Wakefield Circa 1898: According to the seller, this is an image of Wakefield from about 1898, when it was known as “The Square.” Just about everything has changed, but somehow, the downtown seems to have kept its basic form. The two businesses on the far right of the picture are a drug store and a fish mart. Frederick Johnson (possibly portraits?) can be made out courtesy of eBay’s magnifying feature. For the record, 1898 is the year the Spanish American War started, the year C.S. Lewis was born, and the year that neon and adrenaline (not necessarily in that order) were discovered.
In fact, you can just fast-forward a good sixty years or so here and take at downtown Wakefield as it looked sometime around the beginning of the tail-finned station wagon era. There was a J.J. Newberry downtown, a Rexall, and Fisher Jewelry. There was also a place called “Colonial Spa,” among other businesses, notes the seller. So here’s my question to anyone who might know – was there once a time when a convenience store was known as a “spa?” I come across that once in a while. Up in New Hampshire, the Laconia Spa exists to this day. And I have yet to see anybody come out of it less wrinkled than when they went in.
Domed Swimming Pool: George Page was a well-known businessman in the 1960s who ran the Colonial Inn over on the Lynnfield line – and at the time, it was a popular hangout for a number of Boston sports figures. This postcard is interesting because it doesn’t really advertise the hotel – instead it seems to be more of an ad for the natural gas industry that sounds more like something you’d hear today.
That said, these pictures are great. I would have wanted to stay at the hotel in winter just because it had that cool glass dome over the pool. Unfortunately I can only imagine how frequently its filters must have gotten clogged with gold medallions and sideburn hair.
The Pleasure Island Press: No it’s not a long-forgotten local newspaper – this is some sort of visitors guide for the Pleasure Island amusement park, which operated in Wakefield from about 1960 to 1970. A note from the seller says this one is from 1966. As far as the paper itself goes, it’s filled with promotional content and coupons for the former park. The headline, “$5,000 For You, Dead Or Alive,” doesn’t seem to make much sense, even if it is just trying to sell you Old West-style posters. On a side note, this souvenir also kind of reminds me of some of the real-life weekly papers you find to this day up in some parts of northern New Hampshire, where I worked for four years. .
Hand-Colored Postcards: Somebody has about a half dozen of this beautiful old Wakefield postcards up for sale. I love the subtle hand coloring on these images, and they also show that even with a century of changes, as noted before, somehow the downtown area has otherwise maintained its general form and character. Most of the postcards are dated between 1908 and 1910 which suggests they all had a similar origin.