A Walk Through the Parklands
Saltbox Road and the Parklands Beyond the Railroad Tracks
Saltbox Road is an abandoned road (to car traffic, anyway) that extends from Freedom Street a few hundred yards beyond
the railroad crossing, up to Overdale Parkway. Originally it continued on to North Avenue in Mendon. In the top picture you
can see the road, the yellow gate at the entrance, and a bit of Freedom Street on the right. It runs more or less parallel to
Freedom Street, from behind the old dump to the intersection at Overdale Parkway.
In recent decades that section of Freedom Street has often been referred to as Saltbox Road, and sometimes as Soapbox
Road. In town records and the street listing books, an Old Salt Box Road is included up to present time. One house is
shown as having 1 Old Salt Box Road as its address. It's the last house on the left, as you travel up Overdale Parkway. You'd
think it would have an Overdale address, since Old Salt Box Road almost looks like its driveway. (photo below) As to the
nearby section of Freedom Street, from behind the old dump to the Mendon line, Saltbox is evidently an informal thing,
resulting from people attaching the name of the old dirt road to the newer paved road that replaced it. Town records wouldn't
be calling a piece of Freedom Street by another name. Informal names that people tag onto things can be an entirely
different matter. There has been quite a discussion on Facebook during the past couple of days (in July 2015) about
whether the correct name is Saltbox or Soapbox. I'd say there's no doubt that the old dirt road is Saltbox. (Frank Dutcher, who
knew a thing or two about Hopedale, wrote that it had gotten that name because there had been a family by the name of
Dillon who had lived in a saltbox-style house along the road.) It may be that saltbox sounds close enough to soapbox that
some started calling it by that name. Some commenting on Facebook thought there had once been soapbox derby races
there. My guess is that the younger you are, the more likely it is that you call it Soapbox Road or Soapbox Hill.
but not on the "Soapbox Hill" section of Freedom Street. The starting line was near the Oak/Freedom intersection and the
finish line was at Dutcher Street. It's possible that kids made their own cars and raced down Soapbox Hill from time to time,
but I'm sure there were never any formal races there. Click here for a page on the races.
For most of its length, Saltbox Road looks much like what you see in the first three pictures near the top of the page. Stone
walls run along most of it on both sides. The last hundred yards or so, as you get near Overdale Parkway, are overgrown.
Several old foundations can be seen near the road. They're fairly close to each other, and I think at least one of them was
probably for a barn.
There are several paths that branch off of Saltbox Road. One of them leads to the fieldstone shelter called the Lookout. The
bottom picture, which shows Hopedale Pond, was taken near the Lookout.
at the time it got the name.
Freedom Street at that time (during the days of the Hopedale Community - 1842 - 1856) went to Mendon, up the steep hill
past the "Saltbox" place, now (1910) occupied by the Dillon family. Frank Dutcher, Hopedale Reminiscences.
Caboose House on Overdale Parkway HOME
It's interesting to see that this little clipping of the 1922 town directory shows that
there was an occupied house on Saltbox (or Salt Box, as they wrote it then) Road.
The last year Hapgood's name appears is 1925.. For some years after that, I haven't
found anyone listed as living on Salt Box. My guess is that the house was very old
and in such poor condition that no one wanted it, and it was eventually razed or fell
down on its own. In recent years one house is shown being on Old Salt Box Road. It
may be that that's where OSB meets Overdale. Possibly that's where the Hapgood
home was. I've looked through the street listing books, but the fact that for many
years the Overdale houses didn't have numbers adds to the difficulty of figuring what
I've included this clipping here because, according
to Frank Dutcher, it was the Dillon saltbox-style
house that gave Saltbox Road its name. The house
may have stood on one of the foundations shown in
pictures above. "Overlook" must refer to what's now
called Overdale Parkway. I don't know if that's what it
was called at one time, and later changed to
Overdale, or more likely, it's a typo.
The saltbox originated in New England, and is an example of American colonial architecture. One theory holds that the
saltbox form was popularized by Queen Anne's taxation of houses greater than one story. Since the rear of the roof
descended to the height of a single-story building, the structure was exempt from the tax. More likely, though, the saltbox
shape evolved organically from the need for additional space for growing families; adding a lean-to was an economical way
to enlarge the house.
The earliest saltbox houses were created when a lean-to addition was added onto the rear of the original house extending
the roof line sometimes to less than six feet from ground level. Old weathered clapboards are still in place on parts of the
original rear exterior walls of some of the earliest New England saltbox houses. The hand-riven oak clapboards on both the
Comfort Starr House and Ephraim Hawley House are preserved in place in the attic that was created when the lean-to was
added onto the original house. The style was popular for structures throughout the colonial period and into the early
Republic, perhaps because of the simplicity of its design.
The "winter pictures" were taken in December 2006. Those showing leaves on the trees are from September 2011 A path off of
Saltbox Road leads to the dirt road that begins at the end of Overdale Parkway and ends at The Lookout. The picture above, looking
down at Hopedale Pond, was taken from that road.
A saltbox house. Evidently the one on Saltbox Road was of this
style, but I'd think it was far smaller and probably quite rustic.
Anyone farming that rocky hillside couldn't afford much of a house.
Old Salt Box Road - 2015
Below - Google Earth views of the Saltbox Road section of
Freedom Street, and, faintly visible in this March 1995 view, the
dirt road which was the original Saltbox Road. I've included
one view with, and one without street lines and names. The
Mendon town line is on the left, parallel to Overdale Parkway.