Early Modern Period (1915-1945)

Transportation Routes
By the 1920's, many existing town roads had been improved for auto traffic by widening and straightening, and were routinely oiled in the summer to keep down the dust. The larger roads were paved by the 1930's. With the advent of the automobile, service ended on the electric trolley line through Hudson and south Bolton in 1924. Gas pumps were seen at several locations in town by the 1930's, even in front of some houses on the Great Road that had been opened for small restaurants or shops. A single-runway airport, the Bolton Airport, opened in the southwest part of town in the mid-1930's. One new side street, Chace Street, was opened at the southwest corner of town in about 1925.
The population of Bolton remained fairly steady from 1915 (768) to 775 in 1940, with a high of 801 in 1925 and a brief low of 539 in 1935. 1919 marked the end of World War I and the return of the American forces. Thirty-eight men and women from Bolton had served in the war; two had been killed in France.
Educational philosophy and organization continued to change. In 1917 the Houghton School became a Junior High School, and high school students attended regional schools in Hudson and Clinton. In 1922-23 Col. Edward Emerson donated Bolton's first true elementary school building to the town, the Emerson School at 50 Mechanic Street (#17--NRDIS), as a memorial to his wife and daughter, who had been killed in the sinking of the Titanic. In 1926 the second Bolton meetinghouse, which had been the First Parish Church for nearly a century, burned down, and was replaced two years later by the present Colonial Revival church (#79--NRDIS). In 1931, in a rare example of a consolidation of disparate religious trends, three religious societies which had been declining in numbers for many years, the First Parish (Unitarian), the Baptists, and the Monthly Meeting of Friends united to form the Federated Church of Bolton/First Parish of Bolton. The 1866 Baptist Church, along with several barns and the line of trees in front of the Pan Burying Ground, was destroyed in the Great Hurricane of 1938. At least one house, on Nourse Road, was later built of "hurricane lumber". With the Baptists by then part of the Federated Church, the church was not rebuilt.
Settlement Pattern
With the decline and then stabilization in Bolton's population, there was little residential development in town between the two World Wars. Some further summer-cottage and recreational development took place at the two largest ponds and at the small "camp" colony at the foot of South Bolton Road. Bolton is fortunate to have an extremely well-preserved "camp", the Persons Camp of 1919 on Little Pond, that is now owned by the town (#229--see Area Form D).
Economic Base
Bolton continued to have a primarily agricultural economy through the entire Early Modern period. Its emphasis shifted somewhat, however, with an increase in fruit-growing, more market-gardening, and much more poultry raising, especially during the 1920's, when the number of chickens and turkeys in town doubled between 1920 and 1925. By 1940 the town was producing 83,600 dozen eggs per year. Part of the increase was due to the establishment of at least two very large poultry farms--one at the old Fry Farm at 385 Berlin Road (#133), where a huge multi-story poultry house remains, the other at the former dairy farm at 96 Long Hill Road (#149).
Despite a drop in the total number of cows by almost one-half, due to modernized methods milk production actually increased during the period. By 1940, 308 Bolton cows were producing two million pounds of milk annually. Several old farms were converted mainly to orchards during this period, which grew not only apples, but peaches, pears, and quinces. The farmhouse of an old Houghton farm, later Joel Felton's "Valley View Farm" at 92 Wataquadoc Road, burned down in 1928. It was purchased, the house replaced, and a large orchard established by Dr. and Mrs. Roy Clemens, who renamed it "Upland Farm" (see Area Form K). On Wilder Road, the Bolton Fruit Company, whose orchards at the former Reed farm at 76 Wilder Road (Area Form H) were just coming to maturity at the start of the Depression, went out of business, and the property was bought by J.A. Davis & Sons of Sterling, who established their Bolton Orchards there. In 1937, after the burning of two farmhouses at the "East End" on the Great Road (see below), Howard Stephenson bought two adjoining farms which became the foundation for today's Bolton Spring Farm orchards (Area Form C).
During the Great Depression, several new types of short-lived business enterprises were undertaken, some of them by entrepreneurs from out of town. A fox farm was established opposite the old Haynes house at 304 Still River Road (#163) from which fox pelts were shipped to New York for the fur trade for a few years. At the east end of town, the old Whitcomb Lime Quarry was reopened to much publicity for the manufacture of agricultural lime by a company from Somerville, but it went out of business within a year. With the increase in recreational automobile travel, several homeowners opened small restaurants and "tea rooms" in some of the old farmhouses along the Great Road, which by the end of the period had become Route 117. One tea room was located in the old Whitney House at 138 Still River Road (#161), two others were opened in the East End, at the huge old Whitcomb family homestead (which burned down in 1936), and at a smaller house to its east, which also burned down.
Residential: Very little residential development took place during this period, and most of the houses that were built were modest in scale. A few Craftsman cottages with Colonial Revival detailing were constructed through the 1920's, some on outlying farms, a few more at the center. 2 Wheeler Road (#356), a well-preserved side-gabled Craftsman cottage, was built in about 1925 on the site of one of Bolton's oldest houses, an early saltbox belonging to the Wheeler family. A few two-story, nearly astylistic gable-front houses were built in the early part of the period, including one by Harry Sutton at 723 Main Street (#193--NRDIS) in about 1918. Chace Street, the period's only new side street (see Area Form O) has one of Bolton's only examples of a little Dutch Colonial Revival house of about 1926, at 2 Chace Street (# 337), and a ca. 1930's Cape Cod cottage (at 12 Chace [#341]), of which there are several throughout Bolton.
A few isolated examples of other house types were also built. The most stylish is probably the shingled Arts and Crafts house that Dr. and Mrs. Clemens built at their Upland Farm at 92 Wataquadoc Road (Area Form K) in 1929, with banks of casement windows and a large fieldstone chimney on the facade. One building unique in Bolton is the Powers House of 1942, built in the form of a traditional gambrel-roofed "Cape Ann cottage" at 615 Main Street (#187--NRDIS). Outbuildings: After World War I a few large gambrel-roofed barns were built in Bolton. One sits overlooking the fields and meadows east of the Still River at 386 Still River Road (#265--Area Form G); another was added behind the earlier New England barn at the Prospect Farm on West Berlin Road (#314--Area Form M). With the automobile era came the construction of garages on residential properties. Most of the earliest were built for one car, with either a gabled or hipped roof. A few were constructed of rock-faced concrete block; several later garages of the 1930's and early 1940's are clad in the beveled or "drop" siding that became popular at that time.
Institutional: The Emerson School of 1923 (#17--NRDIS) and the First Parish/Federated Church of 1928 (#79--NRDIS) on Main Street at the center are both vigorously Colonial Revival buildings. The school, designed by architect Luther Greenleaf, is a hip-roofed brick building with a central lantern atop its slate roof, round-arched openings across the facade, and a full-height, Doric tetrastyle portico. The church was designed by Edwin Chapin of Worcester, with a tall three-stage steeple and a Palladian window above a tetrastyle portico.
Commercial: Harry Sutton's Bolton Garage of ca. 1919 (#192--NRDIS; 719 Main Street) was built of rock-faced concrete block with a shallow-pitched roof and exposed rafter ends; it was greatly expanded to the rear in 1927. An unusual survival of a ca. 1920 store is located beside the house at 211 Hudson Road. This is a tiny, square hip-roofed building with large display windows and a double-leaf glass-and panel door (#235--see Area Form D).