Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Conifer Hill update

On Sunday afternoon August 25, 2013, I had an opportunity for a quick ride through Danvers. We drove north on Rte 1 and approached the familiar area of my childhood.  I spotted the red Putnam Pantry Candies building ahead on the right -- a meaningful landmark at the intersection of Rte 62. That building hasn't changed much, but most of the other landmarks I knew in the 1950's and 1960's are long gone.

The Danvers Liquor Store at the next intersection has now been replaced by a large CVS store. We turned right onto the street there, the old street of my childhood. In my mind's eye I can see my father's shop, my grandfather's house, our little house (#120) where I lived for my first 14 years, and then the bigger house (#121) up on the hill that was my home base for years. Even after I had married and moved away, I returned to visit my parents there.  I can visualize those old places so clearly!

But the scene is very different today. Nichols Street has been renamed Conifer Hill Drive, and a huge new housing complex called Conifer Hill Commons is under construction.  I had seen the construction site in April, noted the dramatic re-shaping of the hill, and pondered the fate of the trees on the narrow ridge. Now I was curious to see what was emerging.

I picked up a rental application form at the main gate and learned that applications received by August 16 would qualify for the initial lottery for the property -- that lottery to be held on Tuesday, August 27, 2013.  TODAY!

The address of Conifer Hill Commons is 121 Conifer Hill Drive. Its entrance drive is located right where Nichols Street and Speedwell Place used to intersect, right where our driveway to 121 Nichols Street began. But our driveway was a new construction in 1957, cutting through the old stone wall of the Locust Lawn property to provide convenient access to the new house we were constructing there. 

Earlier generations would describe it differently. That location is where Preston Street once ended, intersecting with Nichols Street, which in those days continued straight north over the side of Nichols Hill (or Dales Hill) towards its eventual connection to Ferncroft Road.  (In my next post I'll share images of an early map.)  Even I remember walking up that unpaved section of Nichols Street through the thick woods and then emerging into an open slope facing northwest towards Ferncroft.  I also remember when my grandparents' address, just around the corner, was 123 Preston Street.  At some point (perhaps during the 1949/50 reconstruction of Rte 1 to reduce hills and eliminate the stop light at Rte 62), the Preston Street crossing of Route 1 was blocked and the "orphaned" piece of Preston Street east of Rte 1 was re-named Nichols Street. My grandparents' address had to change to 124 Nichols Street, though they didn't move at all.  The formerly straight Nichols St then bent around the corner at our house, leaving "orphaned" the northward unpaved segment (which no longer connected across Rte 1 to Ferncroft, so it was little used.)  That bend is still recognizable today. New stonewalls have been built to replace the old ones, I'm happy to report. 

Given this history, I can certainly understand why the Nichols Street segment I knew so well now has a new name. Route 95 had cut it off from the lower section of Nichols Street, so it too became a disconnected fragment, or orphan.  

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