A small bridge with a big story

The following article appeared in the Wellesley Townsman on September 18, 2014.


The west side of the Cameron Street bridge
(Photo taken by Joshua Dorin in September 2014)

As recently reported, the long-awaited and much needed restoration of Fuller Brook Park has officially begun. But unknown to some people, this is not the first significant improvement to the park since it was established in 1899.

One of the more notable improvements occurred in 1930 with the construction of the stone bridge that carries Cameron Street over Fuller Brook. In fact, this bridge is not only distinctive because of its charming appearance. It also tells a story about the early development of Wellesley.

Prior to the construction of this bridge, Cameron Street had been a narrow right-of-way off Washington Street that served as a back entrance to the main campus of Dana Hall, which at that time was located on the large parcel of land bounded by Grove Street, Spring Street, Cameron Street, and Fuller Brook Park.

The original Cameron Street, however, did not cross Fuller Brook. Instead, the road turned to the west and meandered around several campus buildings (including the former Cameron family home) before exiting onto Grove Street north of Fuller Brook.

Beginning in the late 1920s, the Town faced a problem. The increase in the population over the past decade had resulted in too many cars on the road; traffic in Wellesley Square had become an absolute nightmare. This problem was compounded by the fact that most of these streets had been laid out years earlier before the invention of the automobile. There just weren’t any shortcuts. Drivers had to travel along the main roads, which led to severe congestion.

Town officials therefore came up with a plan: make Cameron Street into a full-fledged road — they actually used the word ‘highway’ — thus allowing drivers from east of Wellesley Square to reach Grove Street and all points south without traveling through the main intersection. (This was eight years prior to the construction of Hunnewell Elementary School, so nobody was worried about the dangers of speeding cars on Cameron Street.)

There were three proposed routes for the new Cameron Street: i) pave over the existing right-of-way, ii) straighten and extend the road to Fuller Brook Park and connect to Grove Street along the Parkway path (thus turning the park into a roadway), or iii) straighten and extend the road over Fuller Brook to Hampden Street. This third option was selected.

Perhaps what makes this story even more fascinating was that Helen Temple Cooke, the longtime principal of Dana Hall, paid for the entire construction project herself — a cost of approximately $15,000. She even commissioned local mason, Joseph Welch of 10 Morton Street, to construct a stone bridge over Fuller Brook.

Of course, this new shortcut did little to alleviate the problems associated with traffic in Wellesley Square. Within only a few years, as the population of the town continued to grow, the roads once again became filled with cars. To this day, Town officials (despite numerous attempts) have yet to find a solution to Wellesley’s never-ending traffic jams.

But at least Fuller Brook Park has a charming little bridge.

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