Please note: If you wish to donate by check, please send your donation to:
Attn: Town Common Revitalization
Norton Town Hall
70 E. Main Street
Norton, MA 02766-2310
Your donations are tax deductible.
Why Town Commons Important
In a publication released by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) outlining an initiative to study various Town Commons in Massachusetts, a lot of background information was given as to the why and how the Town Common became an important symbol in New England towns. "Town commons lie at the heart of most Massachusetts communities. Usually situated where roads historically converged, meetinghouses sat, and commerce flourished, commons today are windows of the past" The author goes on to discuss how their development history is often representative of the town as a whole, with the social, cultural and economic history of the place embedded in the footprint of the common. The significance of the common goes beyond its location and historic character--it has contemporary cultural and symbolic functions as well. The town common is a gathering place, a place for the community to observe tradition and a place to celebrate holidays. It is often the only public space that reflects the collective interests, desires, and values of a community, representing civic pride, and functioning as a focal point of community life.
Why is Norton's Town Common Important:
Back to the Future
Our Town Common in Norton, MA originated back before the incorporation of the town in 1711. The Common originally housed the first church built in Norton (see also Facebook/Norton town common pictures) and was a meeting place for the townsfolk to attend church and talk about daily life and what was happening in the town. The first church was eventually moved across the street to where the first minister's house is on Mansfield Ave and then eventually settled on the site that is the Unitarian Universalist Congregational Church.
Forward to February 1, 1888-the church has been moved but the Common still is the center of the town. Wheaton College was founded in 1834 by Judge Laban Wheaton, at the suggestion by Eliza B. Wheaton, his daughter in law, as a dedication to his late daughter who died at an early age. Fifty-four years later Eliza B. Wheaton has decided to present to the Town a Public Library building that is located across the street from the Town Common. Surrounding the Library property is a beautiful unique fence which became the inspiration for what is now the fence on the common.
Several months later the townspeople began talking about the shabby state of the Town Common and felt the Common should undergo some restoration to appropriately complement the new Public Library building. One of the main improvements will be to install a fence that resembles the fence at the Library location.
At Town Meeting on April 2, 1888, an appropriation of $1880.04 was voted to improve the existing Common. (pictures of the actual invoice coming soon) Along with building a sidewalk, grading the land, rebuilding the bandstand, and adding more trees, it was to also include establishing a similar fence around the perimeter of the Common. It is thought that the casts that Eliza B. Wheaton used to make the Public Library fence were the casts used for the town common. The fence that we have now is that fence and is an icon of the Town of Norton! Very few original fences like this exist in New England. Similar iron fences surround the Wheaton College grounds and serve to tie both together.
What's Happening Today and Why We Need Your Donation!
It's one hundred and thirty years later and the Common needs much of the same revitalization as it did in 1888. It's important for the Townspeople and visitors can safely and conveniently enjoy the memorials and bandstand during celebrations and holidays in the center of town once more! Lack of proper electrical outlets and overused but undernourished grounds are causing the trees and plants to die. Inadequate lighting poses a safety problem for nighttime crossing and evening celebrations. Please help by donating today to this important cause on GoFundMe!
Plan of Action- In 2015 the Town Selectman appointed a committee of townspeople to initiate a funding campaign and begin work. The estimated budget will run over $100,000.00 along with donations of labor and materials. To date, the donation amount is way under the amount needed to complete the project in a timely manner and to keep the same design of the fence with its original look and material. Until funds are raised, the Common will remain under construction for an infinite period of time. Generous donations of materials, cash, and labor have been given by businesses and private citizens but more is needed to complete the revitalization and restoration. Town Commons are a vital asset to New England Towns and are a historic reminder of their use and worth- Saving History is Making History
What Needs to Happen?
The goals and needs of the revitalization and restoration project are:
The repair, remaking, and reinstallation of the fence which will require customized casts to be made for the many parts of the main posts. There are over 70 sections of the fence surrounding the Common. These casts will be saved and put in safe storage and can be used in the future for repairs to the fence due to accidents and general wear and tear. New England weather and pollution are just other factors that destroy the materials. As part of the campaign, sections and pieces of the old fence will be sold to help raise monies.
Saving the historical, old, established trees- There are five beautiful, unique and historically relevant trees located around the Common. These trees represent historical examples of trees that were planted by our forefathers and represent an example of trees common to the area many years ago. They also provide shade and protection to the common grounds as well as providing other environmental benefits.
Repair of the Common soil and tree beds- this is necessary so that the older trees will continue to survive and grow and so that newer trees can also survive. The current soil condition is depleted of micro-organisms, healthy soil, and a conducive environment to thrive!
Restore the grading of the soil and walkways- so that visitors and veterans have a safe environment to walk around to view the memorials and plantings and enjoy the town celebrations.
Repaving of the walkways within the Common and sidewalks surrounding the Common- Sidewalks have been redone to conform to ADA guidelines and enable additional parking for visitors and the handicapped.
Installation of an artesian well- to provide water for the plants, trees, and grass. Trenches leading out from the well are needed to supply the water access to the Common.
Addition of lighting at the entrances- for safety and use during evening celebrations and ceremonies and general public use. Underground wiring will eliminate the use of above ground extension cords.
Installation of a wireless sound system- antiquated equipment is used at Town Common celebrations that can be difficult and dangerous to operate and provides poor sound quality.
Bandstand restoration- general care is needed due to the hot summers and cold winters. Having a bandstand dates back to the 1888 appropriation as a historical component. It is used at ceremonies and by Town's people as a place to announce information and as a shaded meeting spot for visitors to rest in.
Restoration of the historic Horse Trough- At the end of the Common, just outside the fence, is a beautiful example of history. In a receipt dated April 29, 1899, a fountain for people, horses and dogs was ordered from the Concord Foundry of Concord, NH. It supplied drinking water which was furnished from the aquifer that Eliza B. Wheaton donated. The Horse Trough is currently used as a seasonal planter that is cared for by the Chartley Garden Club of Norton. It is in dire need of restoration due to rust and decomposition of the cast iron.
Welcome to Norton sign- The Town of Norton is one of the few New England towns that does not have a welcoming sign to greet visitors and townspeople.
Why Donate? By saving history you are making history for future generations to have, enjoy and learn from.
If you don't understand where you came from how do you know the direction you need to go? Understanding history can help you understand what decisions you need to make. Your generous contribution will be appreciated and realized by you when you walk along the sidewalks surrounding the Common, touch the new fence that is reminiscent of 1888-and is linked to the old Public Library across the street. You will have helped to contribute to and rebuild for future townspeople to use and enjoy, and all the other important elements that take a village to restore and continue its Town Common footprint. While Norton's Town Common is not as well known as other more historically relevant commons, like Lexington Common, it is none the less important to this Town. Did you realize that Norton also houses a bell that was made by Paul Revere? Stay tuned--please donate, every amount is appreciated!
Additional historical information about the Common will be posted as updates to the campaign are noted.