Signs of the Times
- Visit North Central
Local Landmarks Illustrate the Region’s History
Whether you’re touring North Central Massachusetts on vacation, or settled in to this great place to live, learning about the region’s history can be a terrific reason to explore its iconic treasures!
From Revolutionary War experiences to children’s nursery rhymes and manufacturing highlights, local history has been captured in symbols you can visit up close and personal. Here’s a sampling to get your started on your learning tour:
You plinked it out on a piano, or sing-songed it in pre-school: “Mary had a little lamb, little lamb…..” But did you know there really was a Mary and a school-bound lamb? The familiar ditty was written by John Roulstone, a classroom visitor on the day in 1815 that local student Mary Sawyer was followed to school by her pet lamb. You can find a statue of that adorable pet on Route 12 in the center of Sterling.
A darker piece of the region’s history is commemorated by a simple plaque at a granite ledge on Route 140 in Princeton. In 1676, in a battle against colonial expansion, some 400 Nipmucs, Narragansetts, and Wampanoag Native Americans attacked Lancaster, taking nearly two dozen hostages. Among them were the minister’s wife, Mary Rowlandson, and her children. Months later, the Wampanoag leader Metacom, who was known as “King Philip” by the English, negotiated her release at the spot now known as Redemption Rock. A simple sign now marks this historic spot.
Our next icon to visit is much, much bigger than Mary’s lamb — but it did a little traveling, too! Fitchburg’s Rollstone Boulder, a 110-ton hunk of granite, was deposited by a glacier on top of Rollstone Hill, and became a popular picnic spot for generations of local residents. Around 1900, as the boulder was literally falling apart, residents managed to transport it (in pieces) to the Upper Common in the downtown district, where it was re-assembled. It’s now a great starting point for the popular “rock walk” tour to a series of quarries on the top of the hill.
It’s a chair of gigantic proportions — and it represents an industry that gave Gardner the nickname of “The Chair City of the World.” The once-thriving factories are gone, but the 20-foot high ladder back chair remains, boldly overlooking Elm Street, for all to see. It’s actually the last in a series of chairs — each bigger than the last — dating back to 1905, designed to spotlight the city’s furniture heritage.
If you love architecture, North Central Massachusetts is a treasure-trove awaiting your exploration. From Colonial-era white steepled churches to a museum spotlighting contemporary New England art, the region is jam-packed with fascinating structures. Among them are a number of churches — including the Victorian Gothic First Congregational Church at the Elm Street rotary in Gardner, with its stunning rose window; and Faith United Parish on Main Street in Fitchburg, designed in 1897 by architect and parishioner H. M. Francis, also featuring a rose window and numerous beautiful stained glass windows credited to the Tiffany studio. One of the best-known, though, is the First Church of Christ, Universalist, in Lancaster. Built in 1816, the meetinghouse was designed by architect Charles Bulfinch, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977, recognizing it as one of Bulfinch’s finest works.