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Mill Brook via new video: Town reception to be held later

New video by Glenn Litton of Arlington. 

UPDATED, March 11: A high-quality eight-minute video documentary viewable online, just updated, called“Mill Brook Rediscovered,” is part of an adapted version of a 2019 Old Schwamb Mill exhibit scheduled to be shown in Town Hall from March 2 to April 30. A reception was set for Sunday, March 22, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the second-floor gallery, but that has been postponed in view of the coranvirus. 

Old Schwamb Mill logo

“Mill Brook Rediscovered” was produced and directed by Arlington resident Glenn Litton under the auspices of the Schwamb Mill Preservation Trust. Litton is a former producer and executive producer for WGBH-TV, associated with Emmy-winning programs, including “The Advocates, “ “The Living Planet” and “Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale.” His own production company, DocuThis, based in  Arlington. 

“I hope that anyone who watches the video would have an emotional response to it—that the viewer would feel pride in all that Mill Brook contributes to the town’s natural environment and history,” Litton said in a 2019 interview with YourArlington freelancer Judith Pfeiffer. 

Brook background

Not quite three miles long, Mill Brook is a natural waterway running from the Great Meadows through Arlington Reservoir to Lower Mystic Lake. Descending a total of 150 feet, it once generated enough water flow to fill seven mill ponds powering eight mills, according to exhibit literature. However, only the Old Schwamb Mill itself remains in operation in any capacity. The others many decades ago were dismantled, with no remaining traces. In their stead are many local landmarks, such as Arlington High School, Penzey’s Spices and Jimmy’s Steer House.

The videos and the exhibit overall provide historical perspective, from Mill Brook’s crucial role for the indigenous population in the early 1600s, through its industrial use in the 19th  century, up to the present. Mill Brook is now envisioned as the centerpiece of a greenway near the Minuteman Bikeway, Mass. Ave. and Summer Street.

It’s not just about enhancing aesthetics or play space. Without remediation, flooding in future remains a real possibility, as some shorelines and underground channels are unstable, many local environmentalists say. They believe this could potentially threaten surrounding both private property and public institutions such as AHS.

To learn more about Mill Brook and the decades-long history of the mill industry throughout Arlington, drop by second-floor gallery in Town Hall after March 2 to view the exhibit panels that were prepared for the original exhibit at the Old Schwamb Mill.

The mill, at 17 Mill Lane, at 29 Lowell St., off 1215 Mass. Ave., Arlington Heights, is open to the public on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with free tours usually available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on those two days. It is recommended to call ahead at 781-643-0554 before arriving. Admission is free, but donations of $5 per adult visitor are encouraged.  

Fitzmaurice, et al.

'She Did It: Women Saving History'

In 2020, the Old Schwamb Mill celebrates 50 years of preservation at the historic mill that was saved from demolition in 1970. A exhibition titled "She Did It: Women Saving History" honors Patricia C. Fitzmaurice, a foresighted community leader and historic preservation advocate, who rallied friends and funds to purchase and save the 19th-century mill.

Her dream was to convert the oval picture frame factory into a living history museum, where frames are still made today using original tools and traditional woodworking practices. She envisioned a community art center as a place where working artists could rent studios and art and craft classes would be offered for all ages.

Pat did it all. She networked with friends and fellow Arlington residents to raise funds establishing the Schwamb Mill Preservation Trust; she reached out to artists and others to rent space in the mill to help pay the mortgage and utility bills; she gave guided tours and even learned how to make oval wooden frames herself, so she could give demonstrations on the historic machines she had saved.

The exhibit will be on display through June 6.

This news announcement was published Thursday, Jan. 30, and updated March 11.

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