Fire At Sky Farm in Mendon in 1912 Destroys Two Buildings
The fire at Sky Farm at 21 North Avenue in Mendon on September 10, 1912, destroyed two buildings, leaving
it in a diminished agricultural condition. Flames consumed the barn and the carriage shed and all of their
contents. The once productive farm of the 1800's served as a link connecting two of the region's massive
food producing families: the Davenports of North Avenue and the Dudleys of Milford Street. The structures
were not rebuilt, leaving the farm without its storage facilities for hay, farm wagons, cultivators, harnesses,
mowing machines, and other equipment. Though the incident was devastating, and it left a new challenge
for farming operational procedures, it was not the only factor that had brought change to Sky Farm.
The fire was discovered by Mrs. Lora Williams, owner, about 4:30 p.m. A newspaper account indicated that
the barn was quickly engulfed and spread to the shed. A phone call to Fred Brown's store in Mendon center
brought several volunteers with chemical extinguishers in his auto truck. The Hopedale Fire Department
responded with an auto ladder truck and a forest fire wagon. The burning buildings were too far gone to
save, so the men concentrated on saving the house. Thanks to their efforts, with the help of distance and
wind direction, there was no damage to the main building. However, a significant agricultural aspect of Sky
Farm had been lost.
The fire at Sky Farm reflected in some ways what was happening to other farms in town. Their functions
were being lessened by a change brought about, not by flames, but by a new transportation system. Since
the opening of the Milford-Uxbridge Electric Street Railway in 1901, Sky Farm served as a boarding house
for Lake Nipmuc Park's vaudeville stars and city vacationers. The actors and actresses travelled to and from
the theater by trolley, as did park visitors and vacationers. For eleven years before the fire, the main function
of the farmhouse had already changed. The electric street railway brought new occupational opportunities to
other farmers. It provided easy access to out of town factories and businesses. Many chose to give up a way
of life that had been in their families for generations. Farms were sold and were replaced by houses.
The fire at Sky Farm was a symbol of change. The automobile, the construction of Mass. Pike, and the
location of Route 495 have fanned the flames and left Mendon with diminished evidence of what was once
the backbone of its agrarian economy. The charred embers of the barn and carriage shed in 1912 were a
sign of what was to take place over the next century, and that to make a living in Mendon, one no longer had
to be a tiller of the soil.
Today, Sky Farm is the attractive, historically preserved home of Jim and Debbie MacDonald.
Richard Grady September 28, 2014
Mendon Agriculture in the Nineteenth Century Mendon Menu
Summer guests enjoy a game of croquet.
Sky Farm - 1998