Here is an interesting home with a very interesting story.
This home was built for Captain Abraham Hoxie (1808-1888) who was the best known whaling captain in Sandwich. He commanded more than a dozen different vessels and retired to Spectacle Pond in South Sandwich in 1853 at age 45 where this home was originally located.
Apparently he wanted to be closer to town and just a few years later bought the famous salt box home on Water Street which we now know as the Hoxie House museum.
What did he do with this Gothic Revival house? He sold it and here is where it gets very interesting.
After acquiring it, the new owner had it moved to Cross Street to reap the financial rewards of being near the glass factory. He hired well known house builder and house mover Gustavus Howland to relocate it. Historian Russell Lovell described it this way:
“The house was two stories high with foundation 27×36 feet and could not be knocked apart for moving. Howland assembled 30 yoke of oxen and put this large house on a set of wheels, beginning the torturous task of moving this train (about 300 feet long) down narrow twisting streets with large trees on both sides from South Sandwich down to the village. It took three long days of noise and re-rigging and adjustments, but the house came intact to its final destination at 4 Cross Street where it can be seen today.”
Captain Hoxie was a unique character and was well know for firing off his saluting cannon from his salt box home after each Northern victory during the American Civil War.
There are hundreds of historic houses in Sandwich. The Historical Commission is currently working on updating histories of these homes for the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS). Many of these histories haven’t been updated since the 1970s.
If you’d like to research the history of your own home and at the same time help with the MACRIS Project, here’s how to get started:
1. Take a look at a few of the house histories we’ve updated.
(NOTE: This will download PDF files. These may not load correctly if you are using the IE browser.)
This will give you an idea of what MACRIS “Form B” is all about.
2. Become familiar with the MACRIS website:
The Massachusetts Historic Commission (MHC) hosts a database known as the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS).
View this short video (produced by the West Tisbury Historical Commission) to learn how to access MACRIS.
Go to the Sandwich database on MACRIS and find the Form B for your house.
There is a Quick Search box at the upper right.
–Enter house # and street name (ie. 166 Main St)
–A map will appear with property outlined in red
–On the right you will see Parcel ID Number (ie. 73-116).
–Enter this in the Assessor’s Number box on Form B
–You will also find links to Assessor Property Record Cards to help research built date, design, etc.
–Zoom out on the map so you can see the property (outlined in red) and environs (including local street names if possible).
–Using a snipping tool (COMMAND-SHIFT-4 on Macs) select a box apx. 300 x 350 pixels.
–Save as a jpg and paste into Form B “Locus Map” box.
4. Visit the Sandwich Town Archives.
(Check with Archivist Deborah Rich for updated info. The following was complied several years ago –Don)
The Archives are located in the McKnight Room in the back of the Library and open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9:30 to 12: 30, and 1:30 to 4:30.
a)Historical Commission Asset Files: This is a good place to start your house history search. There is a folder for each house containing information that has been collected over the years. Ask us or Archivist Barbara Gill for the Historical Commission’s Asset Number for your house. There is also a zoning map in the Archives where you can look up your property and get the Asset Number. The actual folders are in file cabinets along the back (west) wall in numerical order.
b) Photos: There is a Photo Index in four notebooks located above the file cabinets along the west wall. The actual photos are in archival storage boxes on shelves along the east wall
c) Maps: The two best ones are:
–The 1858 Walling Sandwich Village Map w/ Business Directory
d) “Manuscript Collection:” These are in folders in two 3-drawer file cabinets. Here you will find pamphlets, reports, and newspaper clippings organized by Subject, Institutions and Families. In the Family files are deeds, correspondence and other documents which date from the 17th through 19th centuries.
A complete Index is available. Ask Deborah for the Sandwich Finding Aids notebook. The Index is labeled: “Sandwich Public Library Cabinet List.”
Subject Files and Family Files are located in A-Z folders in the legal-size file cabinets along the west wall
e) Tax Records of the Office of the Assessor: 1783-1860 and 1903-1945 (incomplete). These can often be a great help in researching who owned a home and when. But, as noted, these are incomplete.
A complete Index is in the Sandwich Finding Aids notebook. The Index is labeled: “Town Archives-Assesors Books.”
Items: 1783 – 1860 are located along west wall; 1903 – 1945 are in Library storage downstairs.
f) Census on microfilm: Head of Household only: 1820, 1830, 1840 All family members:1850, 1855, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910 (newer are online)
Index in 3×5 file cabinets, west wall and in notebooks above cabinets
Actual Items: microfilm cabinets
NOTE: several US Census reports, Massachusetts Marriages, 1633-1850, etc. are available on-line via Ancestry.com
g) Obits: these are photocopies of newspaper obits and articles; they begin in the 1890s. There is no Index. the actual items are in A-Z notebooks, west wall
h) Cemetery Records: Gravestone name index to 1985. You will find these in 3×5 file cabinets, west wall
i) Other items on microfilm: Genealogical Notes Of Cape Cod Families, Sandwich Quaker Records. Index: 3×5 file cabinets, west wall
j) Books: There are several copies of local historian Russell Lovell’s book, Sandwich, A Cape Cod Town in the Archives. This is a great resource. You may find additional information about the early inhabitants of your home here as well as bits of history that may have taken place in your neighborhood, even on your street.
Other worthwhile books include:
Barlow, Raymond E. & Kaiser, Joan E., The Glass Industry in Sandwich, Vol. 1-5. Windham, NH: Kaiser Publishing Company, Inc., 1989-1993.
Cullity, Rosanna & Cullity, John Nye, A Sandwich Album, Sandwich, MA: The Nye Family of America Association, Inc., 1987.
Lovell, R. A. Jr., Sandwich, A Cape Cod Town. Taunton, MA: Town of Sandwich Massachusetts Archives and Historical Center, 1996.
Vuilleumier, Marion R., Scenes of AmericaSandwich Cape Cod’s Oldest Town. Portsmouth, NH: Arcadia Publishing, 2006.
Complete General Index of Sandwich Massachusetts Archives, June 2011:
a) First Church of Christ, United Church of Christ:
Historical records, 1730-1975
Access: by permission of church staff, 508-888-0434.
Church Records included:
Calvinistic Congregational Society, the Pilgrim Church, the Sandwich Federated Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Congregational Church, the Unitarian Congregation, First Parish Church, and the First Church of Christ.
Records of baptisms, weddings, funerals; Sandwich Federated Church, 1944-1969
[Alpha index of church members], 1886-1970s; compiled by Barbara Gill
Church record, Methodist Episcopal Church, 1796-1874; history of church, membership, marriage, baptismal records
First Church Records, 1640-1954 ; marriage baptisms, membership, list of pastors
A complete Index is in the Sandwich Finding Aids notebook. The Index is labeled “First Church records.”
b) Corpus Christi Parish:
Historical records, 1845- date. Access: by permission of the parish staff, 508-888-0209.
Collection consists of 31 volumes of records of marriages, deaths, baptisms, confirmations and First Communions, from 1845 on. Also includes an incomplete cemetery register and copy of a cemetery book from 1890
A complete Index is in the Sandwich Finding Aids notebook. The Index is labeled
“Corpus Christi Parish.”
c) St. John’s Episcopal Church:
Historical records, 1854-1968. Access: by permission of church staff, 508-888-2828.
Annual meeting records, and records of membership, marriage, baptisms and deaths. Also includes correspondence, receipts and deeds pertaining to the building and its construction in 1899.
A complete Index is in the Sandwich Finding Aids notebook. The Index is labeled
“St Johns Episcopal Church.”
6. How to Enter Your House History on MACRIS Form B
If you are not totally exhausted by now (!) and still want to proceed, here’s how:
Ask us for a Form B Template for your Area. Page 1 of the form looks like this. Scroll down and follow the red numbers step-by-step.
1. Assesors’s Number: This is the Parcel ID. Obtain from the Town Assessor’s Website: https://sandwichmass.org/mapping.asp
Enter Street name then House Number, Click Property Search. Map ID and Parcel ID will appear. On the above example, 73 is the Map ID, 116 is the Parcel ID. (Don’t close the window for this website; we will be using it again later.)
2. USGS Quad: This is always going to be “Sandwich”
3. Area: MACRIS has divided the town into the following areas:
SDW.A Sandwich Center Village Sandwich
SDW.B Sandwich Center – East Sandwich
SDW.C Jarvesville Sandwich
SDW.D Main Street – Charles Street Area Sandwich
SDW.E Route 6A – Sandwich Village Bypass Area Sandwich
SDW.F Shawme Road Area Sandwich
SDW.G Route 6A – West Area Sandwich
SDW.H Town Neck Sandwich
SDW.I Main Street – Route 130 Area Sandwich
SDW.J Forestdale Sandwich
SDW.K South Sandwich Sandwich
SDW.L Spring Hill Sandwich
SDW.M Route 6A Area Sandwich
SDW.N Route 6A East – Scorton Marsh Sandwich
SDW.O Old County Road Area
SDW.P Crow Farm Sandwich
SDW.Q Sandwich Fish Hatchery Sandwich
SDW.R Old King’s Highway Regional Historic District Sandwich
SDW.S Town Hall Square Historic District Sandwich
SDW.T Camp Edwards – Cantonment Blocks 12 and 13 Sandwich
SDW.U Otis Air Force Base – BOMARC Missle Facility Sandwich
SDW.V Camp Edwards Firing Ranges Sandwich
SDW.W Jarvesville Historic District Sandwich
SDW.X Town Hall Square Historic District Sandwich
SDW.Y Spring Hill Historic District
(SDW = SanDWich)
There are PDF files online for each area. Become familiar with these, They will tell you which area your house is in and also provide information for Page 2 of Form B.
Select Area and Add to List, click Next. You will now have links to all the Area PDf files. You may want to download the ones for your area(s) to your PC.
4. Form Number: This is the Historical Commission Asset Number for your house, ie. “SDW.230.” (The Archives has a file with SDW numbers, or obtain them from MACRIS online.)
5. Place: The description of your Area (from list above) For example Area O is “Old County Road Area”
6. Historic Name: Usually you can obtain this from the old MACRIS for your house. Go to the MACRIS website, https://mhc-macris.net/towns.aspx Select Sandwich, Add to List, click Next. Type in your street name (ie. Main St) then click Next. You will get a list of all the houses on your street with Historic Property Names for those built prior to 1900. To view the Form B for your house just click the pdf link.
7. Uses: Usually you can obtain this from the Assessors website and/or the old MACRIS Form B for your home.
8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15: Start with the info from the old MACRIS Form B for your house and update, if need be, as you do your research.
17. Setting: This can be found in the Area pdf files (see #3 above).
Finally, we get to Page 2 (whew!):
18: This can be usually found in the Area pdf files (see #3 above).
19, 20: Start with the old Form B for your house then add, correct and compile using the results of your research in the Archives and/or online.
Here are the guidelines from MACRIS: “In most circumstances, the optimal primary view of a building is a three-quarter view, showing two sides of a structure. Secondary views showing the other facades or significant details are encouraged. Photographs should be taken when deciduous foliage (or snow) does not obscure parts of the building or structure. If photography at that time of year is not possible, find views of properties in which tree cover does not obscure significant features of a house. A view of a rear elevation taken through trees in leaf provides minimally useful information. While sunlight on one or both of the facades being shot often makes an attractive image, the best conditions for photographing a property are when the sky is overcast, so that no elements will be cast in deep shadow.”
–go to Sandwich Town Mapping System https://sandwichmass.org/mapping.asp
–enter street name
–enter street #
–click Property Search, map will appear with property outlined in red and on the right you will see
Parcel Number (ie. 82-014) and Land Area (ie. 1.02 acre). Also note Year Built and Design. (These will be helpful when completing the MACRIS forms).
–zoom out (click [-]) (to show more nearby homes and streets)
–click Interactive Mapping
–under Map Labels drop-down, select House Numbers and Road Names
–click Refresh Map
–under Printable Maps drop-down, select 8 1/2 x 11
–click File, Print
–under Printer Name drop-down, select PDF 995 (or similar),
–select a folder on your computer and save the PDF
The Sandwich Historical Commission’s historic marker/plaque program has
reached the 154 mark, and more awards are on the way in a town where
many homes are much older than 100 years.
Commission member William Daley rides herd on efforts to recognize and
designate homes a century old or more in all sections of town, something that
helps tell Sandwich’s veritable way-we-were story that dates to the 1600s.
The house markers are distinctive, with a white background with dark green
lettering, crafted by Doug Amidon.
Daley said that only once has a homeowner objected to plaque placement or
otherwise recognizing something historic about their property.
“Markers don’t restrict home ownership,” Daley said. “They just recognize
that you’re living in a house with a history and that it’s a wonderful thing to
have. Most owners are pleasantly surprised about their property and what
owners previously lived there, perhaps glass factory workers or stagecoach
“Some are amazed the original owners had numerous kids in a small Cape Cod
house,” he added.
The oldest property recognized to date is the John Ellis House at 76 Main
Street. The William Freeman House circa 1690 at 432 Route 6A is also listed
as a historic property, complete with a plaque.
Daley in his background research about Sandwich homes has not uncovered
any of local history’s mysteries. But he has “discovered curious things.”
One story, he said, involves an Irishman who moved to Sandwich, worked in
the glass factory, joined the Union Army during the Civil War, was promoted
to lieutenant, and was later killed. His family left Sandwich.
Daley will check property records at the Sandwich Archives and the
Barnstable County Registry of Deeds to confirm background details. The
application will be brought to the full historical commission, which will vote
on whether or not to accept the paperwork.
The homeowner will then be informed of the approval, and Amidon will
create the marker. There is an $80 charge.
The historic markers program should not be confused with historical
commission discussions about establishing a preservation awards program.
That is a separate undertaking still in a discussion phase.
Decrepitude has seeped into Cedarville Cemetery—cracking and toppling ancient tombstones and beshadowing family markers with creeping foliage.
But rest easy, old souls, help is on the way.
About $70,000 has been set aside to restore dozens of graves at the East Sandwich site, and to shore up a Wing family tomb that has shifted as surrounding earth has frozen and thawed. An invitation to bid on the repair work is expected to be issued before the snow flies.
The Wing tomb is its most prominent burial site, but the shady cemetery, at Route 6A and Ploughed Neck Road, also holds the remains of other early families including the Nyes, Tuppers, Jillsons, Atkinses, Woods and Freemans.
“It is not the oldest or largest of the town’s ancient cemeteries, but it is quite significant,” said Jennifer Y. Madden, a member of the Sandwich Historical Commission who has donated countless hours of work to the restoration efforts of the town’s oldest graveyards.
In its appeal to the Community Preservation Commission for restoration money, the Historical Commission said Cedarville is among the cemeteries frequented each year by scores of people seeking their early roots in Sandwich, one of the oldest towns in the nation.
Although the graves in older, Old Town Burying Grounds in Sandwich Village date back to the 1600s, Cedarville is no pup. The cemetery’s oldest grave dates back to 1805, when Lewis and Clark were clambering up the Rockies and Napoleon had laid siege to Europe.
“Since so many of the departed in that place represent many of the ancestors of current residents, it seemed only right to honor those deceased before further deterioration causes elements of this burial place impossible to save,” said the historical commission’s application, which was penned by Ms. Madden.
The commission had hopes to restore “dozens of graves,” during this project. More work could be done later, Ms. Madden said.
On a recent tour of the cemetery, Ms. Madden, accompanied by historian Kaethe O. Maguire and Jill Jillson, showed how old slate tombstones had cracked and fallen over. The relatively fragile stone was the prevailing fashion more than 150 years ago. Marble, and then granite, became the rage later and all three materials had to be imported from off-Cape, Ms. Madden said.
In some cases, Cedarville’s toppled slate stones were cemented where they lay in an effort to preserve them.
Restorers will reset and glue broken gravestones, but will probably not include freeing and resetting the cemented stones.
The Wing family’s mound tomb, which contains many members of the family, including Henry T. Wing for whom the former school building is named, will require extensive work on its seams, which are leaking.
No plots are available for sale in the cemetery, which is owned by the town. But the newly deceased continue to be buried in the cemetery in previously purchased plots.
The Wings have donated to the cause, and the Sandwich Cemetery Commissioners have allocated $15,000 to the effort. Voters at Town Meeting in May approved the bulk of the restoration money from preservation funds. A few years ago voters approved money to create a master plan, including a digital map of the cemetery.
A curator at Heritage Museums & Gardens, Ms. Madden said she has loved cemeteries since she was a child. She spent summers in rural Pennsylvania with her grandparents and often explored a neighboring historic graveyard.
Ms. Madden moved to Sandwich about 23 years ago. When she joined the historical commission about nine years ago, her fellow members encouraged her to translate her interest into action.
“The Sandwích Historical Commission’s mission is to protect historical assets, and each member has a unique project,” Ms. Madden said. “This one is mine because I love this work.”
Sandwich Historical Commission reiterates historic merit of ‘1927 Wing’
The Sandwich Historical Commission takes issue with sentiment expressed by some selectmen that the 1927 section of the Henry T. Wing School might not be worth preserving and instead probably should be torn down.
Commission members July 6 reiterated their support for selectmen opting to — at the very least — sell the old Sandwich High School to a suitable developer, who would preserve the distinctive redbrick exterior at Water Street.
Commission member William Daley, after learning about some selectmen’s views, sent a message to the Wing Family of America group asking for moral support in any upcoming effort to save Wing.
Daley contests some sentiment by selectmen that the old high school might not be duly delineated as “historical.”
“Just the exterior is what we’re interested in and whatever a developer may want to do in there,” Daley said.
Commission chairman Gregory Anderson said the overall “what to do with Wing” issue is “sexy. It’s what everyone’s talking about. I think we should be able to put some effort into something we feel very strongly about.
“It would be a shame if all of this is simply rolled up into a demolition party,” Anderson said.
Commission members also remain disenchanted by a Town Hall decision last year to leave them out of a Wing-review effort in the first place and by the point that they were rebuffed shortly afterward when they sought to be added to the group considering options.
“But we can work to keep this key issue front and center,” Anderson said. “It’s the best we can do right now.”
Daley said it might serve the commission well for members to meet — perhaps informally — with the Sandwich Historic District Committee, the group that reviews all Old Kings Highway issues affecting property south of Route 6.
Commission members agree with the point that most residents don’t understand the distinctly separate roles of the two groups. The commission role on historical matters is advisory and one of advocacy. The district panel’s role is review and enforcement.
Daley said he doubts the district committee would ever approve a certificate of demolition for the 1927 Wing section. He said it makes some sense to discuss the Wing fate and future and the apparent willingness of some selectmen “to knock this building down.”
Selectmen, meanwhile, are considering myriad Wing options, including total complex demolition in favor of creating open space and playing fields. No decisions have been reached.
Selectmen Chairman Susan James, in this regard, promises much more community discussion about Wing even as school district administrative offices remain in the building for another scholastic year.
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.”
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:
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.
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.
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.
When it comes to preserving parts of the past in general — and the old 1927 section of the Wing School off Water Street in particular — the Sandwich Historical Commission thinks it is better to be pro-active than re-active.
When it comes to what will happen to – and with – the Wing School complex and its playing fields, the commission has expressed disenchantment with how unfolding re-use studies are proceeding. In this instance, members say, a pro-active stance is much more difficult than a re-active one.
The commission has been rebuffed in its efforts to secure a seat on the Wing re-use committee working with Kaestle Boos Architects to determine Wing’s fate and future, which is being closely watched in the community.
Member Lisa Hassler says commission members have been told by town officials and selectmen that they merely have to “show up at the public meetings” and participate. The panel as such has followed that course and members have not yet devised an official Wing re-use position.
There is commission sentiment, however, that the red-brick exterior of the former Sandwich High School should indeed be preserved. Hassler said this part of the Wing school is significant to Sandwich’s past and is located in an historic area.
Everything related to Wing now centers on feasibility, planning and, to a lesser extent, cost.
Commission members on May 6 said they were somewhat surprised by the news that architectural Wing review to date has found “nothing unique about the building.” Member Carolyn Crowell said the old school was built in “a faux-colonial style and that there is not that much architecture like that around town, if any.”
The distinctive 1927 Wing section is on the National Register of Historic Places, and members say it still is an integral part of the gateway to Sandwich center. The original roof was slate and it included a widow’s walk, long-since removed during repair projects, Crowell said.
Commission member Bill Daley said he attended the first Wing-re-use public meetings and expressed his personal view that the town should also “consider moving some baseball diamonds used only in warm weather.”
This, Daley said, would allow for a sale of the Wing playing fields that could help underwrite any work deemed worthy of unfolding with the buildings.
Commission member Don Bayley suggests a commission letter to selectmen and board chairman Ralph Vitacco, delineating “just what the historical panel considers historic about Wing.”
The school department, meanwhile, plans to depart the Wing complex at the end of the scholastic year in June, agreeing to place funds in the system budget – under a memorandum of understanding with Town Hall – to provide for the school’s security.
Sandwich Schools Supt. C. Richard Canfield in recent months said that – community fondness and historical arguments aside – Wing operating systems are tired and aging and need monitoring, even while the building is closed.
Selectman Patrick Ellis serves on the committee riding herd on Wing re-use studies and the professional review of the building’s basic suitability for a new life.
Ellis last month said it is amazing that “there are numerous levels of flooring” throughout the Wing complex, something that evolved as new sections over the decades were added to the 1927 structure.
“Various levels complicate matters when considering possible re-use,” he said.
Sandwich Assistant Town Manager Douglas Lapp says it has become imperative to replace the wheel at the historic Dexter Grist Mill downtown next to Town Hall.
Lapp said the work is needed to avoid the mill being shut down for a prolonged period should the wheel fail.
“The wheel won’t last,” he said. “We need to do this replacement as soon as possible.”
Lapp said a Community Preservation Act funding request is likely; the replacement project would probably cost $50,000.
“We don’t want it to fail and go off-line for a period,” Lapp said. “The wheel can’t be repaired any longer.”
The grist mill in the heart of the village may be the most photographed historic element in the area, situated between Town Hall and Shawme Pond along the mill stream, whose wall was reconstructed earlier this year as part of the Phase II pedestrian-plaza and bubbler project at Town Hall.