History Corner: Where is It Wednesday


Brought to you by the Weston Historical Society, it’s time for this week’s quiz.

Note that today is a Where WAS It Wednesday.

Hint: It definitely has something to do with the Charles River and if you’ve been following our series on Facebook this week it was briefly mentioned in one of the posts, though not specifically named.

Here’s the answer!

After selling and gifting 61 acres for Charles River preservation, estate owner Charles W. Hubbard began his plans for the Riverside Recreation Grounds in 1896 to foster outdoor sport for youth in the metro area. He envisioned the operation as an association of clubs, each with 20-40 members united by school or social affiliation. Hubbard enlisted support from local mayors, college presidents, and school districts, and then purchased 40 acres with a ½ mile of riverfront from the Seaverns family. The facility opened in 1897 with a swimming and diving contest refereed by Hubbard.

The 3-story main house contained a 100-seat restaurant, dance pavilion, two bowling alleys, dressing and locker rooms, storage racks for 300 boats, 14 bedrooms, 16 meeting rooms, and a 200-foot balcony overlooking the river. A separate boathouse was available for junior members, and stored an additional 120 boats. The 50-meter, spring-fed swimming pool was surrounded on three sides by the main house and had springboards and a diving tower with platforms set at 5, 10, 15, and 25 feet above the water. There were also 6 gravel tennis courts (court 1 was available for lady-friends); a ¼ mile cinder track; fields for baseball, football and basketball; a field for pole vaulting, jumping and shot-put; and an open-air gym.

Hubbard wanted “The Rec” to become a place for athletic training, competitive meets, and field days and in its heyday it became one of the best-known recreational sites in the US. In 1900, the running track and athletic fields were used for championship meetings, including the Amateur Athletic Union national championship. This was the first time the annual event was held in New England, and in the 1920s, the world record for the 100-meter dash was set here.

A 1905 news article reported that Weston residents objected to tennis being played on Sundays, which was subsequently barred by the town. Interviews with children in the southeast section of Weston during the 1910s and ‘20s suggest that most did not go to The Rec or were vaguely aware of its existence. Rather, the grounds attracted residents from the greater Boston area.

Inside this promotional brochure reads, “These grounds have been laid out…not as a business venture, but with the view of preserving and developing a section of country most admirably adapted for recreation and athletics.”

The main house of the Riverside Recreation grounds

The New England Amateur Athletic Union used The Rec for track meets and in the 1920s the world’s record in the 100-meter dash was set here.

The Rec was also a very popular location for company picnics with cookouts, games, and athletic contests. Here in 1912 women are participating in the “Ladies’ Potato Race”

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