Just inside the stone gateway to Lynnfield’s Old Burying Ground, which dates back to 1728, is a tombstone flanked by two Stars and Stripes. It’s a simple, almost nondescript memorial, but it bears the names of—and a direct link to—one of the most important moments in American history.
“Here lie Soldiers of the Revolution” reads the epitaph, followed by an honor roll of 10 men who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of town and country. Halfway down the list is Daniel Townsend, one of 49 killed on April 19, 1775, but the most fascinating of all is Martin Herrick, who met Paul Revere and gave the famous “The British are coming!” alarm in the other direction.
Had Longfellow based his iconic poem on Herrick instead of Revere, Lynnfield (or South Lynn, as it was then) would be as famous as Boston, but this small and delightful town in Essex County is no less proud of the significant role it played.
History runs deep in Lynnfield, a leafy enclave 14 miles north of Boston at the juncture of Routes 1 and 128 and I-95, offering a fascinating insight into the earliest days of the colony, the town’s pivotal role in the American Revolution, and later as a safe haven in the Underground Railroad.
Nestled under ancient pines, oaks, and maples, landmark homes have been beautifully preserved. Some are on the National Register of Historic Places, many are named for the original families that built or lived in them, and almost all have elegant wall plates announcing their illustrious heritage.
Henfield House at 300 Main Street was built in 1667 and is the oldest in Lynnfield. Chestnut Street, which runs off Main, is lined with Colonial homes, such as Hart House (1695), Joseph Tapley’s House (1700), and James Reid House (ca. 1700).
The jewel in the crown, however, is a house of a different kind. The Old Meeting House, built in 1714, is thought to be the third-oldest Puritanical meeting house in New England and has pride of place on the historic Common in the center of town. Plans are already being drawn up for the 300th anniversary of the Meeting House in 2014, a double milestone for Lynnfield, which will also celebrate the 200th anniversary of its incorporation in 1814.
History is but a single thread in Lynnfield’s rich fabric. The town and surrounding area are swathed in natural beauty with several waterways including Suntaug Lake, Pillings Pond, and the nearby Walden Pond (a less-famous cousin of the one in Concord).
At 400 acres, Reedy Meadow covers almost a third of the town’s land and is one of the largest migratory bird sanctuaries in New England. Partridge Island Boardwalk, a recent initiative of Lynnfield Rotary, guides locals and visitors across Reedy Meadow’s delicate eco-system, while Bow Ridge Reservation to the south of Lynnfield has scenic walking trails for a weekend hike.
Lynnfield has three excellent golf courses, including the privately owned Sagamore Spring Golf Club, and many peaceful, beautiful settings for a walk or picnic. “Lynnfield has a lot to offer,” says Jay Kimball, president of Lynnfield Rotary and a fourth-generation lawyer who’s lived in the town all his life. “It still has the look and feel of a traditional New England country town. There’s a lot of great people and a real sense of community and civic pride.”
Lynnfield may be considered a “bedroom” community, but there’s nothing sleepy about this prosperous, progressive suburb. With five top schools, the education system consistently has some of the state’s best standardized test scores.
Increasing numbers of corporate executives, sports stars, and local celebrities are bringing new wealth to the town. Median house prices are around $546,000 and rising, with substantial homes lining many of the leafy streets and avenues, and Lynnfield’s proximity to Routes 1 and 128 and I-95 means fast and easy drive times in all directions.
A new “lifestyle center” called Market Street is planned for 2012 with upscale shops, restaurants, offices, and apartments. While some residents have worried it will take the “field” out of Lynnfield, the development has received widespread support. “It will change the nature of the town but will also revitalize it,” says Kimball. “We have to keep moving with the times.”
House Call Lynnfield’s Old Meeting House celebrates 300 years as a witness and a window to New England’s history. It seems fitting that Linda Gillon, a guide at the Old Meeting House, lives in Henfield House, the oldest home in Lynnfield. As vice president of the Lynnfield Historical Society, she knows better than most the importance of this unique icon.
Built in 1714 at the apex of the triangular Common, this simple but charming white-washed wood building is thought to be the third-oldest Puritan Meeting House in New England still standing on its original “green.”
Once a center for religious and political gatherings, the Meeting House has also acted as a town hall, primary school, and even a firehouse before being preserved by local historians for future generations.
While the downstairs is an open space, a popular venue for wedding receptions, the upstairs is both a witness and a window to history with original beams, old church pews, and a pulpit, creating a beautiful chapel-like atmosphere.
The Old Meeting House and Common are also the setting for Lynnfield’s annual Country Store (first Saturday in December) with stalls, Christmas decorations, carolers, and annual tree lighting ceremony. For a tour of the Meeting House, call Peggy Weickert, 781-334-4724.
Out to See Mustn’t-miss stops that make for the perfect stay in Lynnfield.
Partridge Island Boardwalk This lovely boardwalk, a recent initiative of Lynnfield Rotary, links the town with historic Partridge Island in Reedy Meadow and takes you up close and personal with this fragile eco-system brimming with birdlife. It’s a great spot for a picnic. Access is off Main Street, opposite Heritage Lane.
Bow Ridge Reservation Another of Lynnfield’s numerous conservation areas (south of the town), Bow Ridge Reservation has a network of scenic walking trails that’s ideal for a leisurely weekend ramble. Best access is off Ledge Road, Lynnbrook Road, or from the parking lot beside Bostonville Grille on Route 1.
Venezia Day Spa After all this exercise, it’s time to soothe those tired muscles with a relaxing massage at Venezia Day Spa, owned by Gayle Venezia of Danvers. Facials, manicures, pedicures, and an array of other treatments are also on the menu. 12 Salem Street, Kernwood Plaza, 781-224-3334, veneziadayspa.com.
Baubles Fine Jewelry Baubles, a boutique jewelry store owned by Tony and Donna Sharrio, specializes in fashion-forward, classic, and estate jewelry. The pieces are an eclectic mix of unique fine and faux pieces made in America. One Post Office Square, 781-592-6110, baublesfinejewelry.com.
Perley Burrill Filling Station The exact age of Perley Burrill Filling Station, just off Route 1 in Salem Street, is largely unknown, but it’s reputed to be the oldest gas station still operating in America. The building has seen better days, but it’s definitely worth a pit stop. 906 Salem Street.
Karen’s Bakery Don’t leave Lynnfield without dropping by Karen’s Bakery, established in 1958 and run by local character Dottie Wold, for a serving (or three) of her lip-smacking Cinnamon Monkey Bread. It’s a Lynnfield institution. 6 Center Court (behind 590 Main Street), 781-334-4579, karensbakery.webs.com.
Lynnfield Meat and Deli Another local character with a heart of gold is Ronnie Cerra, who owns Lynnfield Meat and Deli. He’s the go-to man for the best and freshest meats, cold cuts, fruit, veggies, and mouthwatering homemade calzones, pizzas, sausages, and marinades. 445 Broadway Rt. 1N, 781-593-6860, lynnfieldmeatanddeli.com.
Sagamore Spring Golf Club There’s a trio of courses in Lynnfield, but the best fairways are at the privately owned Sagamore Spring straddling both sides of upper Main Street. The 18-hole course has many challenging wetland features, so choose your clubs and approach shots carefully. 1287 Main Street, 781-334 3151, sagamoregolf.com.
Christine’s Cafe & Confections Pastry chef Christine Picariello has taken 30 years’ experience with top caterers and restaurants and put it into her own business, offering delicious muffins, cookies, brownies, cupcakes, croissants, scones, and quiches. Her lemon-blueberry scones are scrumptious. 618 Salem Street, 781-596-2259.
The Details. Date of Settlement: 1638. Date of Incorporation: 1814. Zip code: 01940. Population: 11,800. Total Area: 10.5 square miles. Median household income: $86,133. Schools: Huckleberry Hill School, Summer Street School, Lynnfield Middle School, Lynnfield High School, Our Lady of Assumption. Notable residents: Garnet “Ace” Bailey, former Bruins player and coach who died on 9/11; John Michael Williams, singer, songwriter, director, author; Sib Hashian, drummer formerly of the band Boston; Nancy Kerrigan, former Olympic skater; Billy Costa, Kiss 108 FM radio personality; Carl Yastrzemski, former Boston Red Sox outfielder; Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins goalie; Ken Harrelson, TV sports broadcaster.