Formerly known as "Creepy-chusetts, Strange-chusetts".

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Echo Bridge & Elliot Manufacturing Co., Newton-Needham

Continue from: Echo Bridge, Newton-Needham

Former Elliot Manufacturing Company 

The construction of Echo Bridge completed in 1876 as a part of the Sudbury Aqueduct. The waterway began operating in 1878 to transport water from Framingham to Chestnut Hill for the purpose of supplying drinking water to the Metropolitan Boston area. 

Echo Bridge

Currently utilized as a backup waterway, the aqueduct was in full use until 1978. Echo Bridge is now open to public as a part of Hemlock Gorge Reservation.

After investigating around the gorge (see the previous post: Echo Bridge, Newton-Needham), I went up to the bridge by approaching from the Newton side.

The first feature I noticed was how the bridge surface was slightly inclined like a roof slope. The rain water drips easily from the surface, and snow won't accumulate to the degree the bridge collapses. From an eye of a civil engineer, I guess that is a common practice. But I was simply impressed by the ingenious design!

The original parapets were blocked by a tasteless...uh...functional modern chain link fence. But look closely at the original fence; you can find the emblem reads as "BWW"... It must be the acronym of "Boston Water Works". At first, I mistook the logo as the one of a German automaker.

From the top of the bridge, the view of the gorge was impressive, made me forget the fact that I was in so-called Boston suburb. Looking north, the emerald colored  trees (I visited in May) were very beautiful but the noise from Route 9 and the mysterious foam on the river reminded  me a gentler version of the "Crying Indian".

North view, Rote 9 on the upper right

Looking south, the view of the old cotton mill factory was very quaint; the unchanged view for the last few centuries. Although, the sight of the mill could have been a "modern" eyesore back in the 19th century.

South view

The old mill was established prior to the arrival of Echo Bridge Aqueduct. The mill, Elliot Manufacturing Company replaced the original industrial complex consisted with a saw mill (dates back in the late 17th century), grist mill, fulling mill, snuff tobacco mills, and blacksmith related shops in 1821. The company manufactured cotton until 1884, and then silk until 1962. Like Lowell's mills, the dam must have been used to power the looms.

Thinking about the controversy of the construction of the Suiro-kaku waterway in 19th century Kyoto, I was wondering whether the establishment of the cotton mill was regarded as the modern industrial eyesore that disturbs the beauty of the gorge. But the saw mill had been existed on the location since 17th century; the gorge was always regarded as the industrial site...

On the contrary to my initial thought, the arrival of the Elliot Manufacturing Company might have been a welcoming change to the neighborhood (especially for the managerial class) because the snuff mills were regarded as  "a temptation to the many of the people to indulge in the filthy habit" (from History of Newton)!

I crossed the Newton-Needham line towards Needham. The bridge ended but the underground aqueduct kept going on. When I visited the Wachusett Aqueduct and its overhead bridge, the area was an off-limit. So walking on Echo Bridge and  the Sudbury Aqueduct was very exiting!

There was a huge rock by the aqueduct route. Looking closely at the rock, there were remains of drilling holes, suggesting it had been a much bigger rock blocking the aqueduct route. What did the workers use to crash the rock? Did they drill those holes to insert cartridges to blow up the rock?

The greenway ended abruptly after a few minutes walk. The beltway was in front of me. The busy traffic noise of I-95 reminded me that the afternoon rush hour started. I looked my watch, it was past 3 o'clock.

Locate Echo Bridge @ Google Map
Also read: Wachusett Aqueduct, Northborough

Elliot Manufacturing Company, Macris database:
Discover Historic Newton Falls (PDF):
History of Newton, Massachusetts (google book):


  1. I recently happened on your blog, having just finished a book about the Wachusett Reservoir - I was privileged to have walked over the dam and environs many years ago and lament its current closure.

    Echo Bridge is also a treasured spot - a school days visit many long years ago - an eerie walk along the top of the bridge enshrouded by fog illuminated by lights from below some years later.

    Your photos and subject matter have great traction for me - I'll look forward to continued sights/insights with and from you.

    Thanks for what you've created - rad

  2. Hello Rad,

    Thank for the comment! I wish I could walk on the Wachusett Dam... BTW, what is the title of your book?

  3. Ooops - didn't mean to imply it was my book - what I meant was I finsihed reading a book by Eamon McCarthy Earls titled "Wachusett: How Boston's 19th Century Water Changed Four Towns And A Way Of Life" - saw it in the gift shop at the Russian Icon Museum in Clinton - a stop well worth making.


  4. Hi Rad,
    Sorry, it is due to a long work hour day... and face it...just how my brain is wired...

    Anyway, I was curious about the icon museum. I'll plan to visit there if I have a chance.

  5. I have access to discount coupons for three venues in the area, including the Icon Museum. If you're open to a quick conversationa an/or e-mail address exchange, I could get them to you. I'd recommend a couple of restauarants there, as well.


  6. Rad, my e-mail address is on my profile. I'm busy lately so I wouldn't be able to visit W. Boylston in next few months though. Thanks for the offer.

  7. As always, I love reading and looking at your posts. You provide great historical background and take so many great shots.

  8. Hi Dave the Newton resident!

    Thank you so much for the comment. I want to see the gangs' view on the bridge, too!

  9. Yeah, I need to get there and snap some pix. Haven't been in a while. Now I need to catch up on your older posts.