• Revisiting Medfield’s 1960s Master Plans

    by  • January 19, 2020 • 1960s, Medfield • 0 Comments

    With 20-20 hindsight, these plans from the 1960s seem bizarre…

    “Urban Renewal” for Medfield?

    In 1964, when Medfield’s population was around 5,000, a new master plan was developed to prepare for future growth.

    At that time, urban renewal* in blighted areas was controversial but still considered practical and viable by American city planners. A U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1954 had upheld the validity of most urban renewal statutes that had been recently passed.  The 1956 highway act gave federal and state governments control over all highways.

    Here it this led to the Massachusetts Turnpike and the demolition of Boston’s historic West End, to be replaced by the Government Center and the Charles River apartment complex…and the demolition of significant parts of Hyde Park, Dorchester, and Roxbury in preparation for the southwest expressway, never built.

    However, public sentiment began to turn against the high-handedness, displacement, and gentrification brought by urban renewal. Jane Jacobs’ 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities was pivotal in the same way that Rachel Carson’s 1962 Silent Spring was for the environmental movement.  Because of the ways in which it targeted the most disadvantaged sector of the American population, novelist James Baldwin famously dubbed Urban Renewal “Negro Removal” in the 1960s.

    In the context of the times, Medfield’s 1964 master plan called for relocating the town’s significant historic properties to the Kingsbury property on Spring Street to create an “historical park.” The old homes between Brook and South Streets would have been converted to office use. The plan also called for moving all the churches from downtown to vacant land at the corner of North and School streets! 

    This plan would have left the center of town bare for generic urban renewal, essentially devoid of links to the town’s three centuries of history.

    *The granddaddy of urban renewal in a city not ravaged by fire, war, or earthquake has to be Baron Georges-Eugene Hausmann’s 1853-70 project that made Paris the city tourists love today. Here’s a fascinating three-minute video.

     

    Dover International Airport?

    By Ted Knowles, Dover Historical Society

    In 1967 with the growing “jet boom” in airline travel, the Boston Redevelopment Authority determined that a second airport to Logan Airport would be required to handle air traffic by 1980. They recommended immediate action to acquire and develop land for a new airport site.

    Landrum & Brown, a global aviation consulting group from Cincinnati, prepared a study that selected Dover as the new airport site. They selected the town because of the large swaths of undeveloped land and low home density.

    “Details of the 18-month study called for the construction of a 10,000-acre satellite airport in Dover. This facility would have a $33 million terminal complex and parallel runways 15,000 feet long,” reported an article in the September 12, 1968 Boston Globe.

    They picked the wrong town to play around with. The Dover community which had many prominent residents fought the plan hard. Among the notable residents of Dover at the time were Lt. Gov. Francis W. Sargent, former U.S. Senator Leverett Saltonstall, Charles C. Cabot Jr., chairman of the MBTA board of trustees and Carl Gilbert, chairman of the Massachusetts Port Authority. State Senator Jack Quinlan from Dover led a delegation of 20 people to meet with Massport Executive Director Ed King. Senator  Quinlan, half-heartedly hoping to discredit the consulting firm, made a remark “that Cincinnati (where the consulting firm was based) didn’t even have an airport.”

    Later the agency gave in to public pressure and decided to revisit the expansion of Boston’s Logan Airport instead.

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    The Medfield Historical Society is a private, all-volunteer, not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving, promoting and sharing Medfield's history.

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