Friday, August 31, 2007

Postcards: The Green, Westfield, Massachusetts

On September 2, 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt visited Massachusetts, stopping in Westfield and appearing before a large crowd that had gathered to hear him speak from a platform on the town Green. Although EWM was unable to find a transcript of that speech in time for this posting, perhaps it wasn't much different than the one he gave the same day in Fitchburg which contained this nugget of wisdom:

(Speaking to the Civil War veterans in attendance) "You had to win as the soldiers of Washington had won before you, as we of the younger generation must win if ever the call should be made upon us to face a serious foe. Arms change, tactics change, but the spirit that makes the real soldier does not change. The spirit that makes for victory does not change.

It is just so in civic life. The problems change, but fundamentally the qualities needed to face them in the average citizen are the same. Our new and highly complex industrial civilization has produced a new and complicated series of problems. We need to face those problems and not run away from them. We need to exercise all our ingenuity in trying to devise some effective solution, but the only way in which that solution can be applied is the old way of bringing honesty, courage and common-sense to bear upon it. One feature of honesty and common-sense combined is never to promise what you do not think you can perform, and then never fail to perform what you have promised. And that applies to public life just as much as in private life."

It's no "Speak softly and carry a big stick," the now-famous line which, interestingly enough, Roosevelt had included in his speech exactly one year earlier at the Minnesota State Fair, yet the timeless wisdom of the above passage certainly demonstrates Roosevelt's ability to inspire and exhort the citizenry just as effectively as that better-known quote.

No Presidents will be gracing Westfield with their presence this Labor Day weekend, but that doesn't mean that the Green won't be a source of inspiration for the folks of Westfield just the same, as the 4th Annual "Westfield Arts on the Green" kicks off its "End of Summer Celebration," on Saturday, September 1. Running all three days of the long weekend, the cultural potpourri will be open for public perusal and participation from 9 a.m to 7 p.m. each day. For more information on the event, visit

Here are a few old postcards of Westfield's Green, from the Shaffer Collection, kindly donated to EWM by historian Barbara Shaffer. Thanks Barbara!

Where's the statue of General Shepard? Postmarked January 22, 1909, this postcard was mailed over ten years prior to the erection of the tribute to one of Westfield's most-cherished towns-men and historical figures. The Shepard Monument, located south of the Green, celebrates its 88th birthday this coming Monday, having been originally dedicated on September 3, 1919.

The steeple of the Presbyterian Church can be seen in this postcard. In the 1840s, the area on the east-side of the Green was known as "Rum Row," and was a place where no respectable person desired to be seen, and where citizens concerned for their safety dared not tread after dark.

The Green has been the "Common Ground" for Westfield residents since the 1600s, when it was purchased by some of the city's earliest residents and donated for the use of grazing the livestock of Westfield citizens. Trees were planted on the Green as part of a citizen initiative in the mid-1800s. The "Shade Tree Fund" resulted in Elms being planted on the Green and along the main roads leading to it, giving Elm Street the name it has held since.

On a personal note, I can't pass the Green without thinking of my grandfather, who whiled away many an afternoon toward the end of his years sitting on the bench that faced the Post Office with his cronies, watching the world go by from this special patch of land that has itself seen the centuries roll through from its unique vantage point at the city's core.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

September 2, 2010 - Westfield's Green is getting an extreme makeover! Check out EWM post Westfield's Park Square Gets a(n) (Extreme) Makeover for some photographs from the area, snapped two years apart (2008/2010).

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Bruce said...

Your Granddad most likely sat there watching the man from the sporting goods store take customers out on to the side walk and show them how to fly fish.
His name was Skavitsky. If I spelled it right.

Mark T. Alamed said...

Could that have possibly been Joe Kavitski (sp?)? I remember his sporting goods store.

My grandfather warmed that bench during the late '70s, early '80s.

sojourner said...

You are a fascinating tour guide. The "Rum Row" story is entertaining and the story of your grandfather, charming.

dan said...

Great site. I am going to post a link on the Westfield Wheelmen site.

A note about the south side of the Green. This is the spot where the first organized game baseball was played in Westfield in the 1840s. General Shepard stands in centerfield looking south into the infield.

Mark T. Alamed said...

sojourner (Barbara),

Without your postcards and the book "The First Three-Hundred Years," which I consult often, these glimpses into Westfield's history wouldn't be possible.

Thank you again for the wonderful gifts!


Thanks for adding that cool nugget of information! It makes it easier to picture the base ball field with General Shepard as a landmark in centerfield.

I appreciate the link, too.


LarryK4 said...

Yeah, Teddy had it right about soldiers requiring a dedicated core, no matter what the current state of technology may be. But I guess you would expect that from a guy who led the Rough Riders.

Back in 1970 Simon and Garfunkel sang: “In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him til he cried out in his anger and his shame I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains
Yes he still remains.”

deborah wilson said...


Just stopping by to visit your blog, I followed the link from Bill Dusty's blog a while back, and he recommended you again yesterday.

You have an excellent blog, keep up the good work. There are a lot of folks from the N.E. in my area, I'll be sure to pass your link to them. :)

Mark T. Alamed said...

Thanks Deborah!

My submariner son is stationed down around your way, in King's Bay, Georgia.

Nice part of the country.

AlishaWestfield said...

Mark, I adore your webpage. I saw the war memorial in Westfield highlighted on Channel 40 on Pearl Harbor Day. It's a stump of an old tree and there was a nice shot of Ray Herschel trying to obstruct the depressing view of construction and debris. Where do the old men in town go now? McDonalds...

Mark T. Alamed said...

Thanks Alisha!

Are you talking about the memorial in the triangular park across from Holy Trinity church? I got some photos of that the other day.

The park between Meadow Street and the river, torn up now because of the construction, is named Wojkiewicz Park, and was a tribute to Chief Petty Officer, First Class , Frank P. Wojkeiwicz, who was Westfield's first casualty of World War II, killed December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor.

AlishaWestfield said...

Well, I wish that there was a better way to memoralize someone than a tree stump...I can't wait for the construction to be done! I do have a fascination with watching that bridge grow further across the river. Those guys move fast!!! Do you know if Westfield still produces whips?

Kim said...

I absolutely love your blog... the last two nights I have sat hear reading your stories about Westfield.... Your missing an important postcard of the green! The one from 1969 with the big birthday cake!!! My uncle as an electricians apprentice wired the cake so it would light up at night :o)

Mark T. Alamed said...


Thank you very much! It really keeps me going to know that folks are enjoying EWM.

I don't have a postcard of the cake, but I do have a couple of books with photos of it on the Green in them. I also have the memory of seeing it in person in 1969. I was only 6 at the time, but I do remember the big cake on the Green. I remember wishing it were real cake, lol.

Maybe your uncle knows my father, who is also an electrician since way back when.

Thanks again, Kim.

I appreciate you taking the time to let me know you like my blog.