My tour of New England in the Fall began in Manchester, New Hampshire, but I didn’t have time to see anything but the airport. My first day, which was more like a half day after flying and renting a car, involved an ambitious amount of driving. By nightfall, I needed to be in Albany, New York, one of the few places I could find a reasonably priced hotel during the peak of leaf-peeping season. That meant I needed to drive south into Massachusetts, then across the Bay State on the scenic Mohawk Trail, through the Berkshire Mountains, and into New York.
Aside from traffic on numerous two-lane roads, the biggest thing that kept me from achieving my goal on Day 1 was the desire to stop and photograph every picture-perfect New England town through which I passed. First up was…
I couldn’t drive by Milford’s town square without stopping. Actually, it’s not a square, and even though it’s called the Milford Oval, it’s not quite oval-shaped either.
At the north end of the oval you’ll find Eagle Hall, so named for the eagle atop its cupola, which was purchased in 1846. The building itself dates back much further, to 1784, when it served as the town’s first meeting house. People still meet there — on the first floor to eat Chinese food, and on the second floor at the Odd Fellow’s Hall.
The Eagle Hall was also home to a bell cast at Paul Revere’s foundry — but the bell was moved…
… to the new Town Hall, when it was constructed in 1869.
Townsend has an equally picture-perfect town square at the crossroads of Routes 13 and 119, though there aren’t as many businesses surrounding it. There is a gazebo…
… and plenty of places to sit and relax, while watching the Maple trees turn yellow and orange.
On the hill overlooking Townsend’s town common is the Meeting House, which now serves as a United Methodist Church. It was constructed in 1770-1771, about a mile away from its current location. In 1804 it was taken apart and moved here. 48 years later, it was picked up and rotated 90 degrees.
As I mentioned, there are only a few businesses facing the square, on Main Street on the south side.
On the east side of the square, the Townsend Congregational Church overlooks the center of town.
At Townsend, take Route 119 west.
Once you’re out of Townsend, Route 119 is mostly lined with trees.
There were splashes of fall color throughout this area, but it wasn’t as impressive as I had hoped. My visit was on October 2nd — I imagine the peak of color was still a week or more away.
In the middle of nowhere on Route 119, watch for Route 101 south. It barely looks like a highway, and was missing the center stripe (in other words, it was just slightly worse than all the rest of the roads in Massachusetts). For a few minutes I wondered if I had made a wrong turn, but it eventually emerged at…
Tiny Ashburnham has a small downtown business area, and just beyond it, as you climb the hill on Route 12, you’ll want to stop and take a picture of the Ashburnham Community Church…
… which is right across the street from the Ashburnham Historical Society, in the town’s old Meeting House.
Out of Ashburnham, keep following Route 12 until Winchendon, then turn on US 202 south, and eventually, Route 2 west.
Here’s the time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Manchester, New Hampshire to Townsend, Massachusetts…
… and from Townsend to Erving, Massachusetts: