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Moore State Park

Lois Breault and Denis Melican
Paxton, MA

Moore State Park in Paxton, Massachusetts is a beautiful and peaceful 671 acre historic landscape combining archaeological sites, waterfalls, cascades, incredible stone work, agricultural fields and forestland, as well as thousands of rhododendrons and azaleas. The park is open during daylight hours every day of the year to casual walkers and serious hikers who enjoy the natural beauty and tranquility here. For 180 years the rapid descent of a small brook through a dramatic ledge-lined gorge provided the power to operate a series of mills which in turn spawned the development of a rural mill village.

Moore State Park
Moore State Park

By l930, the last remaining working mill, the saw mill, was no longer economically competitive, and the property was sold to a wealthy Worcester family that included one of the first female degreed landscape architects in Massachusetts. This was Florence Morton, who transformed the mill village into a private country estate. Documentation of this phase of the park's history is sketchy, and only a few references and one photo are available to us of "Glen Morton." We can assume though, that it was Florence who began the mass planting of rhododendrons and azaleas at this time. Some varieties included R. maximum, R. catawbiense and R. carolinianum as well as some native and hybrid azaleas

In 1946 the property was sold to a wealthy Worcester family, the Spauldings. They were prominent in the city's business district, owning a well-known downtown department store for generations. It is said that when Connie Spaulding first saw the property in Paxton, she thought it was so beautiful that it must have been enchanted and so she named it "ENCHANTA."; Mrs. Spaulding was an active member of the Worcester Garden Club and the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. She continued planting rhododendrons, engaging Bemis Farms Nursery in Spencer to plant many more. Unfortunately, we have no written documentation of Connie Spaulding's plant orders or landscape plans at this time. We were lucky enough recently, though, to speak with the gentleman who painted the manor house in 1953, and he assured us that Connie was meticulous and knowledgeable about color, one time requesting seven different mixtures before finding the perfect shade. The patterns of color and contrasts of texture that we see today were most likely well planned by Mrs. Spaulding as she sat on her patio, contemplating the beauty here.

The Commonwealth purchased the property from the Spaulding family in 1965. The park from that time on has become a place of quiet solitude and rejuvenation of the spirit for its visitors. Tucked away from urban sprawl for many years this was the type of State Park known only to local residents and the few adventurous sorts who seek out special places. The park is being appreciated by more and more people as the years go by, and is a center for conservation and education in central Massachusetts. Many projects, some large like our map project, and some not, like a group of seven Brownies with their mothers planting daffodils, go on here, and the mission and reason for being of this park are being realized.

We have begun the process of formulating an inventory of the plant material, a workable landscape maintenance plan, and in the long term, a Cultural Landscape Report (CLR). Denis, the park Supervisor, and I are enrolled in the Olmsted Center for Cultural Landscape Studies, sponsored by the National Park Service. The classes we are taking at the Arnold Arboretum have shown us how much there is to learn about taking proper care of a public park with such strong historical and botanical elements. What fascinates us most about the rhododendrons here, perhaps even more than even their sheer numbers, is the remarkable dexterity they display in reproducing near the brook, in crevices of stones, and around and on tree stumps in the forest. We welcome advice from any and all rhododendron lovers as to the role that rhododendrons and azaleas should play in any future improvements here such as a visitor center and small display gardens. We certainly encourage and welcome visits from Rhododendron Society members, and as Denis said at the meeting we attended, we would enthusiastically roll out the metaphorical red carpet for you all. Moore State Park is a momentous place to visit under ordinary circumstances, but rhododendron lovers will find this place truly special as very few places are.

We are located near the geographic center of the state, and would possibly be a good location for some society subcommittee meetings, especially for members in the Central and Western parts of the state. We can accommodate from 10 to 20 people comfortably inside our old Schoolhouse, and many more outdoors on our beautiful covered bridge named Enchanta. We will gladly prepare a slide show of the park for a meeting of your choice. Please let us know when. The vice-president of our Friends group is a brilliant photographer and his slides of the flora and fauna here are endlessly fascinating.

To reach Moore State Park from Interstate 290 in Worcester, take Exit 18 and bear right. At the Lincoln Square intersection, go right again. Follow the Worcester Regional Airport signs at every intersection and you will go past the Airport entrance on Rte. 122. Follow 122 to its intersection with Rte. 31 at Paxton center. Take a left on Rte 31 S, the park entrance will be on your right, 1¼ miles from Paxton center. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. For more information please call (508) 792-3969 anytime.

Previous Article Rosebay Index Next Article The Rosebay Volume XXVI Spring 1999 official journal of the American Rhododendron Society Massachusetts Chapter