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The Amazing Story of Hopedale, Massachusetts

Hopedale, Massachusetts Town Hall and Town Common restaurant
Historic Hopedale Town Hall and Town Common restaurant.

by Eric Hurwitz. Page updated on 3/15/17. All photos by Eric.

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The Town Common restaurant in Hopedale, Mass., has a very uncommon feature: it's located within the historic 1887-built Hopedale Town Hall building that features grand Romanesque brownstone architecture.

The restaurant's location suggests a dining spot that's about as "townie" as one could get. We see standalone townie restaurants in our downtown districts, at the strip malls, and as roadside shacks on remote streets, but I can't ever recall seeing a restaurant located in a town hall.

The Town Common restaurant is one of my local favorite places to eat -- an excellent breakfast and lunch place with the pleasing, old-fashioned combination of counter, tables, coffee brewing, and quick, efficient diner-like service. It's a terrific stop for comfort food meals like burgers, club sandwiches and pancakes (that are as wide as the plate!), etc.

When at the Town Common, I was glad to see that tiny Hopedale supports local businesses like the Town Common restaurant. Police, fire, town hall personnel, local contractors, and stay-at-home moms packed the place and with good reason: Hopedale is a very close-knit community that has a very neighborly feel, businesses included. It has always been that way, and people often seem to genuinely enjoy the slower pace of a town stuck in time...

Hopedale River, Hopedale MA

Couple relaxing by the Hopedale River.


Let me digress for a moment from the main story here...This beautiful small town was once a Utopian village in the 1840s, and then later evolved into an industrial giant with the birth of the former Draper Corporation (once the largest manufacturer of automated cotton looms in America). People lived and worked in this town and with Draper leading the way built a community under a disciplined, committed almost modified socialist political, social and economic platform for the benefit of the residents only. This modality can be traced back to Adin Ballou, a noted American pacifist, socialist and abolitionist, who partnered with the Practical Christians, and gave Hopedale its name in 1841. The community, then part of Milford, was based on Christian and socialist ideologies. Everyone made some kind of contribution to the town. Hopedale eventually became incorporated as its own town in 1886. As the textile industry became more global through the years, Draper, unfortunately, ceased production in the mid 1970s and the building has been vacant since. The lack of business there presents an irony -- that is, the empty building yields an eyesore in an otherwise beautiful town, but the lack of commerce there keeps the town quiet and peaceful.

The historic Draper Building in Hopedale, Massachusetts
Abandoned Draper Factory building; fairly well-maintained, nevertheless.


The dynamics of the town are a bit different today, as Hopedale is, more or less, a bedroom suburb to Boston, Mass., Providence, R.I., and Worcester, Mass.  But to this day, Hopedale is not a typical suburb. Hopedale features incredible, one-after-another examples of stunning pre and post Industrial Revolution architecture in the form of old homes and municipal buildings like the aforementioned Town Hall, 1898 Bancroft Public Library, stately Hopedale Community House (includes a bowling alley!) and the 1898 Hopedale Unitarian Church. Along the way, you'll find street names that clearly reflect the town's vision during its industrial and socialist heyday: Social St., Freedom St., Hope St., and Progress St. In the truest New England tradition, churches, town hall, library, community center, park and public schools are all located within walking distance of each other.

The Hopedale Community House in Hopedale, Massachusetts
The Hopedale Community House.

Additionally, Hopedale's history is wonderfully expressed in the Little Red Shop Museum, located at the corner of Hopedale and Freedom Sts., overlooking the Hopedale River. Open the first and third Thursdays of each month from 1-4 p.m., the Little Red Shop Museum pays homage to the Draper industry by featuring "looms, town and regional artifacts, photos, paintings, historical documents and other memorabilia." We recommend to call before visiting at 508-478-2926.

Little Red Museum in historic Hopedale, Massachusetts

Little Red Shop Museum.

Unitarian Church in Hopedale, Massachusetts
Hopedale Unitarian Church.

Bancroft Library, Hopedale MA
Bancroft Memorial Library.


Hopedale is a place where I see more people taking walks than any other small town suburb I know in this area. Unlike many suburban towns, Hopedale's downtown district is located off any main roads, so the reduction of traffic lends additional peace and quiet to an already peaceful town. Additionally, the Hopedale River adds a real touch of scenic beauty with its clear river views and carriage trails at the Hopedale Parklands with more than 200 acres often hugging the shore. Often, you'll see people in their cars, on lawn chairs near the water, and strolling the area to enjoy the views and peacefulness -- it's a daily ritual for many locals.

GREAT WALK: the Hopedale River area in Hopedale, Massachusetts
View of the Hopedale River.

The trails are absolutely beautiful, accessible and with solitude so rare in the suburbs...

Hopedale Parklands carriage trail by the scenic Hopedale River in Hopedale, Massachusetts
Carriage trail at the Hopedale Parklands.

The water views are so pleasing, especially near the beginning of the trail...

The Hopedale Parklands afford beautiful views of the Hopedale River in Hopedale, Massachusetts
View of the Hopedale River from a carriage trail.

The fall brings another wonderful perspective at the Hopedale Parklands...

Hopedale River, Hopedale MA

Color in the trees wonderfully complement the scenic Hopedale River.

Hopedale River in the fall, Hopedale MA

Nice place to take a seat in Hopedale.


side street with river view in Hopedale, Massachusetts
Side street in Hopedale leads to the river.

While other communities seem to keep branching out with new neighborhoods and shopping centers, Hopedale seems wonderfully stuck in time. Quaint and quiet with virtually no commuting traffic, the historic village district feels sheltered from the world -- quite an incredible feat given that densely populated Milford is virtually right around the corner. Hopedale, more or less, seems like an established community with relatively little change in modern history to its five square miles.

The few well-run businesses that currently operate in this gem of a small town are part of that neighborhood tradition. The Town Common restaurant makes it all that much better an experience for locals by doing everything right, on time, at a good value (lower prices than most townie restaurants), and with a location that just adds to the hometown flavor of this great, little town. Just be sure to walk off that meal so you can see the unique, historic appeal of Hopedale.

The Town Common is located at 76 Hopedale St. (508) 473-3004), close to everything that is Hopedale!

Related article:
Discovering historic North Easton, Massachusetts

Going old school at Oliva's Market in Milford, Mass.

Explore Massachusetts travel! Read the Massachusetts Town Greens book -- Discover New England's first travel attractions: town commons. Includes a chapter on the nearby Grafton, Worcester and Sutton town commons!

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