volunteers_neededHave you ever wanted to be the smiling face that welcomes people to a place that is significant to your local community? Are you interested in reading and transcribing Civil War and post-Civil War diaries? Have you considered volunteering but not sure how to do so or what you wanted to do?

The Framingham History is currently searching for dedicated volunteers to act as greeters for our two buildings, the Old Academy and the Edgell Memorial Library, during the open hours Wednesday through Saturday from 1-4 PM.  Our current exhibitions on view are “Four Centuries of Framingham History” and “Framingham Remembers… The Civil War”. Continue reading

High praise for Framingham and Henry S. Dennison from world renowned economist

by Annie Murphy, Executive Director
February 12, 2014

As we continue to peruse the newly arrived Dennison manufacturing archives, Pat Lavin and I came across the following letter from John Kenneth Galbraith to a former Director of the Framingham History Center as she was preparing for a Dennison exhibition in 2002. It helps us understand the impact Mr. Dennison had not only on his company and Framingham, but on the nation as well with his progressive economic thinking. Note the “Framingham is an agreeable center…” comment at the end.  These archives are amazing! Galbraith writes:

“He [Dennison] was an early follower of Keynes.  Alas, I took a more orthodox view: monopoly, imperfect competition was the program of the Great Depression.  Only later, the year 1936, did I become persuaded of what amounted to modern New Deal fiscal policy by John Maynard Keyes.  Dennison had already been there — the newly accepted liberal view.

Framingham is an agreeable center and makes an intelligent contribution to the economic and social life of the country.  But nothing quite equals the contribution of Henry Dennison and Dennison Manufacturing.  It gives me great pleasure to approve and applaud this exercise, [our exhibition], not only in community but in larger national history.”

Two Years in Review

Edgell toy soldier

by Charlene Frary
December 20, 2013

Wow.  It’s hard to believe that I’ve been flexing my creative muscle for more than 2 years at the Framingham History Center!

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m the “face” behind the FHC’s Facebook page, and part of the program team at the Framingham History Center.   While I’ve had a 25+ year love affair with the FHC that has involved a number of volunteer projects large and small over those years, I have for the past 2 years or so invested 20 paid hours or more per week working on membership, annual appeal, donor cultivation, a daunting constituency database switch, fundraisers, website, and my favorite – PROGRAMS:  childrens’ programming, living history programming, roundtables, and academic presentations. I’m gratified with the tangible proof of my work; we’ve grown from under 250 Facebook fans to over 500.   We have more than 125 new members.  We’ve introduced a summer childrens’ series.  Our programs draw larger audiences and garner more significant attention.  And through all of it, the most rewarded beneficiary has been me.

What I’ve loved most about working at the FHC, aside from the group of caring staff and volunteers, is that I’ve honestly learned something new from something old every single day.  I have a much greater appreciation for Framingham’s 20th century transformation.  When you understand where a town comes from, it’s easier to understand and perhaps help have an impact on where it is going.  (As a Framingham native, I’ll always consider Framingham my hometown even though I live in an adjacent community.)  Looking more inward,  I’ve been inspired by those women who have lived here before me, most particularly Mary Ware Dennett, whose story is one that I’ll never forget and one that  I think every divorced woman and single mother could benefit from hearing.   The wealth of intriguing material that springs from our collection is seemingly endless, with something of interest for everyone.  I hope that if nothing else, I’ve encouraged others to dig in a bit and embark on their own path of discovery here at the FHC.

So as I leave, returning fully to my real estate profession and growing next generation of family, I’ll not go so far afield.  I look forward to indulging my passion for Framingham’s diverse housing and architectural appeal by chairing the 13th Annual Framingham House Tour in a volunteer position, and I’ll look forwarding to joining other volunteers on the FHC’s Program Committee.   Above all, I look forward to all of the fascinating stories I’ve yet to hear, the artifacts I’ve yet to see, and the similarly enthusiastic folk I’ve yet to meet at the Framingham History Center.

A Sense of Place

By Pat Lavin
November 20, 2013

In early October, twenty-four young Time Travelers and their teachers walked from the Summit Montessori School to the Old Academy Museum.  The youngsters, all familiar with the book, THE ABCs Of  FRAMINGHAM HISTORY, were eager to step back in time.  They were curious and anxious to hear Framingham’s story and see its many treasured artifacts.

abc book

History quickly came alive for them!  Our docents transported the group from the early days of the Nipmuc and the new settlers through the 19th century and into today’s world of Bose and Staples.  Along the way, the children were delighted as they found their favorite artifacts from the ABC book sprinkled throughout the museum floors.  Students and adults were fascinated by the penny that saved Lothrop Wight’s life when he was struck with a Rebel bullet in 1862.  There were lots of giggles when the children learned that dresses were the fashion for little boys until they were four or five years old.  And that mysterious highwheeler!  How does one get on and off  without falling?

abc book H

Many questions were asked and answered as the tour came to an end.  Our travelers were then off to picnic on the Centre Common and tour the Thursday afternoon Farmer’s Market.

The children’s teachers wanted their students to get a sense of place as they visited the Common and its surrounding buildings. What better way to begin developing that sense of time and place than a visit to the Framingham History Center!

Editor’s Note:  The ABCs of Framingham History is available for sale in our Museum Gift Shoppe, or click here to order online.  Meet the authors and get a personally inscribed edition for the holidays at the FHC’s upcoming celebration Caroling on the Common December 8th.  For more details on that event, click here

What’s In a Word?

by Pat Lavin

Fire buckets, witch trials, “bone shaker,” straw hats, Musterfield, Dennison, Shoppers’ World ….

What do all these words have in common?  Ask one of more than 100 students from Framingham’s Adult ESL Program who visited the Framingham History Center this fall.  They might say these words helped to tell us the story of Framingham’s early settlement to the present day.

esl 2013

New vocabulary filled the air as docents escorted students through the three floors of The Old Academy building and to Edgell Memorial Library.  Students excitedly connected artifacts on display to those they had seen, and in some cases, used in their native countries.  Our 19th century school display brought out many interesting and fun stories of schooling in other parts of the world.  It was quite noticeable to many that the basic farming tools of the 18th century hadn’t changed so much that they couldn’t be used today.  That old iron shovel could still dig a perfect hole!  The display case of exotic birds, quickly noticed by students from Brazil, connected the story of the Brazilian Para Rubber Shoe Company that occupied the building  which later became the home to the Dennison Manufacturing Company.

Along with its importance as a Civil War Memorial, Edgell Memorial Library’s special exhibit, Shoppers’ World, lent itself to conversation about old and new ways of shopping.

The Framingham History Center tour is a great way to enrich and expand the study of the English language and at the same time learn about the history of our community, Framingham.  The docents felt they learned a lot from the students as well.

New words certainly are a stimulating catalyst for conversation!

The Campanelli Ranch in Framingham

by Fred Wallace, Town of Framingham Historian
Starting in 1945, countless G.I.s  returned home from the war, eager to start living the dream they had fought for –  a job, a sweetheart, marriage, family and a home. Among them were the Campanelli brothers of Brockton – Michael, Alfred, Joseph and Nicholas (shown in photograph below)

campanelli brothers founding


Born of immigrant stock, all had worked in the trades prior to the war. Three of the brothers served their country in the Navy, while one supervised the construction of warships at the Fore River shipyard.  After the war, surplus construction equipment was available at bargain prices, and the need for inexpensive housing was growing rapidly.  They saw their opportunity and seized it.  Starting on Massachusetts’ South Shore, they quickly found a formula that worked while greatly reducing costs…a small “L” shaped ranch set on a concrete slab. Prior to this, a home without a basement was virtually unknown in the northeast.  By 1948, they had completed their first subdivision, and by 1953, they had built thousands of homes throughout eastern Massachusetts – Peabody, Beverly, Holbrook, Braintree, Newton and Natick.

Their entry into our town came in 1955 with  “Cherryfield at Framingham”, a small subdivision off  Cherry Street.  The ad read “a site close to every convenience – schools, churches, Shoppers’ World.” Their signature design, the “L” shaped ranch, was soon nicknamed “The Campi”.  It was priced at $13,700 and veterans were offered special financing.  A home could be theirs for $700 down!  Wives loved the kitchens which came fully equipped with built-in modern appliances – stove, washer and dryer, dishwasher, and a unique refrigerator/freezer mounted on the wall – all in the color of their choice, as long as it was aqua, avocado, or pink!    They couldn’t build them fast enough!  And they not only built the homes, they installed the infrastructure as well – water, sewer, sidewalks, the works.

By 1956, Campanelli Construction was building a thousand homes per year.  Land was plentiful north of Route 9, and they advanced up Concord Street, Edgell Road, Brook and Water Streets, building one subdivision after another.  After Cherryfield it was Ridgefield I, off Beacon Street, followed by Ridgefields II through IV.  The choice and size of models grew too.  While the little “L” model, known as the Highlander was still popular, larger models such as the Monterey and Eldorado gained popularity.

Campanelli was not alone in the building boom here.  In 1955, the Planning Board approved thirteen new subdivisions! A major competitor was Paul Livoli Inc. yet the Campanellis remained dominant.  Their “holy grail” came when they acquired the Pinewood Golf Club property off Elm St., near Saxonville – over a hundred acres of rolling open land.  Here they built  Pinefield, phases I through VI, complete with its own shopping center.  They would go on to build Bayberry Hill, Nob Hill, Meadowbrook, Woodfield, the Deerfields and others throughout the north side of town.

By the late 1960s the Campanellis were finished in Framingham.  In the years since, owners have found novel ways to modify and expand, even adding second stories.  A final count of Campanelli homes here has yet to be made, but the figure is in the thousands.  Campanelli ranches have proven to be durable, and are still popular today among empty-nesters, young couples looking for a starter home, and design enthusiasts seeking a mid-century iconic home style.


Shoppers’ World – Opening Day

ask me girls(written by FHC Curator Dana Ricciardi, excerpted from the exhibition “Shoppers’ World 1951-1994)

Shoppers’ World opened on October 4, 1951.  Fearing that a World Series game would keep visitors away, Huston Rawls assembled a group of girls with banners reading “Ask Me”, equipped with transistor radios, so that they were ready to update visitors on the score throughout the afternoon.  He need not have worried, as 25,000 attended the opening ceremony, and estimates range from 50,000 to 200,000 for the entire day.  The largest crowd ever to visit an attraction in New England came to see the “glittering structure of glass, chrome and masonry” as described by Hal Clancy, in the popular magazine Coronet.

During the opening ceremony, Massachusetts Governor Paul A. Dever unveiled a fence to reveal the 2,400 names of those who worked on Shoppers’ World in construction, planning or finance.  Other featured speakers included President of National Suburban Centers Huston Rawls, Chairman of the Framingham Board of Selectmen Victor Galvani, and President of Jordan Marsh Edward R. Mitton.

In addition to the spectacular layout and 44 stores, shoppers found a number of unprecedented amenities on the premises: a bank (a branch of Framingham Trust Company), Sharaf’s Restaurant ready to serve up to 800, the first self-service drugstore in New England for over-the-counter products, beauty salons, interior decorators, a Gulf service station, and an on-site radio studio for WKOX.  There was a mall-wide loudspeaker system to announce the names of children or adults who became separated from family or friends, and even a uniformed Shoppers’ World police force.  Every one of the 400 doors in the center had been calibrated to the precise leverage required for a healthy woman to open it.  And wheelchairs were available on request for the disabled.

The exhibition Shoppers’ World 1951-1994 is on view thru December 20, 2013 at the Edgell Memorial Library, 3 Oak Street, Framingham.  Open hours are Wednesday – Saturday, 1-4 pm.  $5/person; FHC members visit free.