Rock sculpture in Medford.
How many residents of the Medford
of today remember anything of an industry of the old town that must have been an extensive one in its time?
The dark granite in many walls along our streets and in numerous house foundations is often noticed by visitors in the city and inquiry made about it. And a like inquiry was made years ago in relation to the red gravel that surfaced the broad malls of Boston Common, for both were from the same source.
Like many other good things, they were Medford
products, though not so widely known or distributed as some others.
granite was favorably known, and at the time when the polishing process came in vogue was found to lend itself to artistic work equally well with the other varieties.
It is not to this industry that we wish to call attention, [p. 23]
though an interesting article might well (and should be) written thereon by some one conversant with the facts.
The industry has long ceased, and the ‘Quarry road,’ over which the massive blocks and thousands of loads of red gravel were hauled is now only traversed by solitary horsemen or the carriages of pleasure seekers, or by lovers of nature rambling along its shady and quiet woodland way. Nature has for years been kindly healing the gashes and wounds made by the quarrymen, and the scars that remain are gradually disappearing as the seasons come and go.
Thanks to the efforts of interested and public-spirited men a great natural park is assured to the people, and the old granite quarry lies at its gateway.
But a short distance from Forest street and the new boulevard is a rare combination of the natural and the artificial, or rather accidental, an object of interest and one rarely seen, the ‘Old Man of the Fells.’
We deem the Old Man worthy of an introduction to our readers and to the public, and show him in his calm and graceful pose in our frontispiece.
So far as we know he has never been introduced to the people in print by any one, other than the present writer,1
who did so three years ago in the columns of the Medford Mercury
and Boston Globe
. To the former the Register is under obligation for its illustrations.
Shortly after such introduction the old man was visited by numerous people, to whom his existence was a revelation.
Some took the woodland walk and returned no wiser, having failed to discover him, though passing within a rod of his stony face.
Of course the reader will understand that, like every thing else of the kind, all depends on the point of view.
As one leaves Forest street and enters the Fells, Quarry road takes him over Gravelly brook
A few rods ahead to the right the rock ledge crops out, the eastern end of the old granite quarry.
Whether here was the end or the beginning of the quarrymen's work may never be known, but the farther, or western side of the rock is rent and torn by their blasts, while the eastern and southern are the natural slope.
As one walks along it is simply a woodland vista that he sees.
A few steps farther and the massive head begins to assume shape; a little farther and the forehead and eyebrows appear, then the jagged rock, wind-swept, storm-beaten and sun-kissed for long years, present the aquiline nose and firmly set chin of the Old Man of the Fells in his impressive pose.
A dignified and restful one it is, too, as he looks northward into the solitude and quiet of his domain, and seems like a watchful guardian of a sylvan shrine.
The Old Man is seen at his best by those who take a winter walk when snow has spread a mantle of ermine over his shoulders and white robes all about him. Then the sharp contrast of his rocky profile is all the more prominent, and under such conditions was our view secured.
A summer visit may be more comfortable to make, but will lack these features.
It will have the compensation, however, of bird songs, and the glinting sunlight as it plays through the quivering foliage will lovingly caress his devoted head, no longer with gray locks but many years young.
Unlike most of such weird rock sculpture, the Old Man may be viewed almost as well from the opposite direction, but at a greater distance.
A year since the writer walked thither from the Lawrence
tower in company with a Western prairie-born lady.
To her the wild, rugged scenery of the Fells was something new. As we walked over the height of Quarry road he remarked, ‘I'm going to introduce one of my friends to you,’ and she replied,‘Oh, yes!
I can see him.’
And sure enough, much to his surprise, he saw for the first time from that direction the placid face of the Old Man of the Fells peering out between the trees and keeping his lonely vigil.
On the eastern slope of the hill over which the early settlers of Woburn
penetrated the primeval forests to locate their Charlestown
village, lies a great boulder that is worthy of notice, partly because of its lonely position, and also because of its peculiar shape.
No artificial work on this, for ages agone it was left there by the irresistible forces of nature that shaped it thus.
It bears the semblance of a great stone beast, and of one that has ever been the human sculptor's favorite, the kingly lion.
Reposefully he lies on his rocky bed, his visage grim and dark with the suns and storms of centuries long past.
Could he but speak, what a story might be told of those ages long gone; of his far-away home, and how he was left stranded strangely alone on this rocky hillside!
Compared with those, the time when the red men came would be modern.
And he might tell of the last of that race that dwelt in our city but a few rods away from him, until they went for their last abode farther off in the rocky fastness now known as the Fells.
He would tell how the early settlers made their first road northward just behind him, and of the people and traffic that went over it for two hundred years. Within his view, not far away, the first Medford
meeting-house was built, and nearer still the woodland lane that still remains led to some early settler's home on Cedar hill
beyond the brook.
Not till seventy years ago was the new road (Winthrop street) cut through Sugar-loaf hill, and the stream of travel from Woburn
and farther north flowed down at his feet.
A little later, when steam had been utilized, some adventurous ones began the building of a railroad.
They failed in their effort, and work stopped with the rock-cut beside the lane sixty years ago. For years a band of gypsies had their summer rendezvous just below his rocky lair, but they come no more.
Silent as the Sphinx
in Mount Auburn
, this Medford
one has beheld sorrowful processions pass with their loved ones to the ever increasing but silent city of the dead.
Silently, also, has he seen some stranded by the [p. 26]
adverse waves of misfortune wending their way to the city home; but of none of these does he speak, but we may read it all between the lines.
In recent years the modern trolley cars have come nearer him than would those earlier ones, and have met for their passing just below, with their busy human freight.
Few, indeed, of all the throng have ever noticed the silent figure on the hillside, or recognized his form silhouetted against the sky. But all the time he has been lying there, stately and serene in reposeful attitude, only waiting for some one to stop in the right place, with eyes to see, camera to carry away the view, and the public print to reproduce by the modern process his leonine majesty on his rocky throne.
His audience chamber is limited to a small area on Winthrop street. His attendants, the cedars, wave their dark green plumes about him constantly, while the birches, like maids of honor in white robes, with fans of summer foliage vie in their attention and make it difficult to see him in all his royal state.
The rock ferns are thick about him, and the heavy green moss is like an emerald carpet before his throne, now ages old.
At a respectful distance, from a carefully selected point of view, because of the trees alluded to, may best be seen this boulder that requires but little imagination to be what some one has called it, the ‘Medford Lion.’
Just below Brooks street, coming toward Winthrop Square, is the place—and look up. It, with its surroundings, form a bit of natural scenery well worth seeing, but the right position must be taken.
This done, the shaggy mane and tail appear clearly, and best when the foliage is gone.