Monthly Archives: May 2016

Owners of Canal plant to allow dig at site of solar project

CREDIT: Cape Cod Times
By George Brennan
May 18. 2016

NRG
NRG Energy is planning to build a solar farm on the site of its current plant in Sandwich, in the area at the left side of the photo. NRG has agreed to allow an archeological dig in the area, where the Freeman family once had a farm. Steve Haines/Cape Cod Times

SANDWICH — The owners of NRG Energy Canal Generating Plant will allow an archaeological dig on land once owned by one of the town’s earliest settlers.

Bourne resident Jack MacDonald had appealed an April 13 decision by the Sandwich Old King’s Highway District Committee granting a permit for a 1.5 megawatt ground-mounted solar array on the property known as the Freeman Farm. The property is located just over the town line with Bourne, adjacent to fuel tanks on NRG property.

The agreement to allow the focused dig was reached Tuesday as MacDonald was set to argue his appeal before the Old King’s Highway Regional Historic District Commission.

The property is where Edmund Freeman Sr., one of the 10 men of Saugus who settled Sandwich in 1637, lived and farmed, though the site of his house is not clear from records in the town archives. A farmhouse that burned at the location in 1982 and where the dig will occur dates back to the late 1800s.

Freeman and his wife, Elizabeth, are buried in a tiny burial ground known as the Saddle & Pillion Cemetery. The site, which is preserved, is on a hill across Tupper Road from the NRG property, which can be seen through the trees.

NRG officials had given verbal assurances they would allow exploration at the site on the company’s property before last month’s vote, but MacDonald has now secured permission in writing.

“It’s a win, win, win, and throw in a couple more wins,” MacDonald said Tuesday morning.

James Wilson, an attorney for the regional commission, confirmed MacDonald had withdrawn his appeal.

“The commission is always pleased when the parties are able to settle a matter by mutual agreement,” Wilson said. “It benefits everyone involved instead of having it be controversial.”

NRG is “pleased” to be able to move forward with the project, David Gaier, a spokesman for the company, wrote in an email. At the April 13 meeting, NRG officials explained they were facing a tight window because some of the government-based incentives that make the solar project financially feasible are due to end.

“We’ve mutually agreed to several things that satisfy both parties, and allow NRG to move forward with a project that helps Massachusetts continue its leadership in renewable, clean energy,” Gaier wrote.

The company will seek permission from the Cape Cod Commission to do the survey, which is necessary because there is a conservation restriction on that portion of the land, he wrote. NRG will also make a good faith effort to name the project the “Edmund Freeman Solar Farm.”

The archaeological survey can’t be completed until after NRG receives its building permit for the solar project, according to the agreement.

With the help of Plimoth Plantation, MacDonald found David Landon, associate director of the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Massachusetts Boston, who is interested in doing the dig.

“These remaining sites are few and far between based on the development that’s gone on around the Cape and Plymouth Bay,” Landon said. “The prospect of looking there is exciting.”

Freeman not only helped to settle the Cape’s oldest town, but served as assistant governor from 1640 to 1645 under Gov. William Bradford, a tie to Plymouth that likely piqued the Plantation’s interest.

“As the living history museum of 17th-century Colonial and native New England founded with a focus on archaeology, Plimoth Plantation always takes an interest in potentially significant sites of the 1600s,” museum spokeswoman Kate Sheehan said. “While we’re not directly involved in this project, we’re looking forward to learning about the team’s findings.”

The Sandwich Old King’s Highway board was not as receptive to MacDonald. At last month’s meeting, committee member William Collins called claims that potentially significant artifacts would be plowed under, “nonsense.”

MacDonald’s interest was cultivated during his childhood growing up just over the town line in Sagamore, where his family would talk about Sandwich’s rich history and, particularly, Freeman’s links to it. When he heard about NRG’s solar project, he worried some of that history might be lost.

“We don’t know for sure if it’s the site, but it’s certainly worth taking a look,” MacDonald said.

— Follow George Brennan on Twitter: @gpb227.

Historical Markers Part of Improvements Planned for Mill Creek Park.

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Sandwich Okays Plan To Turn ‘Restroom Park’ Into Something More Memorable

  • By TAO WOOLFE

A gift of flowers, benches and greenery popped up among the political brambles when a volunteer group offered to beautify a scruffy grove across from Sandwich Town Hall.

The news that volunteers wanted to spruce up the unadorned clearing, which is home to the village’s only public restrooms, was little heralded, coming one week before Town Meeting and the town election. The plan came before three of the five selectmen as well as the Old King’s Highway Historic District Committee recently. Both boards passed the plan unanimously.

When it is finished the park will provide a shady rest area for visitors. It will feature small brick patios, benches, flowering hedges, greenery, and bronze signs describing the histories of nearby landmarks, including town hall, First Church of Christ, the Dexter Grist Mill, and Mill Creek, which runs through the property. A bicycle rack is also planned for the park.

The volunteers are members of the Sandwich 375 Committee, which formed to organize last year’s big 375th birthday bash for the town. So successful were their fundraising efforts for the year-long celebration, they had money left over. With the help of several town staff and a cross-section of volunteers from other town advisory boards, the group came up with a design and a name—Mill Creek Park.

“Many visitors walk through Town Hall Square and look at our beautiful buildings but other than seeing them, there is no signage telling them what they are and their significance to our history,” said Cynthia M. Russell, spokesman for the 375 Committee, in her presentation. “Hence, we would like to install two cast bronze plaques, placed near each sitting area at an angle, that tell of the buildings. These signs can only be read from inside the park.”

The design and planning were the work of many people.

The 375 committee asked Colonial Brass of Taunton to make the cast bronze signs. The coating will develop a green patina as it ages, Ms. Russell said. Two members of the Sandwich Historical Commission wrote the text for the signs.

The benches will look like old-style wooden benches, but will actually be composite material suggested by town engineer Paul Tilton and town planner Blair Haney. David J. DeConto, assistant director of natural resources, also consulted on the project.

BJ’s Lawncare & Landscaping of Forestdale will put the signs and the landscaping in place with the help of volunteers from the Sandwich Chamber of Commerce. Mary Bowker, president of the Sandwich Garden Club, will supervise the planting work. Ms. Bowker, along with Donna and Jeff Kutil of Scenic Roots Garden Center, chose the low-maintenance plants.

“They have selected hydrangeas, summer sweet and winterberry plants for their disease and pest resistance, heat tolerance, and ready adaptation to different soil types as well as their beauty spring through fall when Mill Creek Park is most used by visitors and the community,” Ms. Russell wrote in her presentation.

Tree warden Justin O’Connor suggested that two Norway maples be removed and replaced with Stewartia and two flowering trees.

“Stewartia trees are slow-growing, all-season performers that show off fresh green leaves in the spring, white flowers resembling single camellias in summer, colorful foliage in the autumn, and exfoliating bark in the winter that creates a beautiful spectacle after leaves fall,” Ms. Russell said.

The town will install a watering system that will be needed for only the first few years. After the low-maintenance plants have been established, nature will take over and the watering system will no longer be needed, Ms. Russell said.

“The challenge of planting in the park is significant due to the present lack of water, deep shade, the condition of the soil and long-term maintenance,” Ms. Russell said. “But we believe with the choices of plants, short-term irrigation, enriched plant soil and removal of trees, these plants have an excellent opportunity to thrive and be enjoyed.”

The three selectmen (Susan R. James, Peter M. Beauchemin and Ralph A. Vitacco), who attended the meeting at which the plan was approved, thanked Ms. Russell, the town staff and all the volunteers for their efforts.

“This is a great example of the town and the businesses coming together to leave a lasting monument,” Mr. Vitacco said.

The committee chose Mill Creek Park as the name because it “acknowledges the heritage and beauty of the area by recognizing the historic grist mill and the natural creek upon which the park is located,” Ms. Russell said. “The beautification of this park speaks to our mission statement as it embraces the town’s rich culture, proud heritage and pristine beauty,” Ms. Russell said. “We cannot thank these people and businesses enough because due to their guidance, expertise and spirit of community, the Sandwich 375 Committee legacy gift to the town will truly be a delightful place year-round for residents and visitors to use and enjoy for many years. “

Here’s a brief history of the park area that was included in Ms. Russell’s presentation:

“Mill Creek Park celebrates the historical fact that the Dexter Grist mill was able to operate because the water from the dammed up pond flowed into this creek.

“The mill was built in 1640, giving farmers in this agricultural community the means to turn their corn crop into flour, which provided sustenance for the population for more than 200 years.

“From spring-fed Shawme Pond and down the herring run, Mill Creek also brought economic prosperity to Sandwich by powering many businesses such as the Tag Factory and the Shoe Factory.

“Today, it brings visitors to see it wind through rich marshland and flow under the famous Sandwich boardwalk to the Old Harbor where the Boston & Sandwich Glass Factory was built by Deming Jarves in 1825.

“The name ‘Mill Creek’ recognizes the importance of both the mill and the creek to the Sandwich residents and visitors for the past 375 years.”

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RELATED STORY: A Name for the Park at 135 Main Street

A Name for the Park at 135 Main Street

by Cindy Russell

135 Main Street has been privately owned from 1639 until 1963 when Town Meeting voted “to purchase a certain parcel of land located at Main Street, at Town Hall Square, owned by Manuel and Leona R. Jacinto for $14,000.

Bill Daley and Don Bayley, members of the Sandwich Historical Commission, spent many hours researching the property in the archives and even spoke to Barbara Gill about the property. Their research found:

1837_500
(Click for Larger View)

1. 1839 John Warner Barber drawing of Town Hall with historian Russell Lovell stating “This is the only view found showing the early Calvinistic chapel on the site of the present First Church of Christ. The smaller buildings in the left foreground are a blacksmith shop, the building (Spite Barn) that was to become part of the glass museum and lastly the Fred Bunker museum.
There is a story that Melatiah Bourne had a small barn near the Calvinistic chapel and made it a point to stir the animals when services were going on. This became known as “The Spite Barn” and part of town legend. This barn building was later moved across Main Street and then over the millstream and is incorporated into today’s Sandwich Glass Museum.

1857WallingMapCarriageShop
1857 Map showing Carriage Shop on Mill Creek across from Town Hall (Click for Larger View)

2. 1857 Sandwich Village Map shows the property to have a carriage shop.

3. 1880 Sandwich Village Map shows a shoe factory.

4. 1950 aerial view shows a garage.

Sandwich historian Jonathan Shaw remembers a house and foundation there that were demolished. At one time, he visited that house – where some friends of his were living. “It was a tall, rather ugly and awkwardly sited house and it was a stroke of genius that the Town bought the lot.”

Some may argue that it should be called Town Hall Park. However, Town Hall was not built until 1834 and the creek had been a vital component of the town for more than two centuries by the time the hall was built.

So why name the park “Mill Creek Park?” This name acknowledges the heritage and beauty of the area by recognizing the historic grist mill and the natural creek upon which the park is located. Mill Creek Park celebrates the historical fact that the Dexter Grist mill was able to operate because the water from the dammed up pond flowed into this creek. The mill was built in 1640 and it gave the farmers in this agricultural community the means to turn their corn crop into flour which provided sustenance for the population for more than 200 years.

ViewAcrossShawme
Postcard ca. 1915 showing Town Hall, Grist Mill, Tag Factory and Shoe Factory on Shawme Pond (Click for Larger View)

From spring-fed Shawme Pond and down the herring run, Mill Creek also brought economic prosperity to Sandwich by powering many businesses such as the Tag Factory and the Shoe Factory. Today, it brings visitors to see it wind through rich marshland and flow under the famous Sandwich boardwalk to the Old Harbor where the Boston & Sandwich Glass Factory was built by Deming Jarves in 1825.

The name “Mill Creek” recognizes the importance of both the mill and the creek to the Sandwich residents and visitors for the past 375 years.

(Photos courtesy Sandwich Town Archives)

RELATED STORY: Historical Markers Part of Improvements Planned for Mill Creek Park