By Matt Taylor
Marlborough- Marlborough has developed in recent years with the migration of many corporate headquarters and offices that have moved into the city. Even with this progress, it has still been able to preserve its open spaces and natural beauty, in addition to maintaining its historical heritage. The Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism included Marlborough's West Main Street Historic District in its 2010 list of Great Places to Visit. Marlborough has more than just Main Street, though, and here are just a few places that are worth taking time to visit.
Close to the center of Marlborough and West Main Street is Ward Park, complete with a full-size cinder track, football field, kids” play area, basketball courts and skateboard ramp. But Ward Park can also lay claim to a significant era of not only Marlborough's history, but American history as well. It is within these 20 acres that William Ward, one of Marlborough's founders, lived. Artemas Ward, after which the park's gateway is named, was William's great grandson, and the first commander in chief of the American Revolution. William Ward, who had over 300 documented great-grandchildren, chose to live on this spot due to the “Never Failing” spring that existed in the area even in times of severe drought. Enter Ward Park from New Street or Orchard Street and you'sl experience not only a great place to engage in outdoor activities, but you'sl take a step back in time to an important historical era.
John Brown's Bell
Located at the corner of Main and Bolton streets in Marlborough, John Brown's Bell has been designated by many as the second most important bell in the United States, after the Liberty Bell. But in addition to its place in history, it has also been a source of controversy.
The bell originated in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. and became a central part of abolitionist John Brown's 1859 raid of the United States Armory and Arsenal at that location. The raid failed, however, after Marines led by Gen. Robert E. Lee surrounded Brown and his men. Ten of Brown's men were killed, including his two sons. The bell was supposed to toll to signal the insurrection, but it remained silent. Brown was captured, tried and hanged for treason in the aftermath. The raid was a major catalyst in the start of the Civil War.
At the start of the Civil War, a unit of the Union army from Marlborough was ordered to seize anything of value to the American government, so it wouldn's be taken by Lee's army. Due to the fact that the Marlborough hook and ladder company needed a bell, the army removed the Brown bell and received permission from the War Department to keep it. The men left the bell with a local Maryland woman after they were ordered to return to battle. The woman hid the bell in her yard for 30 years until 1892 when the surviving veterans retrieved the bell and shipped it back to Massachusetts.
Today the Marlborough American Legion is the bell's custodian and is intent on keeping the bell right where it is on Union Common in Marlborough. The Legion feels the bell was preserved by Marlborough soldiers and was given to them by the War Department, so it should stay in Marlborough. Harpers Ferry has a different view. This small town of just over 300 residents would like the bell returned to its original location at John Brown's Fort within the Harpers Ferry National Park. Their view is that the bell signified an important anti-slavery movement that occurred in Harpers Ferry and belongs there. Stay tuned to see if there's a resolution to the dispute.
Peter Rice Homestead
The Peter Rice Homestead is a beautifully maintained 17th-century home tucked in a peaceful lot of land on Elm Street. It is the current home of the Marlborough Historical Society, and has stood in Marlborough since 1688. The home housed six generations of the Rice family starting with Peter, who brought his wife Rebeccah to this location overlooking Mt. Wachusett. The Homestead served Peter and his wife well as they raised 11 children and both lived to advanced ages with Peter passing at the age of 95. Today the Marlborough Historical Society holds events such as tours of the home, a Heritage Festival, Ghost Stories and Graveyards, and the popular Christmas at the Farm during the holidays. Monthly meetings are held on the fourth Tuesday of every month from September through June, and are open to the public free of charge.