Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Big Walk in Littleton

From Dave Brigham:

It's hard to capture the history and feel of a town simply by spending a few hours there, snapping away while (mostly) following a pre-established route designed to hit the highlights. But that's all I can do, except in my adopted hometown of Newton, Mass. (see May 21, 2015, "I Seek Newton, Part I: Lower Falls," and September 20, 2015, "I Seek Newton, Part II: Auburndale," and March 23, 2016, "I Seek Newton, Part III: Highlands").

Littleton, Mass., was settled by colonists in 1686. A small farming community back then, and even somewhat to this day, the town nonetheless has played a part in the state's digital economy, hosting large complexes first for Digital Equipment Corp., and then IBM, according to Wikipedia.

When visiting a town I know little or nothing about, I make no pretense of covering everything, or even most things, that are historically significant. While I love the beautiful old farm houses and Victorians I see in every town in Massachusetts, I'm more interested in the industries of old -- railroads, factories, mills. I take great pleasure in the hunt for the obscure location, the forgotten place.

I've done numerous drive-by photo shoots of communities in the area near Routes 2, 495, 117, 190, 20 and 62 (see February 17, 2016, "Bunker Buster," December 29, 2015, "Gravity Can Lift You Up," December 17, 2015, "Bring Out Your Dead," December 9, 2015, "Scenes From An Old Shoe Town," November 30, 2015, "Walking Dead Tracks" and November 8, 2015, "This Town Ain't Big Enough....").

All I knew about Littleton before visiting was a) I drove through there to get to Kimball Farm in Westford, and b) a client of the accounting firm where I worked 20 years ago owned Nagog Hill Orchard. As always, I did some research online ahead of time to find a handful of sites to check out.

Here's what I found....

(The Littleton Depot, built in 1879, is home to Erickson's Antique Stoves.)

(Boston & Maine caboose, which sits next to a few rusty freight cars, behind the depot.)

(Littleton Depot guard shanty.)

(Inactive loading docks at bottling plant that was most recently for Sunny Delight. That company bought Veryfine, a successor company to a cider mill begun in 1865, according to Wikipedia. Veryfine was an integral part of Littleton until it closed last fall.)

(Covered walkway at Sunny Delight/Veryfine plant, which is just down the street from the old depot.)

(Administrative building at former Sunny Delight plant.)

The road off Route 2A that would have taken me to my next stop, a cemetery, was closed. So I drove a bit more until I hit the town of Groton. Just over the border, I saw this church.

After a bit of research, I learned that the pastor has moved to an Emmanuel Church in Ayer. Not sure what will become of this place.

The next spot on my list was the Hartwell Family Memorial Preserve. I had two goals at this conservation area: get a bit of exercise and seek out the old stone slab bridge indicated on the Littleton Conservation Trust web site.

I was planning on walking most of the way, but the snow pack on the trails was so severely iced over that I ended up slip sliding/ice skating my way much of the time. Thankfully I didn't fall or strain any muscles. I found the bridge, which isn't all that impressive, except for the fact that it's about 150 years old.

The site includes wooded areas, a brook/swamp, small meadows and a field where crops were formerly planted.

Next I headed east on Route 2A toward the busier areas of town. Next to the Masonic Hall (Tahattawan Lodge) is a scuffed up sign for the former Central Hall. Built in the early 1800's, the hall hosted town meetings and dances, as well as grange and church meetings. The building also served as the town's post office and telephone office, as well a gas station, bakery and grocery store over the years. It was abandoned in 1979 and fell victim to fire two years later and eventually torn down.

Where 2A meets Route 119, there is action, and history.

Conant's Store has been around since 1840, and has served mostly as a general store, but also as a post office, barber shop, grocery store, department store, cobbler's shop and an automobile agency. As you can see in my picture, currently it is splitting its time as the Massachusetts headquarters of Donald Trump's presidential campaign. They opened up just a week before I happened by.

Just around the corner is the former Littleton Mill. The building houses a fantastic variety of small businesses, including a theater, a music shop, a realtor, an electrician and a custom clothing shop specializing in cloaks and medieval attire.

And whatever this business is.

On a side street off Rte. 119, I spied this car out of the corner of my eye.

As I was snapping pictures, a gruff older dude emerged from the door in the background. He asked if he could help me. I told him I was just taking a few pictures and I'd be on my way.

"Why you doin' that?"

"It's a cool car," I said.

"Wanna buy it?" he asked.

He said he pulled it out of a local barn and it was in pretty bad shape.

"How long's it gonna take you to finish it?" I asked.

"Coupla years."

"Good luck."

Just a little up the road apiece I found this old greenhouse.

A place called Colonial Gardens was here once; most recently the attached building was a consignment shop. Across the street sits this beautiful home from 1673, known as the Baker House. To see more pictures, click here.

On the way to the next destination on my list, I passed a place that looked like something out of a movie about the Dust Bowl.

I believe this house, or at least some part of it, dates to the 1700's. Immediately to the west sits an access road to a new housing development. Just to the east sits the Nashoba Valley Tubing Park, part of the Nashoba Valley Ski Area. This house and much of the land surrounding it were once prime farmland. As small farmers have struggled and gone out of business, developers have come into the area. These sites are sure to be developed at some point.

Finally I made it to the last place on my list: Sarah Doublet Forest, named for the last Indian to hold title to a 500-acre Indian Reservation in Littleton, according to this article.

Here once again I encountered incredibly slippery ice packed on top of the snow. I skated along and thankfully found my quarry in short order.

Not sure what the story is with this chimney. I spied something just a short skate away....

There are benches nearby as well, all the structures dedicated to Ray Grande, a longtime volunteer for the town's conservation trust and other organizations.

So there you go -- a little bit of Littleton. There's plenty more to explore, so get there, get out of your car, and check it out.

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