History Corner: Weston’s Bypass Saved Its Heart
For those of you with Facebook, I would highly recommend following the Weston Historical Society’s page. Not only is it the place to find Where is It Wednesday before the Owl can re-post it, but from time to time, there is a “Did You Know?” about Weston and they’re just a whole lot of interesting.
This post from three days ago is about the Boston Post Road Bypass that skirts our fair downtown. While I love to complain about the intersections that go along with the Bypass (Highland, School and Wellesley), it is true that if that Bypass had not been built, we would not have the same access and beauty of our small downtown. Here’s the story of how it all came to be, credit entirely to Weston Historical Society, Pam Fox and Kara Fleming:
Imagine what the Town Center would look like if it weren’t for the State Road Bypass. We have landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff to thank for that. In 1922, Shurcliff was hired as Weston’s first Town Planner, a position he held until 1933, and “whose services in the development of the Town Common have given him an intimate knowledge of the Town and who has devoted much of his time to the study of similar problems…of several cities and towns in the vicinity…”
One of Shurcliff’s earliest actions, on the behest of Weston’s newly elected Planning Board, was to coordinate a comprehensive study of the town. He presented his study in a 1924 report, which also included a map of the town’s estimated 800 acres of “swampland.” At the time, wetlands were frequently viewed as undesirable areas that could potentially be reclaimed and turned into useful land. With the increasing popularity of automobiles, Shurcliff recommended a solution to traffic congestion in the town center by draining some of the “useless” land. He also noted, “That steps should be taken in the near future to prevent the development of slum conditions in the center of the town along the margin of the great swamp is evident…”
In 1926, Shurcliff drew up a plan for a roadway through the swamp south of the town center, now known as the State Road Bypass. The map “Town of Weston, Massachusetts, Compiled Survey of Meadow Lands in Vicinity of Center of Town,” dated January 1926, shows Shurcliff’s plan for the new roadway.
Around this same time, the state road Route 20 was designated on Boston Post Road. The increasing traffic proved to be a problem for the old Post Road’s country setting west of Boston so plans were being discussed to widen Route 20 to address the issues. Three towns plead their cases with the state to create bypasses around their town centers; Weston, Wayland and Sudbury. Only Weston got the bypass.