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Maynard Stow

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Submitted By jeffnjules2005
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Maynard/Stow —

“Every once in a while, people need to be in the presence of things that are really far away.”

This was the concluding sentence of a short essay by Ian Frazier appearing in the New Yorker magazine, February 2011. You know – like mountain tops, the Grand Canyon, the Empire State Building or the bow of the Titanic (before it sank).

Maynard and Stow offer remarkably few opportunities to be in a place where distant vistas are a view. Once upon a time Summer Hill, now tree-covered and trail-crossed, was open pasture. History Society pictures taken as recently as World War II show an expanse with few trees. Decades earlier, state surveyors installed an official stone marker atop Summer Hill, with the expectation that from that point, clear viewing was available in all directions. Marble Hill, at 440 feet, the highest elevation in Stow, is similarly tree-obstructed.

Stow does offer a hill with a present-day view. Stories hold that ships’ pilots in Boston harbor used the stand of pine trees atop Pilot Grove Hill as a navigational landmark, suggesting that in the reverse direction a person atop the hill could see Boston’s skyscrapers. Alas, not so. Mayhap from a treetop, but not from ground level. However, Birch Hill Road, elevation 370 feet, does offer a glimpse of Mt. Wachusett, twenty miles to the northwest.

Bridges can offer vistas. White Pond Road over the Assabet River, on the Stow/Maynard border, offers good views up and down river – albeit less than a mile’s length combined. The bridge is 120-feet in length with a surface 10-feet above the water. Parking is not permitted, but there are places along the shoulder to pull over and briefly leave the car as long as one does not wander too far away. Over the course of the winter this stretch of the river will first ice up as clear ice, then become snow covered, and come spring thaw, sport ice floes and chunks drifting past under the bridge – grey against the dark water.

The bridge itself is the site of far more history than might be imagined from its modern, modest appearance. In December 1715 the town of Sudbury decided to build a bridge spanning the Assabet River between the lands of Timothy Gibson and Thomas Burts. The road crossing this bridge was known as New Lancaster Road. It passed through the Lower Village area of Stow on its way from Sudbury to Lancaster. The bridge, at least a version we can see in historical photographs from the late 1800s, had two timber spans, each reaching to a large center pier constructed of field stones.

Old maps name this as Dr. Wood’s Bridge. The Wood family had settled in Stow in the early 1700s. The doctor would be Jonathan Wood, Jr., M.D., who lived in Stow 1761-1822. His father had settled the family in Stow. The Wood family continued to be a presence in Stow until at least 1850. The exact site of the Wood family house is not known.

A later incarnation of the bridge – by this time “Russell’s Bridge” – was constructed in 1929 to replace the bridge damaged in the flood of 1927. The next replacement was started in 2001, stalled in 2003 and then resumed in 2007 under the management of Northern Construction. The new bridge connects White Pond Road to a handful of riverfront houses and a parking lot in the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge.

Back to Ian Frazier. He was reporting on the conversion of the 124-year-old Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge over the Hudson River into a pedestrian- and bicycle-bridge (see The ironwork trusses supporting the bridge are underneath the surface, so the 24-foot wide path has a view that is completely unimpeded by any bridge structure. The bridge is 6,760-feet long and crowns at 212-feet above the water’s surface. Looking down river allows a view of nine miles; up river, four. Endgates are open year-round from 7 a.m. to sunset. Anyone who chooses Interstate 90 and then Interstate 87 as a means of driving to New York City or points south may want to consider a bridge visit as a unique detour destination.

Mark’s earlier columns were published in November 2011 as a book “MAYNARD: History and Life Outdoors.” Subsequent columns can be viewed at

Read more: Life Outdoors: Seeing things far away - Maynard, MA - The Beacon-Villager

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