By Melanie Petrucci, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Last November, Shrewsbury’s Board of Selectmen approved a proposal to move one of two Benjamin Franklin Mile Markers (Milestone Marker #43) from its current location near the on-ramp to I-290 East on Main Street to Shrewsbury’s Town Common. The other marker is located at Dean Park, along Main Street across from the Artemas Ward House.
The Milestone Markers date back to when Benjamin Franklin was appointed by the Continental Congress as the first postmaster general in 1775, when he established a postal system that is still in place today. The known markers along the 18th-century Upper Boston Post Road are listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the 1767 Milestones.
The Massachusetts State Legislature has authorized the Massachusetts Department of Public Works (MassDOT) to maintain and restore the markers. Daedalus Inc., a sculpture and conservation studio in Watertown, has been secured to undertake this project. Daedalus co-president Joshua Craine will serve as project manager and conservator. Craine is an UMass graduate and also studied at the Universitia Lorenzo Di Medici in Florence, Italy.
The genesis of this effort began last year when Shrewsbury citizen Bernie Forletta brought the issue of this particular marker to the attention of John Campbell, chair of Shrewsbury’s Historic District Committee (HDC).
“I expressed my concern that there was a Franklin stone at the entrance of Route 290 East that was at risk of being accidentally damaged if not destroyed,” Forletta said.
Said Campbell: “I knew this prominent symbol of Shrewsbury’s history belonged in a more prominent place than the entrance of I-290. Our historic Town Common within the HDC seemed to me to be the obvious choice. The HDC has been very supportive and voted unanimously in favor of this move.”
In addition to the Shrewsbury HDC, the First Congregational Church has offered its support. Church official David E. Smith wrote in a letter to Campbell, “On behalf of the First Congregational Church, I am pleased to provide our approval. We support the HDC’s recommendation to preserve such a prominent piece of Shrewsbury’s history and agree that the Town Common is a fitting location.”
Campbell stated that “the relocation of the Milestone on the Town Common would complement the other monuments already on the common such as the General Henry Knox Memorial, Shrewsbury Minuteman Memorial and the Civil War Monument….It should also be noted that by relocating the Milestone Marker #43 to the Town Common it would continue to be located on the historic Boston Post Road.”
Other proposed sites which were considered but were found to be unsuitable include the Schoolhouse #5 grounds situated at the corner of Old Mill Road and Main Street and Gauch Park on Main Street and North Quinsigamond Avenue.
Shrewsbury Town Manager Daniel Morgado is also supportive.
“The board is pleased that MassDOT is assisting the community in relocating this important historical artifact in cooperation with the Shrewsbury Historical Society, Shrewsbury Historical Commission and Historic District Commission,” he said.
MassDOT will absorb the costs of the move and restoration of the marker at no expense to the town. The move will take place in mid- to late August and a formal dedication will take place during the Spirit of Shrewsbury festivities Saturday, Sept. 24 at 12 p.m. State Representative Hannah Kane, R-Shrewsbury, will serve as emcee.