Maintaining Upton's History
Upton is steeped in rich history. Part of the vision is to do everything possible to retain our historic structures in an economically sound way. Preserving our history ensures that generations to come will be able to appreciate and enjoy the roots of our town and the special feeling it brings to our community. Below, you can learn about the historic structures that exist within our downtown area.
Upton Center and the National Registry
Upton Center is often referred to as either “the Common” or “the Square”. The buildings that surround the Common to form “the Square” contribute to a sense of place as part of a traditional New England village. Several years ago Upton voters acknowledged the importance of that history by using Community Preservation Funds to hire consultants who worked with members of Upton Historical Commission to apply for National Register status for Upton Center North. The buildings on the Common are an integral part of that status. On January 14, 2015 the National Park Service approved the nomination of Mass Historic Commission to place Upton Center North on the National Register of Historic Places. This brochure describes what “National Register” status means.
National Register status does not prevent an individual or developer from demolishing a building. However, the Town of Upton has a demolition delay bylaw (page 95) that allows the Historical Commission to hold a hearing and work with a developer to find options other than tearing a building down. They can delay demolition up to a year, but cannot stop it if no other options are available.
The buildings around the Common that contribute to National Register status include civic, religious, business and residential components. Some discussions of the Working Group centered on understanding National Register status, the benefits, and parameters of what can be done within that designation.
Learn more about the buildings around the Common and other buildings in the National Register District.
The Upton Common is the centerpiece of Upton Center and the core of the Upton Center Historic District. The establishment of the Common as a center of Upton activity solidified during the 19th Century. With the addition of the two commanding Greek revival churches facing one another, and, an ever-changing influx of businesses, the area became known as Central Square. Eventually, the Common became a grassy triangular park populated by several impressive monuments. These include a Civil War monument added in 1890, a World War One monument added in 1921, and a combination monument honoring World War II, Korean, and Vietnam soldiers added in 1984. An iron fountain, now used as a planter, is thought to have been donated by the Women’s Temperance Union as a reminder to drink water, not alcohol. “Blessed are the Merciful” is inscribed on the bowl.
The Common has been thoroughly used and enjoyed by Upton residents throughout the years. Cattle shows were held until 1942 and the Common has hosted a variety of well-attended public events.
Upton Town Hall
(1 Main St)
Upton Town Hall was originally dedicated in 1884. It is one of two buildings in town that have been listed individually on the National Historic Register. Using Community Preservation Funds, the town completely restored and updated the building. They worked with Mass Historic Commission to make sure the work conformed to National Register standards. Today we have a town hall that everyone can be proud of and is the cornerstone of the Square. Visitors and people passing by easily recognize that Upton cares for its historic legacy.
(2 Main St.)
Knowlton-Risteen Building was built in 1876 as a Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1970, they joined with the Congregational Church to form United Parish. At that time the building was acquired by the town and work was done that significantly changed the exterior appearance. This included changing the roofline and removal of the steeple and bell tower. After the town remodeled the building, the library moved here from the Town Hall. The Upton Historic Commission was assigned space that Upton Historical Society uses for their museum.
An original round window with a daisy design was destroyed in a hurricane in the 1950’s. The round stained glass window that is there today was created in 1957 by local artist, Carl Paulson using a design referred to as “I am the Vine”. Carl’s design greatly increased the strength of the window and provides a unique and beautiful work of art that enhances the Town Common today.
Although it is a non-contributing building to the National Register status due to the 1970’s renovations, it holds a prominent place on the Common.
(1 Milford St.)
The “Arcade Block” is the historic name for the building located at 1 Milford St. Built in 1836, it currently houses several apartments on the second level with storefronts on the ground floor. The building is privately owned and located between two town-owned properties, the former Holy Angels Church and a Town parking lot. As the present owners have indicated a willingness to sell this property, it is the center of much discussion.
The Arcade has undergone numerous uses and physical changes over the years. Upton’s Post Office was in the building until 1885 and then again in 1921. A dry goods store was located here along with a Community Store, a florist, a Barber Shop, and other business at various times.
In the early 1900’s, a connecting shed-roof arcade was added making it one long building as we see today. The third floor was removed in the late 1900’s which made it ineligible to be a contributing building for the National Register designation. With its apartments and businesses, the Arcade is a reflection of the mixed-use concept so popular today. Many hope to duplicate this concept as part of the revitalization process.
The Lesure Building
(6 Milford St)
The Lesure Building at the east end of the Common is a privately owned building occupied today by Upton House of Pizza and Colonial Liquors. Built in 1874 by James Lesure, it frames the end of the “Square.” A previous building, built in 1848, burned in a fire and Mr. Lesure purchased the property to build the existing building for his drug store. It is a contributing building to the National Register District.
Churches on the Common
Holy Angels Church and United Parish are the bookends of the Common. Both buildings were built in 1848, facing each other across the Common. The two buildings feel massive in size when you are standing on their steps, but when you look at either church from the other church you get a sense of scale and balance that anchors the Common. Both are contributing buildings to the National Register District.
Holy Angels Church located at 1 Milford St on the South side of the Common was built by the First Unitarian Society. The Unitarians moved to West Upton in 1874 and this building was purchased for use by the Catholics in 1875. The church was renamed Holy Angels and served the Upton Catholic community until May 2011. At that time they joined with St Michael’s in Mendon in the newly built St. Gabriel the Archangel Church on Mendon St in Upton. After Holy Angels closed it was sold to a private party and eventually to the Town of Upton. The double height stained glass windows seen from Milford St. were added in the 1970s to fill the façade bays.
United Parish Church at 1 Church St. on the North side of the Common, was built by the Congregationalists as the third structure used by the first parish. It is a Greek revival building with a steeple that was destroyed by the 1938 Hurricane. After fundraising, that gained national attention and support, the steeple was replaced. The 1868 steeple that was erected in 1957 was a gift from the Oxford Methodist Church. The town clock was replaced on the steeple in 1957. On January 15, 1970, the Congregational Church joined with the Methodist Episcopal Church to become United Parish.
Note: Information used is compiled from several sources including the Upton Center North District application, 1984 MHC Surveys, Upton’ Heritage, and the 1935 Upton History.