By Matt Taylor
Shrewsbury – Shrewsbury is often overlooked as only a suburb passed through on the way from Worcester to Boston. However, this mid-sized suburb has a rich history with an 18th-century house and museum, landmarks and beautifully preserved Colonial homes. With its location near Lake Quinsigamond, Shrewsbury also has a number of parks and open spaces to enjoy outdoor pursuits.
Artemas Ward House and Museum
Shrewsbury's most famous resident is Artemas Ward, the first commander-in-chief of the American Revolution. Ward was a man of many hats, literally and figuratively, as he worked as a justice of the peace, Worcester County chief justice, president of the Executive Council in the Massachusetts Senate, and Speaker of the House in the Massachusetts Senate. In addition to his many military duties, Ward was commander-in-chief of one the Revolutionary War's most important battles, the Battle of Bunker Hill. After the heroic stand at Bunker Hill and the evacuation of the British from Boston, Ward returned to Shrewsbury full-time where he lived the rest of his life.
The Ward family lived in the Artemas Ward House from 1718 until 1925, when the property was given to Harvard University. Artemas Ward received both bachelor's and master's degrees from Harvard. The house displays an array of family heirlooms from walking sticks to Windsor chairs, and it tells a story of simpler times where there was no running water or electricity. The house is magnificently maintained, and many of the artifacts such as cribs, tubs, bandboxes for storage, and even Ward's traveling liquor chest are in excellent condition. Photographs dating back to 1867, and 18th-century paintings have been restored to tell the many stories that occurred over 200 years. There are 14 rooms in all and the simple, yet classic, design of the home allows visitors to appreciate how the family made the most out of every interior space.
The barn served as a dairy farm from the 19th century well into the 20th, and is a rare example of a barn preserved as part of a museum. The structure was actually two barns combined into one and was fully restored in 2004. It still holds numerous antique farm tools and vehicles. The Ward House and Museum is a tribute to one of America's most important historical figures, and its classic, sturdy, simple construction has stood the tests of time and the elements while maintaining its Colonial charm.
Across from the Ward House is Dean Park, a large, clean, well-maintained park with numerous outdoor recreation opportunities for visitors of all ages. Dean Park also played a significant role in history as Artemas Ward lived on the grounds as a child. Baseball, tennis, basketball, walking trails, fishing, picnicking and cross- country skiing are all available to visitors. The park provides an oasis in which to read a book under the shade of a tree, or run the mile-long loop through a wooded wilderness. The signature attraction at Dean Park is the fountains. The fountains were a gift from the Donahue family of Shrewsbury, and they put on quite a synchronized show, especially when colored lights accompany the spouting water. Patriotic, popular or classical music plays on 91.7 FM, for viewers to listen to while watching the show.
Shrewsbury not only offers shopping and dining opportunities downtown, but it's also a great area to view historical landmarks. Visitors can see the 1830 Schoolhouse, now home to the Shrewsbury Historical Society; in addition to a schoolhouse, the building also served as a temporary police station, a home to Civil War veterans, and a lecture hall. The cemetery contains the graves of Artemas Ward and Civil War Union Army Officer Charles Edward Hapgood. Drive along Main Street, Prospect Street, Grafton Street and notice beautifully maintained historic homes that demonstrate the classic construction of the Colonial era.