Episode 59: Corn, Cotton, and Condos; 378 Years on the Mother Brook

Everyone knows the Charles River and the Neponset River, but have you ever heard of the Mother Brook?  It is America’s first industrial canal, built by Puritan settlers in the earliest days of Massachusetts Bay Colony, and vital to the development of Dorchester, Hyde Park, and Dedham.  Plus, by connecting the rivers on either side, it turns the landmass occupied by Newton, Brookline, and most of Boston into an island!


Mother Brook

Hyde Park in 1890, with mills on the Mother Brook and Neponset River front and center.

A driving tour of the Mother Brook, starting at the floodgate along the Charles, and then visiting the 2nd, 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th dam privileges.

Featured Historic Site

For this week’s episode, we featured the Baker Chocolate factory at Dorchester Lower Mills.  It opened in 1764 on the site of the original 1634 water powered gristmill in Dorchester that was the first in New England.  The chocolate factory operated in the same location along the Neponset River for 201 years, closing in 1965.  Today, you can take a self guided walking tour of the factory grounds, see the dam and some exposed machinery, and take in all the historic mill buildings around Lower Mills.  To get there, we recommend taking the Mattapan High Speed Line, which runs original Pullman PCC streetcars built in the 1960s.

Upcoming Event

On January 4, Historic Beverly is hosting a reception for the opening of their new exhibit of early photographs and photographic techniques.  Called “In Pictures, the Photographic Sensation,” it focuses on the rapid growth of photography during the Victorian era.  The event is free, but the hosts ask that you RSVP by January 2.  From their website:

Join us for the opening reception for In Pictures: the Photography Sensation. Discover the sensationalism of photography in the Victorian era through photographs from the collection of Historic Beverly. Explore ambrotypes, carte-de-visites, cabinet cards, daguerreotypes, stereoscopes and tin types that not only show the growth in popularity of photography at the time but also connects Beverly to an artistic medium that we rely so heavily on today with our smartphones  cameras and Instagram.

3 thoughts on “Episode 59: Corn, Cotton, and Condos; 378 Years on the Mother Brook”

  1. Great episode! One (maybe two) corrections, though. The first settlers of the town didn’t name it Dedham. They wanted to call it Contentment, and it was the General Court who decided to call it Dedham. Secondly, I don’t know how it was said in 1641, but today Whiting is pronounced White-ing and not Whit-ing when referring to Whiting Ave, or the family whose farm made up today’s Oakdale neighborhood.

    1. Ah, but the town was never officially called Contentment, was it? I decided not to drag that debate into the episode, because I was afraid we were already in danger of losing people for focusing so much on Dedham instead of Boston. Good catch on the Whiting pronunciation, though. I’ve never heard it said out loud, so we had to sort of make a guess on which way to go with it. Thanks for listening, and thanks for getting in touch!

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