The Wisdom of the Rose Farm Preservation

by Hans DePold, town historian
(Published in the Bolton Community News, February 2002)

Bolton's effort to stem the tide of urban sprawl is perhaps the result of caring more than some towns think is wise, dreaming more than some towns think practical, and expecting more than other towns think possible. The preservation of Bolton's quality of life is being nurtured, one acquired open space property at a time. In addition, it is believed by many that our last viable barrier to urban sprawl depends on Bolton maintaining sufficiently large minimum lot acreage requirements for sustainable low-density housing.

Our town came together in May of 2000 to purchase the Rose Farm and now it is working together to make it a continuing success. At the time, purchasing the Rose Farm was shown to cost less than it would have cost the town in capital expenses to service the homes that could have been built on the property. Now we must decide how we can best use the farm.

The most straightforward way to know the future of Bolton is to go out and build it. With that in mind, the selectmen appointed the Rose Farm Stewardship Committee to recommend possible uses of the farm. Milton Hathaway was elected the committee chairman and several subcommittees were created:

  1. Management of natural resources - Did you know the Rose Farm is a refuge for grassland birds?
  2. Structures/facilities - Did you know the old sheds were originally the carriage sheds from the Congregational Church when people came to church with their open horse and buggies? The house foundation is from the original parish house that Washington, Hamilton, Rochambeau, and many others visited. The current house was that of Bolton's first country doctor.
  3. History/archaeology - Did you know that thousands of French and American soldiers camped on the Rose Farm during the Revolutionary War and it is an integral part of the Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail proposal that the National Park Service is now studying? The buildings and the archaeological sites are now on the National Register of Historic Places.
  4. Revenue production - Did you know other towns have similar properties with historical museums, farm inns, hayrides, gift shops, arts/crafts centers, and environmental centers?
  5. Education/recreation - Did you know other towns have nature trails, learning centers, and museums used by their schools and other community organizations? Bolton's wisdom was in knowing what path to take; perseverance is what we now need to make it work. Bolton needs your ideas. What is the timeline? Richard Rose will soon decide whether or not to spend another year on the farm. The Bolton plan of action is to have the stewardship public hearings done before June and a published report before July 2002.

The idea to have the town preserve the Rose Farm was the idea of Richard Rose. He first told me about it in 1994. I brought it to the Economic Development Commission, and Rusty Kelsey and I brought it to the selectmen. Many years later Richard's idea has become a reality. We have the Rose Family and especially Richard to thank. Richard perhaps cared a little more than some others thought practical, and risked the public spotlight perhaps more than some others considered comfortable. He blazed the trail before we created our Open Space Committee. The Rose family members were the wisest of all. They got a fair price, have built homes at the edge of the farm, and will look up at the pasture land and colonial stone walls each day for the rest of their lives. We will always be grateful to the Rose family for recognizing the farm's unique heritage value and for first offering the land to their friends in Bolton.