The Middlesex Canal in Winchester

The material below is taken from the book by Burt VerPlanck, Middlesex Canal Guide and Maps , with permission.

The numbers in parentheses in the text refer to circled numbers on the map in the book.

Going north from Medford on the Mystic Valley Parkway, the route of the canal follows along the east side of the parkway between the parkway and the railroad. At the Metropolitan District Commission bathing beach the canal swung northwest across the parkway. As you turn left to enter the parking area note on your left a large bronze canal plaque set in a stone slab (1).

You may park your car and walk to the northwest along the road built in the former bed of the canal, with the banks (2) still standing on either side, until you come to the shore of Upper Mystic Lake. Here is the site of the aqueduct which carried the canal over the Symmes or Aberjona River (3). That was in the days before the river was dammed (1863), flooding the salt marshes and forming today's Upper Mystic Lake. The Metropolitan District Commission utilized some of the granite blocks from the old aqueduct for the present day submerged sewer crossing. Other salvaged stone blocks were removed many years ago to the Brooks estate. About 250 large stones, not used by the Brooks, still lie scattered in the woods of the Winchester Town Forest and may be seen there in the vicinity of the Sussex Road entrance (off of Grove Street).

Returning to your car, follow the Mystic Valley Parkway 0.4 miles to Bacon Street. Turn left and drive 0.2 miles to the third street on the left, Everett Avenue. Go along Everett Avenue 0.5 mile to Edgewater Place on the left once the site of the double Gardner Locks (4).

Turn around, return down Everett Avenue, and almost immediately take a left turn onto Sheffield West, which runs into Sheffield Road. The rear lots of the houses on the left of Sheffield Road were deeded by the Middlesex Canal Corporation to the then owners of the front lots. The garages in the rear of the houses numbered 3 to 13 are built in the canal bed.

The intersection of Sheffield Road and Church Street is at the location of Huffmasters Bridge over the canal (5). Andrew Huffmaster was a Hessian soldier who stayed on in this country after the Revolutionary War.

Turn right onto Church Street and take the first left onto Fletcher Street where the canal crossed and ran at the rear of the houses on the right; note the depression which was the canal bed. Continue on Fletcher Street to Wildwood Street. On the right in a small park is a Middlesex Canal Commission Marker (6). Drive on along Palmer Street, which the canal followed for about 1/4 mile, then crossed into the Wildwood Cemetery on the left. The canal went across the corner of the cemetery and out through the depression which can be seen to the right as you go through the service gate into the cemetery.

Follow Palmer Street over the hill and take the first left onto Middlesex Street. Immediately on the left there is a park beyond which you may see the depression made for the canal. Along Middlesex Street the houses on the left numbered 18 to 80 were built in the canal bed.

Continuing north, Middlesex Street becomes Sylvester Avenue where Canal Street comes in on the right. About 200 ft. beyond this street a small bridge takes you over Horn Pond Brook. This brook was the secondary source of water for the canal (The Concord River at Billerica was the main source). Hollis Lock, also known as Stone Lock, was located just to the north (7).

Manhole covers marked "MET"offer visual evidence of a Metropolitan sewer line installed in 1894 in the "bed of the old Middlesex Canal" along the length of Sylvester Avenue. At the north end of the avenue you may wish to park and walk through to Lake Avenue in Woburn, a distance of about 0.2 mile on the bed of a railroad track to former ice houses on Horn Pond. <> Despite the evidence from an 1894 Metropolitan sewer drawing that the canal route was within the confines of what is now Sylvester Avenue, there is some visual evidence that the canal route may actually have been behind the first several houses on the east side of Sylvester Avenue. Stopping between houses No. 71 and 79, one can see in the backyard a low stockade fence built on what may be the canal berm. The two possible routes along Sylvester Avenue are parallel and about 100 ft. apart. No doubt the correct one will eventually be identified; meanwhile the map shows the Metropolitan sewer route.

Turn around. Return along Sylvester Avenue to the second left, Upland Road, drive up it and turn right onto Hemingway Street, and follow it to Main Street, Route 38. Turn left and drive 0.3 mile to Lake Avenue on the left. You have crossed the city line and are now in Woburn.

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