is confirmed true. Without that luxury, I am in constant fear of getting facts wrong. To date, only once has someone been moved to writing a letter to the editor to point out that I was wrong (I was wrong). But I am sure that over time I have committed other errors of fact, and for that, have regrets. 

One piece of writing advice I came across early on is that facts are like bricks and the storyline is the mortar. The right balance makes for a strong product.

My reason for writing a column about writing columns is that I believe local weekly newspapers desperately need more local columnists. Some of what fills space on the editorial/columns/letters page are syndicated columns which appear in many papers. Those can be entertaining (and of professional caliber), but do not convey a local perspective. My approach was submitting three sample columns and a cover letter describing what I intended to write about. The reply from the editor at that time (five editors ago), was "We can't pay you, but please, please keep writing." And I have.

 Fifty of David Mark’s 2012-2014 columns were published in book "Hidden History of Maynard" available at The Paper Store, on-line, and as an e-book.