Being a packrat, I have retained Northborough's annual reports since my wife and I settled in the town in the bicentennial year of 1966. For many decades before that year the reports appeared in 6 x 9" form with a preponderance of statistics and virtually no pictures, but the 1966 report, as well as all succeeding ones, have been 8 1/2 x 11" and much more attractive and readable.
The cover pictures are always well-chosen. The one on the 2011 report represents a drawing of much of the town in the year 1887. Photographs of the town in that era were often taken from Assabet Hill, but the 1887 drawing simulates an aerial view from above the hill which would have been impossible unless the artist had hovered above in the basket of a balloon. The perspective on the town's center leads to huge distortions in the depiction of sites only a few hundred yards away, but the details of the town's center are striking.
Many still-existing buildings, including small houses, as well as many structures that can now be viewed only in photographs, are instantly recognizable. The steeples of the four churches all stand tall. Those on St. Rose's on Pierce Street and the Baptist church at the corner of Main and School Streets both fell in the 1938 hurricane, and concurrent damage to the former church led to its abandonment and destruction.
Streams and ponds leap out at you, as well as clusters of buildings wherever a street crosses the Assabet, for there was yet no electricity in town, and even small streams could provide some machine power. For three decades, however, Northborough had enjoyed the benefit of a railroad, and a northbound train, apparently a passenger one, has just crossed Summer Street. Bush's Pond, in a cavity still visible today between Whitney and Howard Streets, was the popular scene of skating in winter, and Watson's Pond, near River Street, now the victim of long deterioration of its supporting dam, provided a good supply of ice for winter use. Mill Street did cross Cold Harbor Brook and join Whitney Street as depicted.
The artist was less successful with Northborough's trees, all hedgelike and geometrically arranged. Other deficiencies include his conception of the newly-erected mansion that we know as the White cliffs and a disinclination to depict the old cemetery behind the Unitarian church.
Overall, however, the artist has made us feel that his work, a century and a quarter ago, represents our town as it was and stands as the basis of what it is.