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 (blue and red shirts in the photo).   

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. 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 4/14/16 Beacon-Villager.

As of late March 2017 it will be a great surprise if there is to be a Maynard Founders' Day 2017.

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.