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The Vigorous Protest Against Invasion of the Old Street.

Springfield Republican and Boston Transcript Take a Hand--The Other Side Make a Statement of Their Position.

Deerfield people and those who come there in summer time are mightily stirred up over the street railway question. The Gazette & Courier gives both sides a hearing, and below follows a vigorous protest against allowing the railway to go through Deerfield street, quotations from the Springfield Republican and the Boston Transcript, and a statement from those who want the railway to go through the street. The protest:-

At the hearing of the petitioners for a charter for the Greenfield and Deerfield Electric Railway company, Mr. Sheldon offered an amendment to the bill, which would exclude the location of tracks on "Deerfield Street." He was supported by many of the property holders of the street both all the year round and who believe the so-called summer people and Mr. Sheldon that the preservation of our beautiful street is not a merely local
question, but that as a famous historic landmark, it intimately concerns our whole commonwealth, like other important reservations recently made by the State, and is a question worthy the serious consideration of the legislature. That this view of the case is held by others, who have no personal interests in it, was shown by the editorial in the next issue of the Boston Transcript, protesting against this proposed "invasion of one of the grandest country streets in America," as a "sacrilege." In reply, the counsel for the road said he would agree to leave the question of location with the voters of Deerfield. This would leave the decision to the men of South Deerfield, of Wisdom Hills, of Great River, and those living on the other side of our mountain, who, except in the broader sense of which we have spoken, have no interest in the matter.

In Deerfield Street, we find by careful count, that the women outnumber the men, two to one, so that if the vote could be limited to the men most interested, it would still be an expression of the opinion of but one-third of the adult population of the street. And, if as Mr. Malone magnanimously suggested, it were left to the voters, that could not be a final decision, but would only serve to show our selectmen the wishes of their constituents, since the law gives the selectmen the last word in the case; and it is "within the memory of some of those now living," that the selectmen of Deerfield do not always regard the expressed wishes of the people. Thus unless the legislature accepts the amendment, the future of Deerfield street will be decided by Mr. Jones, Mr. Clark and Mr. Ashley, if they are in office when the matter comes up.

Whether or not the road is to be built at present, the location will be asked for as soon as the charter is secured. It does not need a vivid imagination to depict the changes in the street, should a trolley line be located therein; its quiet and beauty gone forever, the turf ruined, grassy banks cut away to widen the road, the trees injured by cutting their roots and lopping their branches, unsightly poles and wires, and all day long, and far into the night, the buzzing, bumping cars, with their tediously tinkling bells.

If the other route, adjoining the tracks of the New York New Haven and Hartford road should be chosen, the street would be saved, and the public?- to be sure the public would have to walk a few rods to take the cars, but there are many places in which this is not considered a hardship.

In Boston the people living in the great area bounded by the Public Garden and Massachusetts Avenue, and between the Beacon and Boylston streets cheerfully walk to Boylston street for a car, rather than to permit the building of electric roads on parallel streets.

In Cambridge at an early stage of street railways horse cars were permitted at long intervals to run on Brattle street, famous for its Revolutionary and other historical associations, but on the introduction of the electric road, the residents of Brattle street rose en masse, and demanded the removal of the tracks from the sacred precinct. This was done, and the citizens with a proper regard for the historic fame of the beautiful old street now willingly walk from their homes tot he cars several blocks distant.

An attempt has been recently made by an already established electric railway corporation to secure an extension through Old Kingston, Mass. Fortunately the selectman recognized the rights of the remonstrants (men and women, who, being descendants of the founders of the old town, and drawn back to it by its peaceful quiet and rural beauty, had bought and restored several old homesteads there) and the scheme was defeated. In Newton, at much pecuniary sacrifice, land was given by certain citizens and a new street laid out, in order to prevent the location of a trolley line on a prominent street. The story of Greenfield's resistance to trolley lines on her principal residence and business streets is fresh in all minds.

To the eastern location there are already four well travelled roads. Between Academy Lane (Memorial) and the road at the north end, two plank walks can be made. These would give six approaches to the electric road within one mile, as many stops probably as the road management would wish to make within that distance.

Now will our selectmen who have our financial welfare, as well as our personal convenience at heart, consider what advantages the street route will bring to the town-what from a money point of view will the road do for us? We shall receive no franchise-the Commonwealth gives the free use of her highways to railway companies.

Will this location increase the value of our real estate and thus add to our somewhat depleted treasury? Generally speaking, the farmers of the street have not grown richer, and have not been able to improved, and many thousands of dollars thereby added to the valuation of property.

At the south end of our street was an ugly charred ruin, and a corner lot overgrown with weeds. Mr. Abercrombie has changed that into a charming house and well-kept lawn. He testified at the hearing that he would not have bought and restored this property had he supposed a street trolley line possible. On the next lot, at great cost, he has entirely rebuilt one of the oldest houses in town, hoping and expecting to sell or rent it to a desirable tenant. This hope he thinks will be frustrated by a trolley line through the street.

Mr. and Mrs. Champney are very strongly opposed to the street location. Their house came to Mrs. Champney by inheritance, but they would hardly have changed the homestead into the attractive place it now is, built the studio and added to their taxable property in Deerfield, had they imagined anything so incongruous as a trolley line in front of their home.

Mrs. Whiting would not have bought her large estate, nor Mr. Miller, the dear old gambrel roofed house not owned by his daughters. This means that there would have been no Blue and White society, which has furnished profitable employment to so many, having actually distributed several thousand dollars among its employees.

Think of Frary house before Miss Baker bought and rebuilt it. Windowless, chimneyless, roofless, a menace to surrounding property, a disgrace to the Common. What it has been since, and what it has done for the town in many ways, needs no repetition here.

Mrs. Wynne and Miss Putnam deserve the gratitude of all Deerfield for the preservation and restoration of two houses, dear to us for their past history and associations,--the Willard house, and the Hitchcock house.

Because of what has been done already, the value of real estate was enhanced, and Mr. Wittlesey received a higher price for the old Stebbins house than he would otherwise have received. The purchase and restoration of tat house (the most perfect of its type now standing in New England) and its occupancy by Mr. and Mrs. Sheldon is a public boon.

Not one of the houses mentioned would have been bought or restored had an electric or other railway through Deerfield street been projected. Yes! Messrs. Assessors; we know that the houses will stay, and will bring taxes to your treasury, even if the present owners do remove, as some surely will. But we know just as surely that the new occupants will be of a different class. A distinguished writer has lately been considering a residence here, desiring to make over an old house. Electric cars in Deerfield street will nip that plan in the bud.

Is it not perfectly evident that it is the new comers who have improved the street, that there will be no more of the same sort, and that an electric road through the street will depreciate property. The Arts and Crafts exhibition attracted much attention and many visitors. About 500 people came to it. Does some one say more would have come if we had an electric road? Doubtless, but however many they would willingly have walked the short distance from the route now proposed, and on the other hand if the electric road had been here earlier there would have been no arts and crafts exhibition- nor any village room, for Miss Coleman, to whom we owe this attractive memorial, would not have been living here, nor indeed would most of the workers who made this interesting exhibit. A possible objection to taking private land for the route we urge, is already answered by the testimony of the engineer at the hearing, that the route now surveyed between Cheapside bridge and Wapping, alternating as they make it between highway and meadows, actually includes three miles. The route amended by Mr. Sheldon and his fellow-petitioners will cross the foot of the home lot, a distance of about a mile. As evidence of their desire for the best interests of the town, many of the owners of these lots have pledged themselves to give the land needed without compensation.

A Plea for Deerfield Street.

The petition of the Greenfield and Deerfield street railway so endangers the charm and not only that, the prosperity, of one of the most beautiful village streets in New England, that the projectors ought to yield so far as to accept George Sheldon's amendment to the bill now before the House of Representatives. The laying of the electric road's tracks through the old street involves without question the destruction of its beauty. It cannot be done without the cutting down of a considerable number of the great elms and maples which are a glory of the street, the serious injury at several points in the street, where the roadway is even now narrow, to the properties on either side. At one or tow of those places the injury would be irreparable. The remonstrants are largely those who have sought Old Deerfield because of its great beauty and rare seclusion,- because it is an unspoiled village as the fathers founded it, with venerable and beautiful old houses of colonial days, underneath the historic shades and with the gracious quiet which characterizes such a street. Any one who is familiar with Old Deerfield will understand by the mere suggestion what great harm will result in case the bill shall pass as presented.--Springfield Republican

Deerfield as a "Little Eden."

Now it is the Greenfield and Deerfield street railway which threatens to mar the beauty of one of the most picturesque and restful of our Massachusetts towns by running it line through the main street of Old Deerfield, and there will be a strong sympathy, reaching far beyond the confines of the town itself, with those who are remonstrating against this proposition at the state house. Nature and the intelligent co operation of the inhabitants have wrought out a little Eden here in the valley. It is near enough to the steam road for all matters of necessity, and far enough away not to have its peace disturbed by the locomotive. There seems no objection to admitting the electric road into the town, but hose who have its interests most at heart object for the best of reasons to its invasion of one of the grandest country streets in America. It would hardly be more of a sacrilege to run a trolley line through the middle of Boston common than through the main street of Old Deerfield.- Boston Transcript.

The Other Side's Statement.

Reasons Why the Road should go Through Old Deerfield Street.

The protest raised against allowing the proposed street railway to go through Old Deerfield street, has disclosed this week that there is a strong party who favor such action. This party claim that the road will be of but little use to Old Deerfield unless it does go through the street. This statement was made to the Gazette and Courier this week, with the request that it be published in connection with the protest which appears in this issue:

"The value of the road to Old Deerfield will be very little unless it goes through the street. If it is place east of the village it will be reached only with much inconvenience. There will be only with much inconvenience. There will be only three ways to get at it, by the depot road, or at the two ends of the street where the road bends to the east. Instead of having the road go by the front door of every house in the village, every one will have to travel a long distance to take the cards, on an average, half a mile. In winter this means a long, wet walk through slush and snow. It will not be possible to get
across to the road across the lot of the abutters on the east side, so that everyone must travel by one of the three ways mentioned above. Under these circumstances the road will not pay. If it is necessary to walk to take the cars, people will prefer to go to the steam railway, which will be but littler farther away, and will carry people where they want to go in much less time. The only hope for the prosperity of the road as far as Old Deerfield patronage is concerned is to have it go by our front doors, thus saving the long walk to the station, and collecting a good many fares from people going from one part of the street to another.

It is doubtful if the road is ever built unless it goes through the street. The majority of the people want it to go that way, and any board of selectmen that may be chosen will be very unlikely to grant a franchise unless the road is to go through the street. What we need is an easy access to Greenfield, and that will not be had if the road goes outside the village.

There is no foundation for the idea that the trees will be injured. There was never a street in which a street railway could be put through with less injury to the trees because of the height of the limbs from the ground. Selectman Chas. Ashley, and Theodore Childs, superintendent of streets for 10 years, say that scarcely a limb will need to be touched: There is room for either a center location, or a side location, with 20 feet poles, with scarcely any cutting of the trees.

The opposition comes largely from the summer residents. If they had to live here all year around they would feel differently, and would realize the value of handy transportation when this village is snowbound and shut in by winter. The beauty of the street will not be injured in the least. The tracks can be carried outside the line of travel, and turfed between the rails, and the street will lose nothing of its character. This opposition that quickly disappears, when the road is built, and people come to realize its convenience."

"It is no more than right that it should be generally known that of the six appearing at the hearing in opposition only one resides in Deerfield during the year. The rest own summer residences and come for a few months in summer when it is a pleasure to walk to the depot and elsewhere. A person who can afford to own a summer residence can keep a team and coachman, while the poorer class and farmers must walk a mile to the depot or walk two miles to the electric car at Cheapside. They cloaked their opposition with an amendment to turn the road 40 roads back in the lot, knowing well that it would be the death of the road if adopted, as it would mean going through 23 home lots which are sued for farming purposes, and that this would be fought to the end by most of the owners." A petition against Mr. Sheldon's amendment has been largely signed.

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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Deerfield debated the trolley for months before it was put into place. This article summarizes the arguments for and against it. The main objections were aesthetic: that a trolley would violate the peace and serenity of "The Street," the main thoroughfare in Old Deerfield. Others argued that the trolley was important for the town's future prosperity. Alternate routes were proposed, but in the end the railroad commissioners approved the route through the center of town and the trolley-line was built. It ran until 1924, when the rapid proliferation of automobiles contributed to the end of the company.


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"Deerfield Electric Road"

publisher   Greenfield Gazette and Courier
date   Feb 24, 1900
location   Greenfield, Massachusetts
process/materials   printed paper, ink
item type   Periodicals/Newspaper
accession #   #L02.168

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See Also...

Reasons in Favor or Against the Trolley Route in Deerfield

Trolley Car

Letter to George Sheldon regarding trolley

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