When I attend meetings in Burlington, MA, I usually stay at in the Burlington Marriott, which is just off the highway, in the middle of a cluster of modern office buildings. The buildings are nice, but the doors are boring and predictable. However, in Massachusetts, you are rarely more than 10 miles from another town. About six miles northwest of my hotel is the town of Billerica, MA. I was looking for a gas station, but when I saw the Town Green, ringed by several historic buildings, I knew I was about to stop for a doorscursion.
Outside of a few listings in Wikipedia, the town’s website and a handful of Facebook pages, there isn’t much to say about Billerica. I was hoping for a lengthy discussion about why so many buildings have green doors. I found that the entire area around the green is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places, but, unfortunately, the document has not been converted to PDF yet. I was hoping for some insight into what the building, currently occupied by Verizon, once was. All I found there was a link to an article about how neighbors are fighting Verizon over its plans to erect a cell tower on an historic mill building.
With respect to the history of the town, the story is pretty much the same old New England story. People found land suitable for farming, along one or, in this case two rivers, the Shawshine and the Concord. Shawshine was the original Indian name for the area known later as Billerica. That name was derived from the first English settlers, the ones who wanted to get away from England, but named everything in the new land after the place in England they left behind. In this case, the place they left was Billericay, in the county of Essex. I found a book – “History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Part 6, Volume 1” which hints at how this land came to be settled:
“The conversion (to Christianity) of the Indians was the principal object of the founders of the colony…
Reverend John Eliot seemed especially called to the work which he embraced with so much zeal, patience, and devotion…A series of meetings took place and:
In the hands of this veritable apostle the good work continued to prosper; the Indians yielded more and more to the influences of civilization and Christianity…His (Eliot’s) efforts so prevailed that these Indians at length manifested a strong desire to change their own rude way of life for one more like the English mode, and for this purpose, as Eliot’s own opinion was that they ought to live somewhat remote from the English…”
In other words, we moved them elsewhere.
One building that I found that has an interesting history is the Bennet Public Library. This building is located about ¼ of a mile (0.4 km) from the current Billerica Public Library, on the north end of the town green. From the website:
“In 1881 Mrs. Eleanor Bennett dedicated the Bennett Public Library to the people of Billerica in memory of her husband, Joshua. The Bennetts strongly believed that everyone deserved access to art and education, and so when the town denied an appeal to build a public library they took the project on themselves. While all of the money raised was through private donations, the doors were open to everyone in town and The Bennett became Billerica’s first public library.”
The building is still owned by the town and can be rented for private functions.
The other buildings are described, as best as I can, in the Gallery descriptions. The complete descriptions, as well as larger images appear in a slide show which you can begin by clicking on any image.
Thanks again to the host of Thursday Doors, Norm Frampton. If you want to participate in this fun challenge, the opportunity awaits you every week, from Thursday until noon on Saturday. Just click your way up to Norm’s settlement and look for the blue frog. That little tadpole will guide you into a gallery of doors from around the world.