Fitchburg, MA

Town of Fitchburg

Fitchburg Historical Society

Heritage Sites

Priority Landscapes

Paths of the Patriots
We will certainly never identify all the paths the Patriots took. Below you will find some of the places that echo with their footprints. See Paths of Patriots for more information.

Note: Private residences are only to be viewed from a public way.

Venue Description  
Cowdin Tavern
public

Disgraced as a British sympathizer during the Revolutionary War, conservative Thomas Cowdin, who owned a tavern, was replaced as town clerk by Joseph Fox. Later, he redeemed himself when he helped the militia load up their supplies and his son drove the wagon. He tried to enlist, but was turned down and actually brought to trial. He honestly admitted his earlier mistakes and succeeded in enlisting in New York. Eventually, his reputation was restored. (Another Fitchburg Patriot, Ebenezer Woods, was recruited because it he was said to be strong enough to wrestle bears.)             

 
Dean Hill Cemetery
1777
public
Ancient burial ground. In 1903, the DAR identified the graves of the Revolutionary War soldiers and installed plaques in their memory on stone markers. In 1974, vandals ripped the plaques off the stones. It is hoped that these graves and others in the same cemetery can be restored.  

Hartwell Cemetery
public

Gravestone of the youngest Revolutionary soldier, Abijah Hartwell, who was 14 years old.  
Heritage Sites
Many sites of historical significance exist within the Freedom's Way National Heritage Area. Below are some that are of interest.
Venue Description  

Amasa Norcross House
924 Main Street
ca. 1840

Once the home of Fitchburg’s first Mayor, Amasa Norcross.

 

Crocker Field
25 Circle Street
1917
public

This stadium was built for the city by the Crocker family and includes playing fields, a field house, a stadium, fence and gate. It is a National Register Olmsted brothers designed landscape.

 

Fitchburg City Hall
718 Main Street
1852
public

Fitchburg City Hall and the adjacent vest-pocket park are an integral part of the ambience of the Main Street area.

 

Calvinistic Congregational Church
(Now called Faith United Parish)
820 Main Street
1896

Henry M. Francis designed this church listed on the National Register of Historic Places, in the Richardsonian Romanesque style.

 

Swedish Congregational Church
Rollstone Street
1893

This building is another one of the many buildings designed by Henry M. Francis & Sons.

 
Universalist Church
840–850 Main Street
1847–48
This Greek Revival building is now in commercial use.   

Old Town Hall /Second Meetinghouse
900–904 Main Street
1796

This building was moved to this site ca. 1836 and is now in commercial use.

 

The First Parish Church Unitarian Universalist
Upper Common
1837

   

The Swedish Emanuel Lutheran Evangelical Church
1 Caldwell Street
1896

Founded over 100 years ago by a small group of swedish immigrants, the congregation has now moved to a new facility.  
Priority Landscapes

Fitchburg’s heritage landscape identification meetings were conducted in 2006 under the auspices of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation in partnership with Freedom’s Way Heritage Association. Town residents, some of whom represented town boards and local non-profits, attended the meetings. Based upon the information gathered by community members and the consultants to MDCR/FW, several priority landscapes were identified as highly valued and contributing to community character that needed to be permanently protected or preserved. There are undoubtedly other heritage landscapes that were not identified during this process. Future planning meetings might select other sites. The list as selected in 2006 is as follows:

Venue Description  

Academy Street School – The Annex
76 Academy Street

The Academy Street School, later known historically as the
Annex to the former Fitchburg High School, is located on a knoll overlooking Academy Street.  The large three-story Second Empire structure built in 1869 has a grassy lawn running in front of the building (the southern side) between the building and Academy Street.  Several trees have been placed on this grassy lawn including one planted in 1924 in memory of Clara Barton, a Civil War nurse whose birthplace was in Oxford, MA.

 

Coggshall Park

This 212-acre picturesque park is a crucial Fitchburg landscape for its beauty and for the open space it provides to Fitchburg residents and visitors. Entrance to the park is from Mt. Elam Road through high stone piers. The park road winds through wooded areas where tall evergreens provide a backdrop to clusters of rhododendrons and mountain laurel. At the center of the park is the irregularly shaped Mirror Lake (about 6 acres), part of which is edged by stone walls abutting a concrete walking path. On the far edge, opposite the road there is the 1933 open round gazebo or bandstand with a red shingled bell shaped roof supported by a stone foundation.

 
Dean Hill Cemetery This one-acre cemetery is located on Caswell Road, a dirt and gravel road at the top of Ashburnham Hill near the ca. 1777 Georgian Dean Hill Tavern (also known as Upton Tavern). The ancient burial ground, which is in a secluded location on a little-traveled road, has a moss-covered ground plane and is surrounded by a low dry-laid stonewall.  The entrance is marked by tall triangular rough-cut stones.  Each has a shadow of a rectangular plaque, with four holes for fasteners. The plaques were installed in 1903 by the DAR in memory of Revolutionary soldiers, including the names of those known from Fitchburg. Vandalism in 1974 resulted in the loss of the tablets.  

Mt. Elam Road

One of Fitchburg’s scenic roads is Mt. Elam Road that connects Route 2, a divided highway, with the downtown area and is the primary access to Coggshall Park. The rural scenic character of this road is an important feature in Fitchburg and it was designated a scenic road when Fitchburg adopted the Scenic Road Act.

 

Nashua River

This most vital resource has shaped the development of Fitchburg geologically and economically. The Nashua River, derived from the Native American word Nashaway (“river with the pebbled bottom”), has two branches. Fitchburg is on the North Nashua River that flows from the west in a southeasterly direction through Fitchburg to join with the South Nashua River at Lancaster. From this confluence the Nashua River flows northeasterly to the Merrimack River in Nashua, New Hampshire. Just over 6.7 miles of the river’s length are in Fitchburg.

 

The Patch Neighborhood

The neighborhood known as the Patch is located along the railroad and Water Street, between First and Fifth Streets. Irish families who came to build the railroad and later work in the mills first settled this immigrant neighborhood in the mid-19th century. Later it became predominately an Italian neighborhood and now it is home to many Latino households.

 

Prichard – Pleasant Streets Neighborhood

High on the hill north of the river and overlooking the city is this mid-to-late 19th century neighborhood of commodious dwellings adjacent to the institutional area described above under Academy Street School.

 

The Rapids Footpath System

Known as “passways” in the 19th century, footpaths made of granite steps and asphalt surface were constructed in several different areas of the city to allow workers to walk up and down the hills without following the more circuitous route of the roads. A single pathway that remains is the Rapids Passway (ca. 1868) leading from Mt. Vernon Street down to Prichard Street, but it is no longer usable due to deterioration.

 

Rollstone Hill

A prominent feature in the Fitchburg landscape is Rollstone Hill that rises high above the downtown area and forms a backdrop for views to the west. Due to its rugged topography most of the top of the hill has remained undeveloped. The city owns 75 acres of woodland and an old granite quarry at the top of the hill. The Rollstone Boulder located on the Upper Common came from the top of the hill, as well as most of the walls and other stonework throughout the city.

 

Upper Common Area

The Upper Common area is an institutional and commercial part of the city that extends along Main Street, which runs through the heart of the area. Central to it is the long oval Common that is bordered by many important resources, including a series of brick townhouses, and extends to Crocker Field.

The Common was owned by the First Parish Church, which deeded it to the city in 1882. On the Common is the “Boys Playing with the Turtles” Fountain, designed by Herbert Adams and built in 1888. Also there and designed by him is a World War I monument.

 

Waites Corner

Located in West Fitchburg, Waites Corner is the village area along Westminster Street between Parsons Cascade Street and Warner Street. It also has been known as Crockerville for the Crocker family that helped shape the community by constructing the mills and much of the housing. With the exception of the housing built at the actual intersection of the village center, the surrounding area is relatively rural. A city-owned central steam plant once provided steam to 13 factories in this area, among them the James River Inc. Mill #8 that is situated on Snow Mill Pond and is now abandoned.

 

Portions of the above text have been excerpted from the Fitchburg Reconnaissance Report, part of the Freedom’s Way Landscape inventory of 22 Freedom’s Way communities. The full text can be downloaded at: http://www.mass.gov/dcr/stewardship/histland/essex.htm
See individual reports and maps by town name.

We are grateful for the many volunteers who have supplied entries for the town pages. If you wish to volunteer additional information for your town, please contact the Freedom's Way office or mail@freedomsway.org