Thursday, March 8, 2018

I Seek Newton, Part VIII: Upper Falls (Section 2)

From Dave Brigham:

I'm just gonna go ahead and say it: Upper Falls has the biggest backside of any of the 13 villages of Newton, Mass. It's not only big, but quite often beautiful and always worth a second look. Hey, wait, where have I read that before?

Welcome to the second part of the eighth installment in my series about my adopted hometown. For links to posts about the previous seven villages, see the bottom of this page. There will be a third part about Upper Falls.

In this post I'll share photos and information about memorials to residents of the village; a bridge that's a signature element of Upper Falls, and its accompanying dam and surroundings; churches; an assortment of random buildings that I find pretty cool; and a park.

Observant readers of the first section of my Upper Falls compendium will recall the name Kenneth Newcomb. Newcomb, who died in 2002 at age 93, compiled an amazing history of the village: The Makers of the Mold: A History of Newton Upper Falls, Massachusetts, without which I would have been unable to provide so much rich background on this village. While Newcomb never published the book, several volunteers brought it to the Internet in 1998, and then to hard-copy shortly after. The memorial in the photo above sits in a beautiful spot in Hemlock Gorge, looking up at Echo Bridge and very near the original heart of the village: the mill complex that is now home to numerous shops and other small businesses, which I detailed in my first Upper Falls post (see March 1, 2018, "I Seek Newton, Part VIII: Upper Falls (Section 1")).

Below is the other memorial to Upper Falls residents I found during my exploration of the village.

This one honors the memory of soldiers from Upper Falls who died and also those who served. I'm not sure whether it commemorates only World War II veterans, or also those from the Great War. This plaque is located along High Street, in front of the old Emerson school.

Having covered "country" with the plaque above, I shall move on to the religious part of "For God and Country."

I have a thing for churches. The more quaint-looking they are, the more likely I am to take a picture of them. I am, however, quite unlikely to step foot inside. Upper Falls has some nice churches, as well as some private residences that used to be houses of worship.

(The First United Methodist Church on Summer Street is, according to a Historic Newton brochure, the second oldest church still standing in Newton. Built by Elliot Mfg. Co. and Newton Factories in 1827, it s now home to the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation.)

(Built in 1833 and organized in 1835, the Second Baptist Church stands on Ellis Street and is the third-oldest church still standing in Newton.)

(The oldest Roman Catholic Parish in Newton and Needham, this church was founded as St. Mary’s in 1870 and renamed Mary Immaculate of Lourdes when this building was dedicated in 1910, when it was built.)

(The Saint Elizabeth's Center is next to Mary Immaculate and was formerly owned by the church. Built circa 1838 and eventually moved to this spot on Elliot Street, the center was acquired by a local couple two years ago. They announced plans to turn the facility into a community center. I'm not sure where that plan stands.)

The house in the photo above, located at 51-53 High Street, was built in 1842 as a Universalist church, the first of that denomination in Newton, according to the Historic Newton brochure. It is the fourth-oldest church building in the city. It operated as a church for only about 7 years before it became a public hall known as Elliot Hall. It was used as a school, for all types of entertainment, as a lodge hall, etc., until 1879, when John Howe had it turned a quarter turn and after alterations, made it over into a private dwelling, per the brochure.

And finally, the house of worship with the most intriguing story. The house at 1276 Boylston Street, below, was once a combination store and church (Church of Yahweh), according to the brochure. The church was organized in 1886 by a group of Second Adventists.

(Former Church of Yahweh on Boylston Street).

I'll turn now from spiritual buildings back to the industrial matters that made up a large portion of the first Upper Falls post. As I mentioned in that post, this village was built around mills. While the mill complex bounded by Chestnut and Elliot streets was once the beating heart of Upper Falls, it is Echo Bridge that is arguably the most stunning feature of the village. The bridge -- 500 feet long with seven arches -- carries the Sudbury Aqueduct, a dormant system that was reactivated on an emergency basis several years ago. Visitors may walk across the bridge, which connects Newton to Needham, spans the Charles River and offers views of the old mill complex.

(Looking from the Needham side across Echo Bridge into Upper Falls.)

(Looking into Hemlock Gorge from just south of Echo Bridge. Notice the observation deck at bottom right, from which visitors can yell "echo" or "fart" or whatever in order to learn why the span is called Echo Bridge.)

While there have been numerous mills and dams at this point in the Charles River over the past 300 years, the dam that stands today dates only to 1905. Known as a horseshoe or circular dam, the structure exists only to control the river's flow, not for any industrial purposes. Still, it's quite a sight to behold.

(The circular dam just south of the Route 9 bridge that spans the Charles River.)

(Remnants of a gate across a small channel that diverted water from the river toward what is now New Pond, over the border in Wellesley. The pond served as a holding area for water used for power, during dry periods, according to The Friends of Hemlock Gorge web site.)

While the Stone Barn below is in Wellesley, it is part of Hemlock Gorge and can't be ignored simply because I'm writing about Newton. Comprising 23 acres, the gorge features some steep walking paths, lovely views from underneath Echo Bridge and a cool perspective on the old mill complex. The State of Massachusetts acquired the site in 1895.

After doing some research online, I'm uncertain exactly when the barn was built. According to Newcomb's book, "Some historians believe that it was erected either as an office building for the Newton Iron Works or as a storehouse for the nail and iron products produced in the factory erected across the street by Rufus Ellis in 1853. It is known to have been the meeting place and clubhouse of the Quinobequin Club when they had a golf course across the street before 1900, between the river and Chestnut Street."

See, this is why I love Newcomb's book so much. He gives readers the straight dope about everything, including the existence of a golf course that I haven't found on any old map! From what I've read in Newcomb's book and elsewhere, I'm guessing the club was pretty loosely organized, which may explain why its existence isn't documented on maps.

Let's move on from this funky old barn to other buildings of interest, starting with another stone barn.

(Built in 1839, this barn on Oak Street was rumored at the time to be used for a nursery of silk worms, according to Newcomb's book. But this seems to be an apocryphal tale, and the barn was used as a stable and for machine storage. The barn has been used for a variety of purposes in the intervening decades.)

(This building on Linden Street has been home since 1993 to Hammersmith Studios, which creates and restores ironwork. The city's assessors database lists the construction date as 1938, but I found a listing online for the Newton Graphic in 1928 that lists this property as a three-car garage owned by the Gamewell Company, an alarm company that I referenced in the first post about Upper Falls.)

(Part of Stone Rehabilitation & Senior Living was once the home of Otis Pettee, namesake of the mills I wrote about in the first section of my Upper Falls review. That part of the building dates to 1828. Read about the site's history here.)

(The former 3-in-1 Superette on Elliot Street closed at the end of 2016, after 44 years in business, according to the Village14 blog, which tracks all things Newton. According to former City Councilor Brian Yates, the store was around for "decades beyond" the 1972 opening of the last iteration. The owners have filed a petition for a special permit to convert the building to an art studio, and add a second floor for a residence. The building dates to at least 1927.)

And finally, amid all the mills, churches, cool houses, funky stone buildings and old stores, some green space.

Established in 1909 as the Upper Falls Playground, the Officer Bobby Braceland Playground features tennis courts, soccer fields, a tot lot and a baseball field. The only reference I can find to the policeman who the park was named after comes from Jonathan T. Melick's "Oak Hill Park History" that I found online:

"Officer Bobby Braceland would park his cruiser near the Friendly’s restaurant, in Chestnut Hill, to keep an eye on those Newtonites with access to cars. He was concerned for our safety – but that concern was unappreciated, of course, by those he stopped for some violation or another."

On June 18, 2011, I wrote about the park and shared some photos, a few of which you see here: "Play Ball?"

Several years ago I took these photos. The park looks about the same now, except the building with graffiti is somewhat cleaner.

OK, one more part to go. That one will cover cool houses; former hotels, inns and taverns; restaurants; old schools; commercial blocks, retail locations and shops.

Here are the previous seven parts:

March 7, 2017 I Seek Newton, Part VII: Thompsonville

December 5, 2016: Chestnut Hill (#6)

September 26, 2016: Oak Hill (#5)

June 3, 2016: Waban (#4)

March 23, 2016: Newton Highlands (#3)

September 20, 2015: Auburndale (#2)

May 21, 2015: Newton Lower Falls (#1)

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