Saturday, June 19, 2010

Walpole Street - Circa 1900

Walpole Street looking towards Neponset Street circa 1900

As part of a larger project, I began working with large-format glass plate negatives from the basement of the Canton Historical Society. The boxes that contain several dozen of the plates are made of old cardboard and have become quite musty over the years. The last time someone looked at these plates was the mid 19070's - small handwritten notes are in each box describing the contents and each plate is wrapped in thin tissue with the date and time of the exposed photograph.

What is beautiful about these plates is the wonderful views that have long since vanished from our memory. The view of Walpole Street is another superb example of the major changes that our town has undergone as progress marches us forward. In this photograph is the Neponset Woolen Mills which many folks referred to as the "Stone Factory" owing to the impressive stone walls that stood here for almost 175 years. In the distance is the Canton Viaduct. And, to the right of the frame is an ancient small house that certainly dates to well before the American Revolution.

Walpole Street is one of our most ancient ways. As early as 1733 it was described as the road leading from "ye bridge by ye old forge." The road ran through the land of Timothy Jones and Joseph Hartwell. In fact, Jones and Hartwell petitioned the town (then Stoughton) to erect gates for passengers to open and shut as they passed - it is likely this request was not granted. By 1840, the road was designated "the road leading from the Stone Factory by Thomas Kollick's to the Sharon Line." Perhaps the small house is a remnant of one of the early landowners of record - Jones, Hartwell, Jordan, Comings or Kollick. More research will most certainly yield an answer.

Today, it is the road to Sharon. The factory has been replaced by a condominium complex that gives a nod to the past with a copy of the original tower. The small house has been lost long ago, and today an automobile repair shop is approximately where it once stood. The Viaduct is the lone survivor in the image - built in 1835 - just a few years after the factory was constructed.

So, what is there to fall in love with in this image? The superb tones, the sharpness of the building, and the factory and house balanced along the country road. The current project that I am working on takes advantage of enormous advances in high-resolution scanning to rediscover long lost images and see new pieces of the image that would not be evident if we simply printed the image on photo paper. In 1976, Ed Bolster carefully held each plate up to the light and made the small notes that are tucked in each box. Almost 35 years later, we hold the plates up to a new light and discover all that is wonderful and all that is lost in Canton.

1 comment:

Suitcase of Courage said...

As one of the folks working on the cataloging of the New Haven RR Historicial Assn (NHRHTA) photo library, it's probably no surprise that the Canton Viaduct piques my interest. But your post also reminded me to comment on how much I appreciate your blog and what you're doing. These windows into the past are truly amazing!