A Page from North Quabbin History: Old Winchendon Centre 

  • The First Congregational Church, 1850, in Winchendon. WIKIPEDIA COMMONS

Published: 6/15/2022 4:55:26 PM
Modified: 6/15/2022 4:53:10 PM

Many have driven through Winchendon Center over the years. However, this well-known busy area was not the town’s first center. The Old Centre Historic District located at the top of High Street served as the town’s first center from 1752-1810, according to Guy Corbesiero, a member of the board of directors of the Winchendon History and Cultural Center and an alternate for the Winchendon Historical Commission.

The land which is now Winchendon, was originally given as land grants in 1735 to the descendants of officers and soldiers of the expedition to Quebec from New Ipswich, Massachusetts. This is why the area was originally named the Ipswich, Canada Plantation, according to the History of Winchendon by Ezra Hyde.

The oldest house at the center is the Day House. Richard Day who lived there was a settler and one of the first selectmen in town. This home was the first actual house built there, prior to that people had been housed in cabins. The rest of the houses in the Old Town Centre were built in approximately the next 10-year span, Corbesiero said.

Among the places of note at the Old Centre is a Revolutionary War training field at the corner of Hall and Teel roads. The original town common is still at the Old Centre. Several different meeting houses had been built around the common at different times. The current Congregational Church was built in the Historic district in approximately 1850 and serving at one time as the towns meeting house and church before the separation of church and state. Winchendon’s oldest cemetery where a number of the towns early founders are buried is also located in the historic district.

Among those who once lived in Old Winchendon Centre was Levi Morton, who served as vice president under William Henry Harrison. Morton lived there when his father served as Congregational pastor, at an earlier Congregational Church building from 1836 until 1841.

Eventually the center of town moved down to the hill to what is now Winchendon Center. This occurred because factories began building to access power provided by the Millers River. With the industries moving there, homes were built. Among the businesses which once made their homes in Winchendon were Baxter-Whitney, a basket making factory, Alaska Freezer, Morton-Converse Toy factory, and E. Murdock Company which later became part of New England Woodenware, still in business in Gardner.

The Winchendon History and Cultural Center has several items related to when Old Winchendon Centre was the center of town, including a land grant document signed by John Hancock, Bibles, and the first communion set from the 1850 church which now stands there.

The society also has items belonging to the first founders in town including Captain Murdock’s Revolutionary War uniform and Colonel Raymomd’s Revolutionary War backpack. Raymond served in the battle of Bunker Hill.

The Historical Commission is currently discussing possible new signage to mark the Old Center Historic District. The Historical Society is open on Thursday night for Porch Night where visitors can sit and converse on the porch and receive tours of the building, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. To tour the building at another time an appointment can be set up by emailing the historical and cultural center at info@winchendonhistory.com. 

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