Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bridgewater, New Hampshire

Yesterday we took our first trip to a Bridgewater outside of Massachusetts. After checking distances for the Bridgewaters in Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire, we determined that New Hampshire was the closest and took a drive north.

Bridgewater, New Hampshire is on Newfound lake and the drive along 3A was gorgeous. The road goes right along the lake with mountains on the other side. There was an abundance of cute cottages, as well as bigger homes along the road. The town itself is rather small and appeared to be more of a summer place, although clearly skiing and snowmobiling were important to its wintertime economy.
We found three places to have lunch, The Pasquaney Restaurant, The Bridgewater Inn, and The Newfound Grocery. It was this last place where we eventually decided to eat. The restaurant at the Bridgewater Inn was only open on weekends. The Pasquaney Restaurant appeared to be open, but the Grocery looked more our speed.

The restaurant inside the grocery was homey and had a Harley-Davidson theme. There were about a half dozen tables with mismatched chairs, plus a counter with stools. The menu was typical sandwich fare. Pam had a tuna melt, James enjoyed an open-faced turkey and our vegetarian daughter ordered the grilled cheese. I believe there was one other vegetarian option (a veggie wrap) on the menu. The meals were filling and came with delicious salt and pepper chips that were made on the premises.

(James adds: In this establishment only a few miles from Laconia, the Harley theme is manifest in a collection of mounted Harley jigsaw puzzles.)

While we waited for our food, Pam, the librarian, checked out (no pun intended) the free book exchange shelf and selected a book for each of us. After our meal we did a little shopping. The "Grocery" included local crafters works and a local wines, so we purchased a handmade corner shelf for our daughter's bedroom, and a bottle of Diamond wine from Candia Vineyards, plus we bought a homemade biscuit for our dog, Clover, who waited for us in the car.

Newfound Grocery boasts free Wi-Fi. We didn't try it ourselves, so we will take it on faith. We also filled our gas tank there. All in all a fun day trip. During the drive home, however, we encountered absolutely the worst Boston traffic we have ever experienced! It took us 2 hours to go 10 miles. All Pam could think while snaking through the tunnel was that this is what we have come up with after spending $14 billion on traffic improvement in the city.

(James adds: We have decided that we will do what we could to support local business in the "Bridgewaters" we visit. For example, I looked online ahead of time for places to eat and find coffee in the area, but we determined to set those search results aside until we explored the local businesses on-site. I love Yelp!, but "windshield surveys" are still often better. I was glad that we were able to make our local purchases in cash, given the destructive impact of credit-card fees on small businesses, particularly independent gas stations.)

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Dirt on Bridgewater

This post is not about dirt, actually, but about soils -- that thin, complex layer of organic and inorganic material that separates us from oblivion. Soil covers most of the earth's land surface in depths from a few centimeters to a few meters, a thin film on the planet that makes terrestrial life possible. Soil differs quite a bit from place to place; not only have a dozen or so major categories been described in general terms, but thousands of very specific soil series have been described in detail. Most of the series have common place names, and are easily searchable on the Natural Resource Conservation Service web site. (Try your own first or last name to see if a soil has been named for you!) Incidentally, NRCS is a part of the United States Department of Agriculture; for decades it was known as the Soil Conservation Service, but its mission has broadened.

The Bridgewater series is found in places far different from our own Bridgewater in Massachusetts. It is located in arid locations at relatively high elevation in the tri-state area of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bridgewater Festival of Lights

Pam has a very fond memory of her father holding her up to the back window of the second story of their home on Crosby Rd. in Catonsville, Maryland as she marveled at the Christmas lights on two houses on Rowe Ct. It was probably 40 years ago and they were the only houses in the neighborhood that were lit up. She had never seen anything like it. They were right next door to each other and one, a ranch house, was completely outlined in red lights, and the other was a two-story home framed with bright blue bulbs. To this day, looking at Christmas lights is Pam's favorite part of the holiday season. To be sure some of the light shows have become much more extravagant than those simple one-color bulbs. Something extra special in Bridgewater is the annual Festival of Lights - a ginormous light display at a private home at 55 Alexander Drive. With over 200,000 lights, it is not something to just drive by. The whole yard is open to walk through with dioramas and music. On weekends hot chocolate is served and it is also a great place to see Santa. Donations are taken for local charities. None of the money collected goes toward the upkeep of the display, that is sponsored by local businesses.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Bridgewater Triangle

Like most other places, Bridgewater, and its surrounding towns, have thier own legends and ghost stories. Of course there is the ubiquitous ghostly hitchhiker - in the case of the Bridgewater Triangle she haunts a stretch of route 44. There is also some sort of big bird or birds that hang out in Hockomock Swamp. This link provides an overview of some of the other paranormal activities in and around Bridgewater. More information can also be found it the book Weird New England by Joseph Citro

Letter from Bridgewater England to Bridgewater Massachusetts

This is the first thing I have found making a Bridgewater, England/Bridgewater, Massachusetts connection. It is a letter dated September 1846 from the people of Bridgewater, England to thier counterparts in Massachusetts on the topic of slavery in the United States. This document also includes the reply from the Massachusetts contingent dated February 1847. A note at the end indicates that "at an adjourned meeting on...February 10, the Committee presented...the...Reply, which, after a good deal of warm and animated discussion, was, with great, unanimity, adopted."

Town meeting in Bridgewater still continues. I attended a meeting on Monday night which put in motion the means to end the Town Meeting type of government here. "Warm and animated" are not words I would use to describe discussions at Town Meeting. Boring and contentious are more accurate.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bridgewater Avenue

While driving around looking at Christmas lights on Saturday James and I noticed a street we hadn't known about - Bridgewater Ave. It was off of a main road we frequent so we were surprised we had never seen it before. It turns out it is rather new. There are only two houses on it, and it dead ends at the driveway of the second one. When we pulled in we saw someone inside the house looking out. I think she was surprised to see someone there.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Town Called Douglas

A man in Edinburgh, Scotland has named 20 cities as benefactors in his will for the simple fact that they share his last name - Douglas. Each town or city will receive £11,000. Five of the towns are in the United States, but I noticed Douglas, Arizona (the only place with such a name that I've visited) was not on the list.

Friday, December 4, 2009

East Bridgewater and West Bridgewater, Massachusetts

As James mentions in his post about Brockton (the city formerly known as North Bridgewater) the smaller towns of East Bridgewater and West Bridgewater also border Bridgewater. We go to these towns quite often. Pam takes recorder lessons in West Bridgewater and we almost always attend its annual Park Day celebration at War Memorial Park in the fall, which features hayrides, magic shows, music, food and a duck race. West Bridgewater also has a great playground that we used to take our daughter to, back when going to a playground was all it took to make her happy.

Our forays into East Bridgewater usually involve getting our hair cut at Salon Esprit, or visiting our friends Rob & Lisa who own one of the oldest homes there, which they have been working on "fixing up" since they bought it 17 years ago. We have seen a lot of progress in the 12 years we have known them and can only imagine what it was like in the first five years. Every year they have a Saturday-after-Thanksgiving Thai-food fest at their house, during which we order carry out from one of the two decent restaurants in Bridgewater -The Chatta Box. The other good restaurant is Crispi's which serves good Italian food. We like to sit on the north side of the restaurant when we go there because it is closest to the train tracks. When the commuter rail passes by we can see, hear, and feel it from there.
Our favorite East Bridgewater restaurant is Johnny Macaroni's. This unassuming place has fresh Italian food and a full bar. There is not a lot to recommend in the way of food in West Bridgewater. We sometimes go to Good Days, which is a good family place with a '50s theme. The prices are good and the atmosphere is fun. The service can be slow though.
photo of War Memorial Park courtesy of ruthiedee

Bridgewater State...What?

The two largest employers in Bridgewater, Massachusetts are both called Bridgewater State. One is Bridgewater State College and the other is Bridgewater State Hospital - which is really a correctional facility. The Boston Strangler was sent there in 1964, and escaped in 1967. After turning himself in he was transferred to a maximum security facility in Walpole, Massachusetts.

The day after Thanksgiving this year an inmate walked away from Bridgewater State Hospital and is still at large.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

North Bridgewater -- a.k.a. Brockton

Bridgewater stands at what was once the Western Frontier of English settlement in the United States. A "frontier" is the boundary between the area that is considered civilized and the "wild" lands beyond. The notion to "Go West, Young Man!" originated as population grew in the original Plymouth colony, setting off a land grab that moved slowly and eventually gathered speed, until the closing of the frontier in the Great Plains around 1870. Had the original pace continued -- Plymouth 1620, Bridgewater 1656, the English would probably just now be reaching the Pennsylvania Turnpike, but of course things eventually did start to change much more rapidly.

That original purchase took place at a rock in what is now East Bridgewater, and included all or part of what are now seven cities and towns. The very northernmost parts included Rockland, Whitman, and Avon, which were dropped early. By 1716, the remaining town divided into four pieces: North Bridgewater, South Bridgewater, East Bridgewater, and West Bridgewater -- arranged more or less as quadrants of a diamond. Those boundaries were originally drawn so that each of those areas could have a Congregational Church. Eventually, the names evolved, with South Bridgewater becoming simply Bridgewater and North Bridgewater becoming the City of Brockton -- famous first for its shoes and later for its boxers (pugilists, not underwear).

Early in my time in Bridgewater, I noticed some interesting patterns -- for example, the four original towns have roughly the same areal extent, but East and West have small populations, South a bit more, and North more than double the other three combined. This is reflected in the density of street networks -- I first noticed this on a realtor's map of the region -- and has implications for water, taxes, and a host of other matters.

I eventually taught an entire course on the Geography of Brockton, in which I learned at least as much as the students. I taught it in 2007 and 2008, and look forward to doing so again in the future. These days, Brockton is a frequent destination for my Project EarthView visits; I am always amazed by the rich diversity of children and teachers who participate. Five miles from our home is a virtual United Nations!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What is Bridgewaters Project?

Inspired by the NPR series Main Street USA, in which reporters travel to different cities and towns in the United States and report what is happening on Main Street, Pam and James Hayes-Bohanan, a librarian and geographer respectively, have decided to embark on a similar project in which we shall visit places called Bridgewater.

Twelve years ago we moved to Bridgewater, Massachusetts to take jobs at Bridgewater State College. One of the first things we noticed about the College's website was its web address,, seemed to be truncated. Why wasn't "water" spelled out? In those crazy pre-Google days we wondered who would ever find the College that way? We soon discovered that Bridgewater College in Virginia had beaten BSC to the punch and taken the domain. An additional consequence of working for the College that missed the boat is that now neither of us can type the word "bridge" without adding a "w" to the end. An occupational hazard that several of our colleagues share.

Anyway, we have since found out that Bridgewater is a pretty common name for a town, especially in New England. We know there is a Bridgewater, Vermont; a Bridgewater, Maine; a Bridgewater, New Hampshire; a Bridgewater, Connecticut; a Bridgewater, New York; and a Bridgewater, New Jersey. Additionally we know there is a Bridgewater in Nova Scotia, Canada and Bridgwater (that's right, only one "e") in England. We hope to visit all of these someday. If there is a town, village, burg, building, geologic feature called Bridgewater (or some variant thereof) where you live, let us know and we will put it on our list.

Just after we decided to take on this project we heard this story on NPR about a filmmaker visiting places called Belgrade.