By Vicki Greene, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – On a warm late summer day on Main Street outside of City Hall in Marlborough, a large group of city officials and volunteers gathered to launch a walking tour that showcases the city’s history through a series of 24 panels installed across downtown.
Bob Kane, vice president and trustee of the Marlborough Historical Society (MSH) – the organization that curated the project – said he first saw a history panel while in Maine on a trip with his wife several years ago.
“I drove by it and had to turn around and take a second look,” he said. “I then contacted the developer of the panels, Museum in the Streets© (MITS), and approached colleagues and city officials with the idea of creating this program in Marlborough.”
Launched in 1996 by historian Patrick Cardon, Museum in the Streets© has become an international series of walking tours that foster a sense of historical identity, encourage preservation of local sites and educate about stories, events and traditions. Connecticut, Maine, New York, Virginia, Michigan and Minnesota have already established a Museum in the Streets in the United States.
Kane, along with Bob Fagone, chair of the city’s Historical Commission, took the project officially off the ground in 2017 with the help of many city officials and organizations including the Marlborough Economic Development Corporations (MEDC), the city’s Historical Commission, the Department of Public Works and the Marlborough Public Schools.
Doug Rowe, president of the MHS, addressed the crowd and recognized just how so many in community had to come together to tell its story.
“We want people [outside of the city] to find out that Lexington and Concord aren’t the only communities with historical backgrounds,” he said.
The 1.6-mile loop, if one chooses to go start to finish, begins with the first panel at the Marlborough Public Library and ends near Main and Windsor streets. Each panel contains archived photographs and detailed information about important topics in the city’s history, such as the First Meeting House, the Praying Indians, the evolution of the agricultural and apple industries, the rise of the shoe industry and the Great Shoe Strike, the lost trains of Marlborough, the disasters of downtown and the history of Artemas Ward Park.
Kane, Fagone and Paul Brodeur, MHS Trustee Emeritus, pulled the information together and wrote “drafts of some 40 topics which were then whittled down,” Rowe said.
There are two permanent maps, one at the Marlborough Public Library and one at City Hall.
According to Rowe, 25,000 printed walking guides are also being distributed in approximately 70 hotel locations in central Massachusetts as well as restaurants and businesses in the downtown area, City Hall and the Chamber of Commerce. The Marlborough Public Schools will be distributing guides to all students.
Rowe said the cost of the project, to date, is approximately $25,000. The funds came from grants, contributions, donors and MHS funds, such as from the Avidia Bank Foundation, the Main Street Bank Foundation, the Downtown Village Association grant from the Brigham Family Trust, and a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
“The Museum in the Streets is yet another first for Massachusetts that is happening right here in Marlborough,” said MEDC Executive Director Meredith Harris. “We are proud to be at the forefront of a movement that both embraces local history and champions urban development in the region. It’s yet another reason for people to come to our city.”