Wakefield Heritage Day celebrates town's past, future
Dozens of visitors stopped at the festival held at Heritage Park, where the crown jewel of restoration efforts — the Union Railroad Station — served as headquarters for this celebration of local history.
Heritage Commission members and volunteers provided tours of the site, which includes a restored 1902 Russell snow plow car and a freight house that will one day serve as a Heritage Centre with an scale model of the railway line and its five stations that served the area.
The day began with a Memory Tile dedication at the railway station, followed by a screening of a short film that featured Janet Shea, who worked for the Boston and Maine Railroad until the station closed in 1956. Shea has since passed away, but her family has donated much of the original station agent’s office equipment, including the scissor phone, ring box and telegraph equipment.
Heritage Commission Chairman Pam Judge said community participation during the day was steady. The next big restoration project entails completion of the freight house. Judge said the group is attempting to raise $9,000 to install the heating and air conditioning system required for the scale model project. But since last month, much has already been accomplished.
“The lights, the wiring, the sheetrock is up,” she said of the work completed to date, but there is much left on the to do list.
“We accept all donations, big and small,” she said.
In the future, the Heritage Centre will celebrate the various features of the villages of Wakefield, such as its many lakes and its educational and cultural history. Judge said there were once 12 school districts in Wakefield. Another exhibit will focus on “home life” in centuries past.
In addition to the Heritage Commission, the Union Village Community Association and members of the Conservation and Agriculture commissions of Wakefield and the Cemetery Trustees turned out.
Cemetery Trustee David Tibbitts distributed information about the trustees’ “Adopt-a-Cemetery” program, whereby residents can agree to maintain a cemetery. There are many to choose from, as it turns out.
“There are 124 cemeteries in Wakefield,” said Tibbitts, who has documented all the locations, as well as the names of the interred. He said one of the oldest residents lived to be 116 years old.
He was Robert McKlin, who lived from 1672 to 1787, according to his tombstone in Haines Cemetery in Union. Tibbitts adopted this historic cemetery as his adopt-a-cemetery spot.
Ruth Hall and Richard House manned the booth for the Union Village Community Association, a group with several conservation projects of its own.
The association, a nonprofit, acquired the Drew Mill Dam and the Lower Falls Dams in Union from its owner, the Charles P. Rogers Company, who donated the dam and the Drew Mill building to the association. After years of neglect, the dam’s gate was opened and the scenic pond drained. As a result, Union has no fire pond from which to draw water.
Eventually, the association will renovate the Drew Mill into the Morris Marshall Museum of Hydro Technology.
“This will be a technology museum, with a working water wheel,” she noted.
House said the group will apply for grants to fund restoration efforts. In the near term, supporters can come out to the association’s Fall Festival at Heritage Park and purchase raffle tickets in a 50/50 drawing to support the cause.
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Larissa Mulkern may be reached at LMulkern@newstote.com.
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