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SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – If you’ve never taken to time to walk through Shrewsbury’s rarely visited Prospect Park, today would have been the day to to it. This normally quiet little spot in the woods was bustling with activity today, as no less than three different groups of people came through to clean up, repaint and clear out this hidden jewel right in town center. Today we had the Mason’s, from the Whitehall Lodge running brush cleanup at the top of the hill where the original Whitehall mansion once stood. Just below them, the Shrewsbury High School, and Oak Middle School Leaders of Tomorrow Group teamed up with Martinelli Painting to clean out and repaint the antique pergola that is the only remaining structure left from the mansion and Masonic Hospital. Down at the entrance, the Friends of Prospect Park continued their work clearing trails, and removing brush and debris so that Shrewsbury residents can explore the site and it’s 70 acres of gorgeous woods.
I hope that in the future more groups come together to work on the park, because it truly is a one of a kind nature setting right in the middle of the suburbs. Seeing the great teamwork today, and the countless people willing to volunteer their time was truly inspiring, and the weather just made it extra special.
Special thanks today to Steve Epstein of Economy Paint, for donating all of the paint for the project, to Steve Martin and Nick Martinelli for their painting expertise, to Dina Martinelli for being our artist in residence, to SHS Junior Umbreen Majid for setting it al up, and to all of the Leaders of Tomorrow members for giving up one of the most gorgeous weekend days of the year to make the town a better place.
Here is some information on the history of the site, from the Friends of Prospect Park website.
In 1880 Matthew John Whittall built a mill in Worcester on Southbridge Street for the manufacture of fine carpets and rugs. The Whittall family lived at their city residence until building a great white Georgian summer estate in 1912. For this home Charles A. Kably, a realtor of Worcester, sold Mr. Whittall 100 acres of land on top of Meetinghouse Hill in Shrewsbury, which had consisted of seven separately-owned pieces of property.
Juniper Hall, as Mr. Whittall named his Shrewsbury estate, became a landmark for many miles around. It held one of the finest views in Central Massachusetts because of its location on the highest point in Shrewsbury. Its overlook includes Lake Quinsigamond and extends beyond Worcester to the hills of Paxton and Rutland; to the north can be seen Mt. Monadnock and Mt. Wachusett.
All the rooms in the two-story house were large, especially those on the first floor. The reception hall had a ceiling extending to the second floor with a surrounding balcony. Also on the first level were a butler’s pantry, music room, dining room, living room and breakfast room. There were four fireplaces, four bedrooms, and a large sitting room on the second floor. The sunporch, which looked out on formal gardens, covered nearly all of one side of the house.
Gardening was a particular hobby of Mr. and Mrs.Whittall. Juniper Hall became one of the show places of Worcester County, with its layout of the formal gardens, swimming pool, and the “picking flower” gardens. The grounds were famous, and familiar to many people, because the public was welcomed to visit and see the flowers in bloom. Lilac week at Juniper Hall was one of the season’s major events for those who were interested in flowers.
In the summer of 1922, Vice-president Calvin Coolidge visited Juniper Hall. In 1927, this white landmark framed in trees was deeded by Mrs. Whittall to the Grand Lodge of Masons of Massachusetts. It was her wish that the house be used for the relief of suffering, in memory of her husband who had died there in 1922 and who had been a 33rd-degree Mason. The structure became known to many in Shrewsbury and the area as the Masonic Hospital. The estate was bought by the town of Shrewsbury in 1976 and the building was later razed.
The mansion is gone now and so are the memories of different times; but the land remains and it is an enchanting world still. In place of formal gardens, there is wilderness with a hushed beauty of its own. Juniper Hall is now a memory, but the image of persists in its hollow on the summit.