West Boylston was incorporated in January 1808. The town’s first century concluded with the destruction of the town’s financial and industrial center. Still, the town witnessed huge celebrations for its centennial.
The first occurred on January 30, 1908, exactly one hundred years since the town’s official incorporation. The ceremony took place at town hall and included songs, addresses, and a reading of the act of incorporation.
The second event was larger and a lot more fun. It took place on July 16, 1908. The day started at 6 A.M. and went into the night with a variety of events and concerts. There was a ball game, a horse coach decorating competition, and an egg race (but only for women over 18 for some reason). In comparison to the conservative ceremony of January, the July celebration was a field day devoted to fun and games.
A few pages of the Program of the July 1908 event is below, and a commemorative medal with the town seal is above.
Here are some more cool pictures of West Boylston before the reservoir.
First, a man drives a horse-drawn cart up a dirt road. The description attached to the photo is "Driving Up From the Valley." The valley housed many of West Boylston's businesses, mills, and houses; now, of course, it is the Wachusett Reservoir. Though this photograph doesn't come with information about the cart's location or the identity of the man driving it, it gives us a glimpse of what an average day in pre-reservoir West Boylston may have looked like.
West Boylston has become known for the Old Stone Church: a steely remnant of the flooded town, an entry on the National Register of Historic Places, a frequent attraction for visitors from around Worcester County, and, most recently, a PokéStop.
The First Baptist Church, the predecessor of the Old Stone Church, shown on the right was the second house of worship for the Baptist Society in West Boylston, dedicated on December 6, 1832.
But, of course, the Old Stone Church is not the only church in West Boylston's history.
The First Baptist Church, the predecessor of the Old Stone Church, shown on the far left was the second house of worship for the Baptist Society in West Boylston, dedicated on December 6, 1832. This church and its neighboring Catholic Church (near right), were destroyed by a fire on May 2, 1890.
The present Old Stone Church (First Baptist Church) was built on the same site and was scheduled for dedication on March 17, 1892, but a fire again badly damaged the interior of the church and the dedication was postponed until May 19, 1892.
The image on the right is of the First Congregational Church known as the Brick Church built in 1832. At the far left of the image is Thomas Hall, named for Town benefactor, Robert B. Thomas the founder of the Old Farmer's Almanac. Town meetings were held in this building from the 1840's to1900. Thomas Hall was also the location of the first high school. To therear of Thomas Hall are the carriage barns for both the church and the hall. This church stood on the corner of Howe and East Main Streets near Thomas Hall.
The First Liberal Congregational Church, pictured on the right stood at the corner of Central and Worcester Streets beside Thomas Hall, the town's former town hall, down in the valley. This church was dismantled during the construction of the reservoir.
Pictured on the right is St. Anthony's Catholic Church adjacent to the Old Stone Church. The church and the rectory were located on the northern side of East Main Street. The rectory was relocated during the construction of the Wachusett Reservoir to 29 Central Street.
If you look close enough in this picture, you can see the St. Anthony's steeple looming above the trees, and the Old Stone Church sitting in front of it at the edge of the hill.
The final image depicts a building which still stands, the Baptist Church on Church Street. This church houses the stained glass windows and numerous furnishings from the Old Stone Church. The building now serves as the town's Masonic Lodge.
The Beaman Memorial Library is officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places! Here's some information about the history of West Boylston's library and the construction of the Beaman Memorial Library:
West Boylston’s library was founded in 1878 with a donation of $100, left by noted lawyer and abolitionist, David Lee Child, in his will. His wife, esteemed editor of the National Anti-Slavery Standard, Lydia Maria Child donated an impressive 140 books of her own collection to the library upon the death of her husband.
The books circulated around town in the late 19th century, first being housed in the local high school before moving to a primary school. At the turn of the century, construction began on the Wachusett Reservoir, and the books moved to storage in the Baptist Church—before moving yet again to a cramped area in town hall.
Finally, in 1911, a wealthy Worcester farmer named George Calvin Rice, great-grandson of West Boylston town icon Maj. Ezra Beaman, donated money to construct a new, suitable library building so long as the town purchase a tract of land on which the library would sit and that the library be named after Ezra Beaman. Rice offered $20,000 for the building. Lucius W. Briggs, an architect from Frost, Briggs & Chamberlain of Worcester, designed the building. He teamed up with the builder Edward Josiah Cross, of the E.J. Cross Construction Company.
Together Briggs and Cross created an incredible display of Colonial Revival architecture. The library rests on a foundation of New Hampshire granite and brick. The exterior of the building is brick laid in an English cross-bond pattern, and the roof is made of green slate. The facades surrounding the windows and the door on the main entrance side of the library are made of marble. After only a year, the Beaman Memorial Library was ready to open in 1912. The new building became a heart of the community and as well as a marker of the rebuilding of the town’s institutional buildings which had succumbed to the reservoir.
The Beaman Memorial Library received an updated addition in 1999 with a state grant. Designed and constructed by the Preservation Partnership and designer Maximilian Ferro, the addition expanded the library to more than twice its original size. The addition added room for an expansive children’s section and learning center, increased storage for books and historical documents, and more administrative offices. In 2012, the library’s centennial, West Boylston nominated the Beaman Memorial Library for recognition by the National Register of Historic Places, finally making it to the list in 2016.
Pictured here is the Library at its dedication in 1912.