Saturday, October 22, 2022

Marble Farm Park, Maynard, MA - Groundbreaking Event

On the morning of October 17th, a modest audience attended a groundbreaking event celebrating the creation of a new town park and historic site. Funding for the project comes from a grant by the Community Preservation Committee, which supports open space and historic preservation efforts. The work, to start this fall, will be done by Belko Landscaping LLC, of Salem, NH.

In the early 1700s, the Marble family moved from Andover to land that is now adjacent to the Assabet River Rail Trail, on the north side of town. The family’s descendants lived there until 1919; the house burned down to the foundation in 1924. In time, the land was seized by the town for non-payment of property taxes.

The location is just north of Rockland Avenue and across from Christmas Motors. The site, approximately two-thirds of an acre, encompasses the basement stone walls of the foundation of the house, two lawns, several stone walls, and an extensive planting of daffodils that began in 2018, courtesy of a project called Trail of Flowers (

From left to right, Natalie Robert (Planning Board), Sam Webb (resident at the nearby Marble Farm Road development), D.J. Chagnon (CBA Landscape Architects), David Mark (Maynard historian and Trail of Flowers founder), John Dwyer and Ellen Duggan (Community Preservation Committee), Paul Boothroyd (Maynard historian and author), and Justine St. John (Select Board member), all posed with a motley collection of shovels and pickaxes.

An initial clearing of the site was performed in the spring of 2009 by Maynard’s Boy Scout Troop 130 as an Eagle Scout project led by Jason Shomacker. Volunteers from ARRT and TOF did some site improvement starting in 2018, including creating the lawns. Going forward, creation of the park will include erecting a steel fence around the foundation, and removal of more than a dozen dead trees, two large brush piles, a deteriorating pump house building and a crumbling brick entranceway. All of these actions address site safety issues.

Initial plan led to bids well over budget, so the project was
reduced to essential for safety, with nice-to-have left to a pos-
sible second proposal to Community Preservation Committee
Gregory Johnson, Maynard Town Administrator, led off the event with a mention that town resident David Mark was instrumental in getting volunteers to do initial site improvements, and then submitting a proposal to the Community Preservation Committee. Select Board member Justine St. John added how this becomes a third town ‘pocket’ park on the Rail Trail, joining Tobin Park by the Assabet River bridge, and Ice House Landing. David Mark spoke to the old and recent history of the site. John Dwyer explained CPC’s involvement of seeing the process through from proposal to accepted bid. D.J. Chagnon from CBA Landscape Architects LLC added a few words about the evolution from initial plan to the formal project description, with its prioritization of site safety. 

A construction start date has not yet been set, but is expected to be early November.

UPDATE: All major construction completed as of mid-January 2023. A sign will be added indicating the name as MARBLE FARM HISTORIC SITE. There may be a dedication cermony coinciding with the peak daffodil bloom. 

Monday, October 17, 2022

Maynard's Historic Fires

There are more than a handful of historic fires that changed Maynard, or at least the architecture of Maynard. These can be roughly divided into businesses and schools. All are well documented in the collection of the Maynard Historical Society, including many photographs.

The paper mill fire was reputed to be arson. At the gunpowder mill, fires caused explosions and explosions caused fires so frequently that the company had its own fire-fighting equipment. A compilation of various records show 24 explosions and 29 fatalities. The wool mill fire of 1920 meant the end of original wooden buildings from 1846.

DATE       WHAT BURNED              BUILT AFTER                THERE NOW

1835-1940 Gunpowder mill                gunpowder mill              Stop & Shop; car dealers

5/14/1894  Paper mill                          ?????                              Tedeschi's/Dunkin Donuts [7-11]

11/26/12    Music Hall                        Tutto's Bowling Alley    recently torn down buildings

9/20/16      Nason St. School               Roosevelt School           Maynard Public Library

2/11/17      Naylor Block                     one-story storefronts      Gallery Seven, Serendipity

1/25/18      Trolley building                rebuilt                             office building

2/1/19        Bent Ice House                 another ice house           that one burned in 1950

8/17/20      Wool mill                          more mill buildings        Mill & Main buildings

1/29/21      Maynard Hotel                  Memorial Park               Memorial Park

7/14/34      Riverside Block                same building, fixed      Gruber Bros Furniture [gone]

1/30/36      Riverside CO-OP              brick building                 Knights of Columbus [KoC left]

12/17/52    Woodrow Wilson School  Town hall and library     Town hall and police station

3/13/55      Fraternal Order Eagles      two story building          Masciarelli Jewelry [gone]

7/29/65      Amory Maynard's house   apartment building         apartment building

Not listed above, but Booth's Bowling Alley burned in July 6, 1906. Suspicions at the time were that a pet monkey, which had the run of the place at night and knew how to strike matches, was responsible for the fire (the monkey suffered burns, but survived). 

Naylor Block, corner of Nassan and Main, the morning after the
February 11, 1917 fire (courtesy Maynard Historical Society)
After the trolley's building and rolling stock went up in flames the brick building was rebuilt and replacement cars purchased, but the line was already in financial decline. Trolley service ended with a last run on January 16, 1923. Today, the building houses offices. The back of the parking lot provides access to the Assabet River downstream of the Ben Smith Dam. Upstream of the dam, the Bent Ice House burned in February 1919. A replacement was built on the same foundation. That one burned in November 1950. 

Amory Maynard's mansion is the only private dwelling listed here. It was built on the hill south of the mill in 1873, went up in flames in an early morning fire on July 29, 1965. The Maynard family was long-gone from town and the building divided into apartments. His son's former house still stands at 5-7 Dartmouth Street. It, too, was divided into apartments, but still provides semblance to Amory's even larger mansion. Both were capped with a Mansard roof. Copying this style became quite the vogue for well-to-do Maynard residents. See south end of Maple Street for examples.

In the modern era, the two-story building on Main Street that housed Salsalito's Restaurant and T.C. Lando's Sub & Pizzeria was consumed by flames in 1998, NAPA Auto Parts ditto in 2001, and Gruber Bros. Furniture suffered a smoky fire a handful of years ago.    

To paraphrase Robert Frost, someone there is that doesn't love a school. Often a student. This is not to believe that school fires do not happen by accident. But history records five school fires (two in the table plus Nason Street School in 1879, Emerson-Fowler School in 1977 and Maynard High School in 1992) - and no record of any major church fires.

This write-up was not published in the Beacon-Villager