Sunday, November 20, 2011

History Flows On, Part II

From Dave Brigham:

Recently, I posted about two old aqueducts in Newton, MA (see November 11, 2011, "History Flows On, Part I"). Now I present the second installment in a three-part series that gives a little insight into the history of Greater Boston's water works.

I knew little about Cutler Park before recently crashing through its woods in a light rain. I thought I'd spend about an hour there, see most of the park, including the tunnel under the commuter train tracks, then run a few errands and head home for a shower before picking up my daughter at preschool.

This place, it turns out, is massive and has quite a history.

Spanning the towns of Newton, Needham, Dedham and Brookline, and the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Cutler Park is comprised of somewhere between 700 and 800 acres, and is the largest remaining fresh water marsh on the middle Charles River, according to the Newton Conservators web site.

The marshlands, according to the conservators, was created by flooding from the Newton Upper Falls Silk Dam, and were used for pasturelands for hundreds of years. In the late 1800s, the marshes were used as watershed well sites, which explains the remains of filtering ponds, ditches and waterworks.

As I've said in previous posts, I love stumbling upon this type of stuff in the woods, and realizing how much the landscape changes in a relatively short time. If I'd wandered these same acres perhaps half a century ago, I would've seen working pump houses and electrical wires strung along the ponds, and been able to do so without any of the noise that nearby Route 128 now provides.

A century ago, I would've seen train tracks that were used to transport soil taken from the west side of the pond to fill in the Back Bay section of Boston in the 19th century. According to Wikipedia, some of the old tracks are visible near the north entrance to the park, but I didn't notice them. I definitely plan on revisiting the park, so I'll look for the tracks.

Stay tuned for the third, and final, part in this series.

Cutler Park waterworks

Cutler Park #30

Cutler Park #4

Cutler Park #29

Cutler Park #14

Cutler Park #13

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