High School Teacher Receives World History Conference Grant

By Ryan Leung

Kristin Strobel

Kristin Strobel

Over the summer of 2015, Lexington High School Freshman World History teacher Kristin Strobel attended the World History Association Annual Conference, thanks to a generous grant from the Lexington Education Foundation.

“A few years ago, when the World History Association was in Salem, Massachusetts, I went to the conference,” Strobel said, “[but] I really wanted to go back another time, so when the LEF grant came up at the same time I realized the theme was going to be about art, [I thought] ‘that’s perfect,’ and that’s how I signed up.”

The conference, held in Savannah, Georgia, featured scholars and teachers from all around the country gathering together to learn and share the latest ideas and approaches in their respective fields. Strobel said, “It was interesting…to meet historians from all around the world. One of the things that’s great about the World History Association is that it’s both professors and teachers that come, and…both secondary and higher education really inform each other, which is pretty interesting.”

After her experience at the conference, Strobel plans to bring her knowledge back to the high school. “Taking a piece of art and having people analyze it in different methods was really interesting…I came back going through these different steps that different people used. [The conference] really helped me see art through new eyes, so I’m looking forward to being able to do that in my next unit,…use these tactics a little more and really dedicate large sections of the class time and go deeply into one idea and talk about technique….The Renaissance unit is the perfect place for this.”

Not only has the grant benefited her students, the grants also help contribute to the enthusiasm for learning that characterizes Lexington High School. Strobel added, “I think [LEF does] an unbelievable job at just keeping all of us up to date and enthusiastic and constantly learning. And when teachers are constantly learning they’re better teachers…It’s really one of the things that makes the culture of this place so positive.”

“The support that LEF gives is huge, just the idea that I have this special platform. And even if you don’t get a grant every year, you’re still feeding off of grants you’ve gotten in past years or that your colleagues have gotten. Just the fact that the town and the people of the town have supported us so much is really powerful,” Strobel said. “I’m very privileged to a be part of it and work in a place where such a thing exists.”



About LEF
The Lexington Education Foundation (LEF) was founded in 1989 to support “better schools, brighter futures” for Lexington Public School students. Since our founding, LEF has awarded grants totaling over $4.4 million from funds raised from individuals and businesses throughout our community. Grants support exploration of innovative approaches to teaching, development of educational materials, testing of new uses of technology to meet educational needs, and professional development that enriches teachers’ subject-area knowledge and skill. Grants range in size and scope. Proposals are carefully reviewed to ensure a focus on efforts that contribute to student achievement and the quality of our schools. Lexington Education Foundation (LEF) is an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization. LEF is not affiliated with the Lexington Public Schools.

Share this:

METCO Scholarship Fund Of Lexington Charts Exciting New Course

METCO LogoWith support from the Indian Americans of Lexington, Merck & Shire

Entering its 45th Anniversary Year the METCO (METropolitan COuncil for Educational Opportunity) College Scholarship Fund of Lexington (MCSFL) is proud to announce generous support from several community-based organizations. The MCSFL awards scholarships to Lexington High School graduates who are enrolled in METCO, a state-funded grant program that promotes diversity and educational opportunity for more than 3,300 Boston students by enrolling them in participating suburban school districts.  Lexington was one of the first seven communities at the forefront of this voluntary school-busing program when it was initiated nearly 50 years ago in 1966.  Currently 37 communities throughout Massachusetts participate.  Two hundred and fifty-one METCO students attend all grades of the Lexington School district, typically enrolling in the first grade and continuing through graduation at LHS. Long time MCSFL Trustee Charles Martin, understands that “an excellent primary and secondary education is no longer enough to prepare students for present and future jobs in what has become an innovation economy.  A college education is now a necessity.  My experience has shown that the majority of METCO families are single parent, low-income, non-college-educated households with much higher aspirations than that for their children.  Lexington’s schools have successfully played their role in making that happen but without financial aid, such as offered by the MCSFL, it stops here – a college education is just not possible.”


From left to right: Jill Smilow, President of the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington, Sudha Balasuryan, Archana Singhal, Co-President of IAL and Seema Sinha.

From left to right: Jill Smilow, President of the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington, Sudha Balasuryan, Archana Singhal, Co-President of IAL and Seema Sinha.

In support of this truth, in November, the Indian Americans of Lexington (IAL) organization chose the MCSFL to be the recipient of the IAL’s Annual Charity Giving at the 2015 Diwali celebration. “This year the IAL Board decided to focus on education and thought giving to METCO will further our mission to give back to the community”. The METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington “is indeed very deserving and we believe it is rewarding to help these kids when they need it the most”, said Co-President Nirmala Garimella, on behalf of the IAL Board.


In 2014, Cubist Pharmaceuticals became a corporate sponsor, providing matching dollars for the May-June fund drive.  The Lexington community rose to the challenge, and the combined total raised provided a significant addition to the scholarships we were able to disburse for our 2014 METCO graduates.  Earlier this year, Merck provided a similar generous donation in matching funds to support the MCSFL for our 2015 graduates. Again, individual donors stepped up and the funds raised through the drive helped our METCO students begin their college life. To close out this year, corporate neighbor Shire donated to the MCSFL to help support our students. “Shire is proud to have our U.S. Operational Headquarters in Lexington and we are committed to being a contributing member of the community,” said Jessica Cotrone, Shire’s Head of External Communications.  “We appreciate the important impact the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington has on deserving students and we are very happy to support it.”


In 2016, the Board of Trustees of the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington will be putting into action a new strategic plan focused on raising awareness of METCO and the MCSFL in the community as well as working toward a college completion funding model to help students not just as they enter college but to help close financial gaps as they matriculate on their way toward finishing their college degrees. There is a new website as well as a Facebook Page where visitors can learn more about the MCSFL and future events related to METCO and our students. To learn more about the MCSFL and to donate online go to: https://metcocollegescholarship.wordpress.com/ or contact Jill Smilow, President of the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington at metco.csfl@gmail.com. Contributions to the MCSFL are appreciated and can be sent to the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington, 10 Fletcher Avenue, Lexington, MA 02420.
In 2016, the Board of Trustees of the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington will be putting into action a new strategic plan focused on raising awareness of METCO and the MCSFL in the community as well as working toward a college completion funding model to help students not just as they enter college but to help close financial gaps as they matriculate on their way toward finishing their college degrees. There is a new website as well as a Facebook Page where visitors can learn more about the MCSFL and future events related to METCO and our students. To learn more about the MCSFL and to donate online go to: https://metcocollegescholarship.wordpress.com/ or contact Jill Smilow, President of the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington at metco.csfl@gmail.com. Contributions to the MCSFL are appreciated and can be sent to the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington, 10 Fletcher Avenue, Lexington, MA 02420.


Sunday, May 15th
at 3 pm

Depot Square, Lexington Center
Join in a community-wide celebration of the 45th Anniversary of the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington. Meet former METCO students, members of the Board and learn more about the history of the METCO program in our community and our strategic plans for the future of the MCSFL.
The event is free and open to all!

Share this:

Lexx Restaurant Continues to Evolve

Lexx logo est 2004 (5)By Jim Shaw

As a community, Lexington continues to evolve on many fronts.  From real estate development and our public schools, to local government and commerce, the complexion of Lexington is changing.  There has been a great deal of discussion lately about the business mix in Lexington Center.  One of the most significant changes over the past ten or so years has been the increase in up-scale casual dining options.  While several new restaurants have opened in Lexington Center, Lexx Restaurant essentially paved the way and helped to put Lexington on the map as a destination for dining.

It must be said that Lexington is home to several very good local restaurants that have served this community well for many years.  Among them are Mario’s, Yangtze River, Dabin and Via Lago.  However, Don Rosenberg and Chris Bateman wanted to introduce the concept of an up-scale American fare menu with a casual atmosphere here in Lexington.  Towards that end, Lexx was opened in October of 2004, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Chris Bateman, Lexx co-owner and managing partner.

Chris Bateman, Lexx co-owner and managing partner.

Rosenberg, the son of Dunkin Donuts founder William Rosenberg, had previously established and operated Aesop’s Bagels for several years at the same location as Lexx.  Lexx managing partner/owner Chris Bateman explains the transition from Aesop’s to Lexx. Chris says, “I was original hired to be the general manager to help fix an opening that wasn’t quite perfect and run the restaurant the way a restaurant should be run. I came from Vinnie Testa’s where I saw the company grow from three restaurants to a chain of eleven restaurants.  I managed their Lexington location for five years before Don asked me to join him at Lexx.  I knew I wanted to work with Don.  He was a visionary and an entrepreneur with lots of experience.  I knew I could learn from him and help him bring structure and organization to Lexx.  Don had decided that it was time to shift concepts from Aesops’s Bagels.  He thought that Lexington needed an upscale casual restaurant that served cocktails and craft beer. Lexx ended up paving the way for Lexington to become a dining destination.”

Apparently, all did not go well when Lexx first opened.  Operations needed to be revamped and wait times needed to be reduced.  Chris explains that his first challenge was to right the ship.  He says, “In the beginning, the buzz about Lexx wasn’t so good.  People thought the waits were too long and they weren’t completely happy with the menu.  That was the real challenge.  Getting people here in Lexington to be open-minded about giving Lexx another opportunity.  Don and I had a long interview and he saw that I could bring the systems and operations that was needed at Lexx.  In the beginning, I spent a great deal of time in the community.  We wanted to partner with great community organizations like the Lexington Symphony and help other organizations.  In fact, each year we donate about $5,000 in gift certificates to local charitable organizations.  I think our sincere commitment to the community has helped to breed good will.”

Chris explains that while Lexx was always a good restaurant, it needed to go to the next level.  While he was good at operations, he wasn’t a trained chef.  So he set out to find one, and he did.  Chris says, “We were really never a chef driven establishment.  Over the years our menu has morphed with changes that we thought were good.  We wanted to move from being a good restaurant to a great restaurant, and now in year eleven I hired a chef that can help us achieve that goal.  Chef Jonathan Post was brought in because of his culinary prowess. He’s going to do great things here.  His new menu items have been off the charts. Our guests love them. I would honestly put his dishes up against any of the great Boston chefs.  So, I’m excited about what the future will bring.”

Working with a new chef can be an adjustment, but Chris decided to trust in the recommendations of his new chef.  Chris says, “From day one, we were focused on fresh, quality ingredients. But when chef Jonathan arrived six months ago, he was adamant that everything should be made from scratch.  Right down to the ketchup.  I know it sounds silly to be so concerned about ketchup, but Jonathan made the argument that ketchup can touch off allergies for sensitive people, and that making our own ketchup would illustrate our commitment to offering truly fresh food.  I was concerned because people have been using Heinz here for eleven years, but it only took three months to move people towards our fresh ketchup.  Now they love it, and it contains no sugars, preservatives or coloring.  It’s as fresh as it can be.”

After achieving the level of success that has sustained them over the last few years, Chris’ challenge had been about keeping regular customers satisfied.  He explained that their always seeking new ways to keep things fresh without letting go of what works.  He said, “I always said that we had to have enough items on the menu so people can visit us on multiple occasions.  During the week, if they want to stop by for a burger and a beer that’s great.  If a couple wants to come in on a Friday or Saturday night and have a more upscale meal, or if someone wants to have a business meeting here or celebrate a special occasion, we need to be able to have enough offerings.  One thing that I’ve noticed at other similar restaurants is their limited menu selection.  Often I’ll see only five or so entrees or only a couple of salads to choose from.  For us, we try to bill ourselves as the neighborhood restaurant with a great selection where you can spend as much or as little as you want.”

Chris continued, “The challenge for chef Jonathan is he’s always looking to introduce new things to the menu, but I say that our formula has always been to have a much broader menu.  We literally have guests who eat here six or seven times a week.  We have to keep our selections fresh, but consistent with a broad selection.  I know we can’t be all things to all people, but we have to try.”


Mediterranean Hummus _ Lexx-1

Mediterranean Hummus


Beet Salad


Lemon Bar

When asked about where he thought he’d be after eleven years in business, Chris was pretty confident that he has risen to the challenges he set for himself.  He says, “I think we’re about where I expected us to be after eleven years.  For me personally, I thought I’d only be here for a couple of years.  I wanted to put structures in place and get the place where it needed to be.  However, after the original chef left, I accepted the challenge of seeing just how good we could become.  As I said, I originally came on as the GM, but after a few years Don gave me equity in the company.  I then became managing partner, so now I’m one of the owners of the company. Don has now pretty much retired and has left 100% of the day-to-day operations to me. We talk several times a week about the business and how to always keep things fresh and interesting.”

Clearly, Lexx has become a staple for local dining.  It’s where you go to be seen and to see others.  Rarely do you go to Lexx without bumping into someone you know.  That’s a tribute to the success they have achieved and their commitment to the community.  When asked about the future Chris smiled and said, “I hope that our menu will grow and that we always seek to improve all facets of Lexx. We’ll always have our Lexx classics like osso bucco, the burger and our Moroccan stew, but the challenge has always been and will continue to be our focus on offering the very best food in a warm friendly atmosphere to our friends here in Lexington.”


Executive Chef, Jonathan Post

Chef Jonathan Post

Chef Jonathan Post

Executive Chef, Jonathan Post, by way of Nashville, Tennessee, brings his seasonal, locally-inspired, New-England-through-a-Southern-lens style to Lexx Restaurant’skitchen and hopes to make the next ten years there even more successful than the past decade.

It’s easy to glimpse the influence of the down-home cookin’ on which Jonathan was raised when he’s in the kitchen.  Whether it reveals itself in the myriad of pickles and preserves, or in the multitude of containers of bacon drippings and animal fat stacked in the cooler, there’s no doubt that Jonathan carries his heritage close to him like a tattered old wallet photo.  His simple, approachable food isn’t fussed over, just presented honestly with the ambition of doing justice to the raw product, and the people who cared for it.

The people responsible for his ingredients are never far from Jonathan’s mind.  Being in close contact with the farmers is a priority, as they are the ones who really dictate the menu.  Often, on the few days that he’s not in the kitchen, Jonathan is on his knees with his hands in the dirt, helping to transplant seedlings, or hand-weeding a bed of carrots.

In the decade that Jonathan has been in New England, he has been blessed to have spent time in the kitchens of some exceptionally talented chefs.  There was a several-year stint at Blue Ginger, the flagship restaurant of celebrity chef Ming Tsai, where he was exposed to exotic ingredients, but most importantly to the Asian philosophy of balance.  Jonathan was on the opening management team at 80 Thoreau, where he honed his attention to detail, refinement, and realized the significance of impeccable technique.  At Moody’s Delicatessen he was given the opportunity to witness, and absorb the knowledge of a master charcutier.  All of these experiences, among others, are visible in his approach and deliberation, and ultimately his food.

Jonathan is thrilled with the new opportunity to be heading up the kitchen at Lexx  Restaurant and just as eager to get to know all of his new neighbors.  So, even if he looks busier than a cat on a hot tin roof, be sure to stop by the kitchen and say hello!



Lexx logo est 2004 (5)

Click image for LEXX Menu

Lexx is located at 1666 Massachusetts Avenue in Lexington Center.  Call them at 781-674-2990, or visit them at LexxRestaurant.com for more information about their menu and hours of operation.


Share this:

Lexington’s Walking Man


Rick Abrams

Rick Abrams


The Pied Piper of ACROSS Lexington

A year after Rick left us, ACROSS Lexington, the work of his final months, is being rededicated in his memory. This is a tribute to Rick and his indefatigable devotion to this project and his special talent for creating connections, leading and inspiring with quiet, grace, determination and humor.


By Laurie Atwater


He loved to walk in nature. He fell in love with footpaths in England while attending York University and continued the practice when he wanted a quiet meditative place to think away from traffic and the hectic business of life. When he became ill, he found walking to be therapeutic and life affirming, and it sustained him throughout a decade-long battle with thyroid cancer.

In his final years, Rick Abrams turned his attention to an ambitious community project in Lexington that would make it easier for the entire community to share his love of walking in nature. Linking the many protected conservation areas in Lexington to form a coherent network of walking trails, ACROSS (Accessing Conservation land, Recreation areas, Open space, Schools and Streets) Lexington is Rick’s legacy and a gift to all Lexingtonians.  He worked tirelessly to make this idea a reality and now, just about one year after Rick’s death, ACROSS Lexington: the Rick Abrams Memorial Trail Network will be officially dedicated to his memory on June 14th.

And what a memory it is for people who knew and loved him and even those who met him briefly—Rick Abrams was one of those rare people who made good things happen all around him, inspired respect and affection and left the world a better place. He had a gift.


Grey QuoteIt was Rick’s spirit and enthusiasm, that was the spark, his constant encouragement, positive attitude, and smile—that kept all of us coming back every month.”

Mark Sandeen, Chairman
Sustainable Lexington Committee



Starting young, Rick learned to work hard. I recently visited with his wife Susan Kenyon and she told me that Rick’s parents raised chickens on a farm in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. The family left the farm when Rick was six and moved to Providence. Then in 1969, when Rick was 12, they bought a “rundown rooming house on Block Island.” Rick’s father was a “visionary” according to Susan—one of those entrepreneurial spirits who was always ahead of the curve. Block Island didn’t have any prestige in those days, but his parents thought it would be good for the kids—they could have summer jobs at the inn and start on a new adventure. No small nod to dad’s instincts, the inn is a vibrant business to this day as the locale has grown into a popular vacation spot. His sister Rita Draper runs it now, but in the early years all the kids pitched in. Susan often tells the story of Rick’s humble culinary beginnings as an assistant to the Chef when he was 14. In a dramatic moment, after the chef burned his hand, young Rick jumped in to cook breakfast for 160 guests! Cooking was a skill that Rick continued to develop and enjoy.  In thirty-five years of marriage, Susan says she never cooked a meal, while Rick’s skills became legend among his friends. “It was good because I come from a long line of bad cooks,” Susan says with a laugh.

Rick and his brother Mark started a sandwich shop on the island and Susan says people still say, ‘I remember those sandwiches!’ with a nostalgic lick of the lips. As fledgling entrepreneurs, they stayed open late and would sell their sandwiches to the hungry bar crowds after hours. “They would sleep till 1 or 2 the next day,” Susan says with a laugh.

Ironically Susan and Rick started out just miles from one another in Rhode Island; Rick on the chicken farm and Susan in potato country in South Kingstown, but they wouldn’t meet for years down the road. They both landed at Colby College in Waterville, Maine in the 1970s, but for the 4 years on campus they only spoke a few times. Rick was a dedicated student and applied himself enthusiastically to his studies at the expense of a social life—often disappearing into the library stacks. (He graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in economics and mathematics. He was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa.)

Susan did know Rick’s roommate Doug Kaplan at Colby. After graduation when Susan was in law school and needed a place to crash while she started a summer associateship at Mintz Levin, she contacted Doug. He was in Boston and still rooming with Rick. Finally Susan and Rick got to know each other and discovered everything that they had in common! They were married in 1982 and moved to Lexington in 1993.

Rick was a family man first. Rick with his wife Susan Kenyon and beloved children (left to right) Archie, Sydney and Stan.

Rick was a family man first. Rick with his wife Susan Kenyon and beloved children (left to right) Archie, Sydney and Stan.

In the early years Rick worked for Data Resources in Lexington and Susan was practicing law at Mintz Levin. They had a great life for two young people, but Rick was itching to do something else. Susan says he was toying with going back to graduate school, but wasn’t really that interested. His inner entrepreneur was just dying to get out! Rick had a regular squash game with a venture capitalist named Jerry Dykama. One day Jerry hinted around at a possible business opportunity. Eventually Jerry introduced Rick to Tom Snyder, a teacher from the Shady Hill School who had started a business called Computer Learning Connection. Snyder would eventually become Rick’s business partner in something that was called “educational software.”


Susan can laugh about it now, but it must have been pretty scary at the time. “Rick took a fifty percent cut in pay,” she says and moved to an office in a 3rd story walk-up. His desk was a piece of plywood on hinges that rested atop the sink in the kitchen! “Back then, no one understood computers,” she says. “Everyone thought he was crazy!”

It appears that Rick had inherited some of that visionary gift from his father because the field of educational software was in its infancy and their company, Tom Snyder Productions (TSP), went on to pioneer innovative, creative products, even expanding into animation with Soup2Nuts Studios.

“The notion of combining business with a social agenda like education was something that appealed to Rick,” Susan says. “Their products were never designed to replace teachers, they were made for teachers who wanted to enhance the curriculum and enrich the learning experience.”

Eventually the partners sold TSP to Scholastic. Rick stayed on as General Manager and was still working when he discovered a lump while shaving. The lump turned out to be thyroid cancer.


Rick attacked the new challenge with the same inquisitive, hard-working, optimistic attitude that shaped his every endeavor. He researched and learned everything he could. He met his treatment regimen with mettle and everything seemed to follow the predictably curable path of the most common thyroid cancers for a short while. But when it came roaring back and it was obvious that Rick’s was a more virulent form of thyroid cancer—a cancer that is actually rather rare.

He underwent grueling radiation and chemotherapy. During his therapy, Rick contacted a group called ITOG (International Thyroid Oncology Group) and went on to become the only patient advocate on the ITOG board.  Susan explains that Rick spent hours advocating, helped the organization develop their website and made a short video about his experience to help other patients (still on the website) all during his difficult illness.

He continued to work for as long as he could, reduced his hours to part-time, and began to look outside his professional life for sources of strength. He loved photography, cooking and reading. He was well-known for his men-only book club with paired meals—the menu matched the topic of the book!

He connected with Ramel (Rami) Rones, a Tai Chi instructor after seeing a flyer at Dana Farber and learned to expand his understanding of the mind-body connection through Tai Chi and meditation—a practice and friendship that sustained him on his journey.

And he kept walking.

When he decided to go on disability, he experienced the stress that anyone experiences when they stop working. “He said, ‘What am I going to do?’” Susan says, and he was really worried about the idea of “retiring.”

For Rick, “retirement” meant continued work with the ITOG board, a position with the Woods Hole Corporation, the Wheelock College Board of Directors, the Lexington Greenways Corridor Committee, the Lexington Global Warming Action Coalition, Sustainable Lexington, and the Battle Road Historic Byway Committee.

ACROSS Lexington   

The sinage that marks the trails of ACROSS Lexington.

The sinage that marks the trails of ACROSS Lexington.

Despite his fears, Susan says, “The timing worked out really well. When the Greenways Corridor Committee was formed there were people involved who were thinking about creating trails and linking paths in Lexington.” Susan says that their son Archie, a former member of the LHS cross country team used to tell them that he could go for a 10 mile run and “his feet would barely hit pavement.” The idea of interconnected footpaths really appealed to Rick’s love of walking in nature.

“We were always big walkers. Route B, as it’s now known, is the trail that we would walk together.”

Susan explains, “Over time ACROSS Lexington became like his full-time job!” He threw himself into the project and worked tirelessly with Keith Ohmart and other committee members. “He went to 22 boards to gain approvals,” Susan says. Soon he became the public face of ACROSS Lexington. He had the time and seemingly endless stores of energy. It was hard not to wonder how he was managing it all in the face of his illness. He never talked about it. “I think in the last two years of his life he was in bed maybe for a day or two,” Susan says. “He was always busy with meetings and things to do for ACROSS Lexington.”

Rick, ever the technology advocate, even made a connection with David Neal, an IOS developer and Lexington resident, to create the ACROSS Lexington App which is available for free download from the Apple App Store and provides GPS guidance while walking the trails.

Members of the Greenways Corridor Committee. Front row- Alex Dohan, Eileen Entin, Rick Abrams, Keith Ohmart. Back row- Peggy Enders, Paul Knight, Mike Tabaczynski, Bob Hausselein, Stew Kennedy. Photo by David Tabeling.

Members of the Greenways Corridor Committee. Front row- Alex Dohan, Eileen Entin, Rick Abrams, Keith Ohmart. Back row- Peggy Enders, Paul Knight, Mike Tabaczynski, Bob Hausselein, Stew Kennedy. Photo by David Tabeling.

Keith Ohmart, Chair of the Greenways Corridor Committee says, “Rick seemingly came out of nowhere, blazed across my life and those of my colleagues on the Greenways Corridor Committee for a much too short period of time, made what became the ACROSS Lexington project his own including creating the name for the project, and will be forever remembered.”

The members of the committee loved working with Rick. Much as he had done in his professional life, he infused his work with energy, creativity, inclusiveness and fun. He was a motivator. When several college students reached out to the Sustainable Lexington Committee Rick offered to be their mentor. Mark Sandeen, Chairman of the Sustainable Lexington Committee says that Rick thought it was a good way to pass on their concern and keen interest for the future of the planet to the next generation.

“When you think about climate change and sustainability,” Sandeen explains, “you can get lost in numbers and graphs and reports, but Rick said, ‘We’re talking about quality of life. How can we make this town a better place to live and how can we do the right thing for ourselves and for our kids?’”

“Rick touched many lives through his work with Sustainable Lexington. Rick was the first person who gave me hope that we really could pull a group of great people together who would be willing to work together to make a sustainable difference in Lexington. It was Rick’s spirit and enthusiasm, that was the spark, his constant encouragement, positive attitude, and smile—that kept all of us coming back every month,” Mark says. “Rick was an amazing guy who had more friends than you can count, because Rick made a new friend every time he met someone new. That is a rare gift indeed!”

Sheryl Rosner, who was new to the committee at the time says, “Rick brought such an important perspective to the Sustainable Lexington Committee as he was so committed and enthusiastic about connecting people to nature and very savvy about messaging and technology. His passion and vision about the protected parcels not only led to the success of ACROSS Lexington but was the catalyst for creating an app for the routes. He would have been thrilled with last weekend’s Hidden Treasures event that also tied in art to the trails.”

A year ago in April Rick found out that the last of the experimental drugs was not working and the cancer had spread. He was facing two surgeries over the next couple of months. According to Susan, he was most worried about getting things done for ACROSS Lexington. “He was working on the first map and it was Bike Walk ‘n Bus Week—he led 3 walks that week!” He was thinking ahead to the future and never lost his hopeful attitude.

Susan is working on approval for a memorial bench on Route B in Dunback Meadow, Rick’s favorite spot. It will hopefully inspire walkers to stop for a few moments, breathe deeply and connect with the beauty of nature. Rick would like that.



To download the complete ACROSS Lexington  brochure visit: www.acrosslexington.org


Visit ACROSS Lexington on facebook: www.facebook.com/acrosslex and post a picture of yourself enjoying the trails!


Download the FREE ACROSS Lexington App at the Apple App Store:



HatThe Board of Selectmen has established
the Rick Abrams ACROSS Lexington Fund
to support the trail network by creating:

• New directional and interpretive signage,
• Electronic and/or print maps, and
• Web/software development to incorporate current technologies.

The mailing address for donations is:

Board of Selectmen
ACROSS Lexington Trust Fund
Town of Lexington
1625 Massachusetts Ave.
Lexington, MA 02420

Please make checks out to “Town of Lexington”
and write “Rick Abrams ACROSS Lexington Trust Fund”
on the memo line.

Share this:

LHS Poetry Book Helps Students Show Academic Merit and Share Their Own Unique Voices

The Student Publishing Program has announced that its fourth poetry book, The Common Understanding: Poems from Lexington High School’s Class of 2017, has already received submissions from over 450 sophomores. “It’s the most ever in over a decade of working with LHS,” says program cofounder and LHS Grad Anthony Tedesco, adding that “print publication is a great motivator for students, but none of this would be possible without the dedicated writing support of LHS’s English teachers and the courageous participation of the sophomores themselves.”
This year’s book is titled from one of the featured poems, The Common Understanding, written by LHS sophomore Austin Fowlkes, and the book will include a foreword by Robert Pinsky, former U.S. Poet Laureate, founder of The Favorite Poem Project (favoritepoem.org), and author of Selected Poems (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux).
Founded in 2002 by Tedesco and LHS English Teacher Karen Russell, The Student Publishing Program (SPP) is a school-fundraising English Literary Arts curriculum that works with local teachers and the nation’s top poets to help students find and express their own unique voices and demonstrate their academic merit – to themselves and to the community at-large – beyond data-driven assessment. Russell explains that “While SPP meets key Common Core standards and benchmarks for 10th grade English Language Arts, it goes beyond that to help students often exceed perceived ability levels when they are given the opportunity to find their genuine voice that expresses what truly matters.”


For SPP’s free writing and publishing resources, information on pre-ordering LHS’s poetry book, and opportunities to help The Student Publishing Program with your time, tax-deductible donations or expert advice, please visit ColonialTimes.LHSpoem.org


SPP’s school-safe, online publishing platform, makes it easy and quick for teachers to secure and manage hundreds of submissions and permissions, so all sophomores have the opportunity to get their poems published and promoted in an online literary magazine and in a paperback book, with SPP giving 100% of profits back to LHS to further support English Language Arts.
In 2011, when SPP was last able to publish students in a book and promote their work through a book launch/poetry reading event, it was thanks in part to vital support, says Tedesco, from the William G. Tapply Memorial Fund and Lexington Community Education. But even without funding this year, to enable participation and the benefits of print publication, SPP decided to provide the program at no cost to LHS, with SPP’s small staff volunteering all of its time and services, much as so many generous advisors and authors have done to benefit students in the past, including invaluable support from teachers, students, and parents, as well as from local writers such as C. Anthony Martignetti, author of, most recently, Beloved Demons (3 Swallys Press), and X.J. Kennedy, winner of the Robert Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime service to American poetry, and author of In A Prominent Bar In Secaucus: New & Selected Poems (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007).

Van Seasholes

Van Seasholes

In 2011’s book, titled Unsaid, Kennedy wrote: “To any writer, writing always seems more a meaningful act if it results in publication. In bringing out Unsaid, Anthony Tedesco and the Student Publishing Program have accomplished something rare and valuable. This book and this program strike me, to the best of my knowledge, as the most remarkable gift to student writers that anyone has offered in America.”
For SPP’s free writing and publishing resources, information on pre-ordering LHS’s poetry book, and opportunities to help The Student Publishing Program with your time, tax-deductible donations or expert advice, please go online to ColonialTimes.LHSpoem.org.
As the Student Publishing Program’s founding media partner, The Lexington Colonial Times Magazine is also proud to be featuring additional student poems and program coverage in an upcoming issue during April’s National Poetry Month.







Mitchell 2











Share this:

DIY Sisters find business inspiration in mid-century modern furniture and a shared love for design

Sisters Lisa Berland of Lexington and Laura Berland-Wyman of Lincoln are partners in Retrocraft Design

Sisters Lisa Berland of Lexington and Laura Berland-Wyman of Lincoln are partners in Retrocraft Design


In an airy light industrial space in West Concord, sisters Laura Berland-Wyman and Lisa Berland renovate and transform vintage furnishings to enhance contemporary homes.

They launched Retrocraft Design studio in 2011 (www.retrocraftdesign.com) and also have online stores on the e-commerce website Etsy (www.etsy.com) and the new vintage design website Chairish (www.chairish.com).

By Jane Whitehead

On a recent sunny afternoon, the sisters sat with me around a refurbished 1960s Park dining table in their showroom and talked about their mother’s genius for creative dumpster-diving, their enthusiasm for mid-century modern design, their evolving business model, and the dynamics of being sisters in business together.

A DIY INHERITANCE    “We all grew up with a strong sense of design,” says Berland-Wyman, recalling their childhood on the Chelsea/Greenwich Village border in Manhattan in the late 1950s and 1960s. Both sisters attended PS 41, “where all the bohemian kids went,” she says, laughing. Their mother, a modern dancer by training, was an intrepid DIY decorator who furnished their home with curbside trophies.

“Nothing daunted her,” says Berland-Wyman: “She was always cutting legs off things, repurposing them.” Two memorable transformations were the grafting of hairpin legs on to an antique oak pedestal table, and the conversion of a rattan chair into a giant hanging lampshade. Their father, a social worker by profession, was also a photographer who commandeered a bathroom as a darkroom and improvised sculpture out of found objects like pieces of driftwood.

Apart from a sense of design, color and the aesthetics of everyday life, the sisters also inherited their parents’ can-do attitude. “That generation came out of the Depression, and they were just used to doing whatever needed to be done,” says Berland. So whether it was upholstering a chair, making curtains or refinishing a floor: “You learned that you could just do it, you could figure it out,” she says.

A TRAINED EYE    Both sisters have fine art training. While working as an editor and later, school administrator, and raising three children, Berland took many art classes at the De Cordova Museum in Lincoln. “Art was always there,” she says, “something I did in the background.” As a continuing education student at the Museum of Fine Art School in Boston, her younger sister Berland-Wyman honed skills she used for many years as a decorative painter – “faux everything” – and color consultant. “I love working with color, I like materials and I like working with my hands,” she says. Working primarily in other people’s houses had its frustrations, she admits, and part of the appeal of launching a small business was the prospect of more autonomy and creative freedom.

As they started working together on the projects that would evolve into Retrocraft, the sisters studied upholstery at the Elliot School in Jamaica Plain.  “We did a very complicated chair as our project,” says Berland-Wyman, who also took wood-working classes at the school.

A fine mess! The sisters acquire pieces with good bones just waiting for their moment to shine once again!

A fine mess! The sisters acquire pieces with good bones just waiting for their moment to shine once again!

THE ALLURE OF MID-CENTURY MODERN   The idea for Retrocraft grew organically out of the sisters’ shared DIY projects over the years. Berland lives in Lexington, Berland-Wyman in Lincoln, and they’ve always helped each other with home decorating. “When we first thought of it, we thought of taking pieces that we liked, and transforming them in some way,” says Berland. “We went out looking, and we really had no clue what we were doing,” she says. “People gave us all kinds of things, we picked up stuff on the street.”

At first, says Berland-Wyman, “we just found things that we liked, and we really weren’t looking for mid-century particularly, although we found those things and we loved them.”  They found premises in the crumbling Bradford Mill in West Concord, “huge space, cheap, lots of light,” and worked a few days a week, mainly painting antique pieces in bold colors and selling them on Craigslist, reaching customers throughout the Greater Boston area. As the mill buildings were upgraded, the rent went up, the footage shrank, and in 2013 the sisters found new space at 152 Commonwealth Avenue, West Concord, near the Nashoba Bakery.

The interior of Retrocraft in West Concord is filled with lovingly transformed pieces.

The interior of Retrocraft in West Concord is filled with lovingly transformed pieces.

As the business gained traction, it became clear that “the mid-century stuff got so much more attention than anything else,” says Berland. Berland-Wyman thinks the current enthusiasm for mid-century modern design comes from an appreciation of its simple lines and good craftsmanship, as well as a hunger for “eclectic, different, unique pieces.”

Both sisters emphasize that they’re not restorers – they often choose to alter the look of a piece with paint or a colored stain, or add a stenciled design, or other custom element. An example is a rosewood coffee table made from a piece of wood discarded during a renovation project at a local museum where it served as a bench. The rosewood top, with subtly rounded edges and corners, carries the seal of the well known mid century Danish cabinet-maker, Ludvig Pontoppidan. The sisters commissioned welded steel legs to complement the rosewood grain and refinished the top, to create a handsome and unique piece. “We’re always thinking about what we can change up and make more interesting,” says Berland.

Lane Acclaim Dining Table

Lane Acclaim Dining Table

Lane Altavista Credenza

Lane Altavista Credenza

The downside to the boom in all things mid-century modern is increasing competition. “The problem for us is that it’s very competitive to buy this stuff now – it’s getting harder to find, harder to afford,” says Berland. To keep Retrocraft’s inventory fresh, she says, they work with a handful of dealers and businesses that specialize in cleanouts, and as the profile of the business grows they find that more and more people bring mid-century pieces to them.


Before: Custom upholstery gives this drab chair a new life.


After: Ready to add a beautiful accent to any decor.

A BUSINESS EVOLVES    From selling a handful of pieces monthly on Craigslist, the sisters have developed a hybrid operation that relies on their constantly updated website, and online stores at Etsy, Chairish and Krrb, to bring customers into the store. They also send out a monthly email newsletter to around 600 clients, highlighting new items in stock.

“The idea is that people can go to the website and see what we have before they truck out here,” says Berland, “and mostly people come because there’s something specific they want to buy.” Recently, they have added a range of accessories including Austrian-made patterned throws by David Fusseneger Textiles, colorful mid-century cased-glass decorative pieces, and sturdy handcrafted brooms from rural Pennsylvania.

Early on, Berland and Berland-Wyman decided that shipping would not be part of their services, so clients buying directly from Retrocraft and through the Etsy store arrange their own shipping – a fact that has not deterred a growing base of fans in California, Texas and New York. Retrocraft’s latest online venture is a store on the website www.Chairish.com, which bills itself as “the first online consignment marketplace,” and handles all shipping arrangements, for a cut of 20 per cent on sales. It’s a mark of Retrocraft’s growing reputation that Chairish invited their participation on the new site.

In the growing local market for mid-century modern design, the sisters see Retrocraft as occupying a unique niche. “There are some very high end mid-century modern retailers who are doing restoration,” says Berland. “We’re not competing with those guys.” At the other end of the scale, she says Retrocraft offers much more than the average consignment store. “When we sell something we want it to be structurally sound and in good working order,” says Berland-Wyman. “We try to make people happy, and if something’s not the way they want, we try to make it right,” she says – an attitude that has garnered many enthusiastic reviews at Retrocraft’s Etsy store.

SISTER ACT    Asked about how they divide up the work, and how they get on as business partners, both sisters laugh. “We get on each other’s nerves,” says Berland. “We have different obsessions.” “I’m also a perfectionist!” admits Berland-Wyman. “Yes! To the nth degree!” agrees her sister.

Retrocraft seems to thrive on the sisters’ complementary talents. “I’m the CFO – I do all the books. I’m a little compulsive about keeping things in order,” says Berland-Wyman, laughing. “I ended up doing the website and the photography,” says Berland, “and Laurie advises on colors and fabrics.” They employ one part-time assistant, and switch off working Saturdays at the showroom.

“I don’t think people realize how hard it is to have a small business and make it work and have an income from it,” says Berland. Trying to figure out the next move for the business is “on our brains all the time,” she says. And yet when the sisters pause to take stock of what they’ve achieved, they share a certain pride. “We didn’t start with a business plan,” says Berland, “but here we are five years later with a business that people know about, that has a profile.”



152 Commonwealth Avenue, West Concord. Tel: 781-320-9749/781-710-3911; email: contact@retrocraftdesign.com; showroom open Thurs. 1:00 pm-7:00 pm, Fri. and Sat. 11:00 am – 4:00 pm and by appointment.

Share this:

Building Community Around the Supper Table


From L. to R: Harriet Kaufman, John Bernhard, George Murnaghan and Laura Derby stir the pot for Lex Eat Together. Photo courtesy of D. Peter Lund.

From L. to R: Harriet Kaufman, John Bernhard, George Murnaghan and Laura Derby stir the pot for LexEat Together. Photo courtesy of D. Peter Lund.


By E. Ashley Rooney

On Tuesday, May 26, a group of 35 residents met to discuss how we as a community could help those in need. Though not easily visible, there are those among us who struggle with not having enough food and social interaction.  By providing a free, nutritious and regularly scheduled community meal, open to all, we can address these needs and build community with those whose circumstances serve to isolate them.

It is difficult to imagine as the bulldozers raze older homes and turn them into multi-million-dollar dwellings, that we could be hungry because we didn’t have enough money to buy food, but a husband can die, a job disappear, a family or medical emergency can devastate our savings. As Laura Derby, one of the organizers, pointed out, once you lose your financial security, you may drift into social isolation. Life becomes a vicious spiral downward.


Laura, Harriet Kaufman, John Bernhard, and George Murnaghan have been meeting for several months to understand how Lexington can help those in need with a free weekly meal, open to all, which they have named Lex Eat Together.  They have researched similar efforts in Concord and Bedford, worked with the Town’s human services director Charlotte Rodgers, and met with community activists to get their suggestions and input.

Harriet Kaufman pointed out that we have many individuals and groups in town with a strong commitment to service.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ”Life’s most persistent and important question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ Here is an opportunity for connection, for change, and for performing a valuable service.”

She then described the Open Table in Concord and Maynard, which provides a pantry and dinner to all who come, with no questions asked. She spent twenty-five years as a volunteer there, in a variety of roles, including pantry manager, cook, president, board member, and head of guest support services.  The spirit of Open Table, she said, is one of kindness, dignity, inclusion and community.  This spirit is what the group envisions replicating In Lexington.


Their overall plan is to have a weekly meal on Wednesday evenings from 5:30-7 pm, starting, in mid-October, and they are working with the Church of Our Redeemer, located in Lexington Center, to hold the meal in Redeemer’s renovated parish hall and kitchen.  They believe a central location, with suitable kitchen and dining facilities, ample parking and handicap access will serve the guests best.  Redeemer, which has hosted the food pantry for 25 years, fulfills all those requirements.

The 35 attendees broke into teams to discuss obtaining volunteers for cooking, serving, setup/cleanup, outreach and promotion, and organization and fundraising. In the next several months, they plan to build awareness about the Lex Eats Together program, to inform and invite potential guests and our community at large about the meal. They plan to seek funds to secure at least six months of operation.  The organizers believe it will cost around $500 per meal to purchase, prepare and serve 80 individual guests, or $12,500 for six months. They will establish a non-profit group to receive donations in the next several weeks.

To volunteer, contribute or obtain more information, contact John Bernhard jhbernhard2@gmail.com, Laura Derby lauraderby32@gmail.com, Harriet Kaufman harrietkaufman@rcn.com, or George Murnaghan gmurnaghan@verizon.net.  Or email lexeattogether@gmail.com.

Share this:

Conductor Jonathan McPhee Celebrates a Decade with the Lexington Symphony

Banner McPhee


By Karen Sampson

Lexington Symphony’s 2014–2015 season has been a milestone year. Not only has it been the 20th consecutive year of operation for this successful nonprofit professional orchestra, but it has also marked the 10th anniversary for the organization’s Music Director, Jonathan McPhee.
A leading musical figure in New England, McPhee officially joined Lexington Symphony in 2005, after he guest conducted for the orchestra during its conductor search. “I originally came to Lexington Symphony (which was then Lexington Sinfonietta) because of the people in the orchestra. I had guest conducted for them, and there was an intensity — and a true love for making music — that came through. That kind of joy is infectious.”
During the past decade, McPhee has strived to maintain the player-centered spirit of the orchestra while also acting as a catalyst for tremendous organizational and artistic growth. His tireless focus and his penchant for challenging classical music audiences with innovative programming have helped the organization to flourish. “When we moved to Cary Hall [from the National Heritage Museum] in 2005, the entire organization blossomed,” recounts McPhee. “What resonated with me was the fact that the orchestra was located in an ideal community that was intelligent and cared about culture and, of course, history. The potential was all around to build, and I am a builder.”

4_15 Symphony Collage
Working with a solid foundation comprised of a group of exceptionally talented and passionate musicians, devoted board and staff members, and supportive patrons and volunteers, McPhee has expanded the Symphony’s programming, enabling the orchestra to reach new artistic heights. “Looking back over the past 10 years, I can think of many fabulous experiences,” says McPhee. “We have explored new music and old favorites; popular music and music from the movies. Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 was a milestone for the orchestra, the community, and for me personally. Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 and Elgar’s Enigma Variations also stand out as personal favorites.”
Striving to find new ways to broaden the musical repertoire, McPhee has also worked with the Symphony to commission new classical compositions by contemporary composers. During the 2012–2013 season, the Symphony’s “3 for 300th” campaign led to the creation — and performance — of three new works by composers Sky Macklay, Michael Gandolfi, and John Tarrh in celebration of the town of Lexington’s 300th anniversary. McPhee has also nurtured collaborative relationships with other cultural organizations on behalf of the Symphony. In 2007, the Symphony presented a two-part multimedia concert series, Sight and Sound, which featured specially selected photographs from the Polaroid Collections. Other collaborations from the past decade include performances with New World Chorale, The Master Singers, and the Nashua Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. McPhee has also regularly engaged guest performers from near and far, the likes of which have included British violinist Ruth Palmer, Estonian pianist Diana Liiv, Boston-based pianist Max Levinson, soprano Dominique LaBelle, and numerous young, up-and-coming musicians from Lexington.
Programming directed at diverse audiences has been another area of focus for the Symphony and for McPhee, who believes wholeheartedly in the importance of educating young people about classical music. “One of the most fun experiences I’ve had with the Symphony was the first Holiday Pops concert for kids in 2009. We had no idea that adding a 4 p.m. Holiday Pops performance would draw an audience of kids under the age of six with their parents. It was so good to see so many young people at their first live orchestra concert! What an opportunity.” The Symphony also launched its award-winning educational outreach program for third and fourth graders, Orchestrating Kids Through Classics™, during McPhee’s tenure.
The important work McPhee has done on behalf of — and the positive impact has had on — Lexington Symphony isn’t lost on the organization, which hosted a surprise party for him on Monday, January 19 in celebration of his 10th anniversary with the orchestra. Held in Lexington at the home of board member Miyana Bovan, the event — planned by violinist Barbara Hughey and cellist Susan Griffith — was attended by members of the orchestra; past and current board members; Jonathan’s wife, Deborah; staff members, and volunteers. A commemorative book (created by Griffith) containing pictures and programs from the past 10 years, along with personal notes from musicians, board members, and others who have been involved with the orchestra, was presented to McPhee. “He is an inspiring conductor with a leadership style that encourages the highest level of performance and cooperation from all musicians, board members, and staff,” says Epp Sonin, the Symphony’s board president.
In the end, McPhee says the work he does as Lexington Symphony’s music director all boils down to one thing: the audience. “The audience is really special in Lexington, and they are critical to feeling satisfied with a well-played concert,” he explains. “An orchestra is a living, breathing thing, and the audience is what we live for. Our job is to inspire, entertain, and educate. Providing that balance in Lexington has been, and continues to be, exhilarating.”


For more information about Jonathan McPhee and his full schedule, visit his website: http://jonathanmcphee.com. For more information about the LSO, performance schedule details and subscription information see www.lexingtonsymphony.org.

Share this:

The History of the Lexington Fire Department

Below, the Lexington Fire Department assembled before the Minute Man Statue in Lexington Center.

Below, the Lexington Fire Department assembled before the Minute Man Statue in Lexington Center.


By Digney Fignus


When I was a little I loved playing with my fire truck. I even had a bright red pedal car fashioned after a hook and ladder. I was awed by the big shiny trucks rolling along at the end of the Patriot’s Day parade blasting their sirens and bells. Doesn’t every school child at some point want to be a fire fighter?

Fire was one of the first elements of nature that we supposedly tamed.  But Prometheus’ gift to civilization is still held by the most tenuous grasp.  Like a powerful genie, fire is always ready to escape its restraints and wreak havoc upon those who would try to be its master.  Since ancient times, fire was both a great comforter and a great destroyer.  It cooked our food and warmed our homes but could also take our lives and reduce our property to ashes.  Fire was the scourge of every city large and small from the beginning of known civilization.

Rome was the first to try to solve the problem.  Rome was often plagued by fire, most famously when Nero was blamed for burning down 70% of the city in a fire that lasted six days and seven nights.  Emperor Augustus in 24 BC is credited with creating the first fire fighters called “vigiles,” Latin for watchmen.  This was the model for fire prevention up until the early Industrial Age.  The water bucket was the main firefighting tool.  Needless to say, it was hardly effective against a massive blaze.

As a result, as cities became larger and more densely populated conflagrations became more costly.  The problem of urban fires befuddled governments and politicians.  Fire brigades were only established after the tremendous destruction of the Great Fire of London in 1666.  Surprisingly they were first organized by insurance companies in an effort to avoid the massive financial losses that large fires created.  Government lagged far behind, only becoming involved after nearly 200 years when in 1865 London’s Metropolitan Fire Brigade was established.

In North America, Boston was the first city in the then Massachusetts Bay Colony to enact fire prevention legislation.  A year after the city was founded it suffered a major fire, so in 1631 the city banned thatched roofs and wooden chimneys.  But despite the best efforts of governments and insurance companies, until the twentieth century, cities burned to the ground fairly regularly.  Although fire departments started to become more common throughout the nineteenth century, large fires remained an urban nightmare.  The Great Chicago Fire of 1871, supposedly started in a small barn when Mrs. Murphy’s cow knocked over a lantern, burned for three days.  It destroyed much of the city’s business district, killing nearly 300, and left 100,000 homeless.  After the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, deadly fires destroyed 80% of the city, and left a death toll of nearly 3000.

Throughout the 1800s Boston continued to burn down periodically.  On July 6, 1861, the New York Herald reported “Terrible Conflagrations in Boston” that started in a rigging shop and burned down most of the seaport.  A year after the Chicago fire made headlines, Boston’s Great Fire of 1872 consumed a huge section of the city’s downtown and finally led to the appointment of the first board of fire commissioners.

During this time new fire codes were enacted and there were many improvements made to firefighting equipment in an effort to curb the great destruction caused by these disasters.  In addition to the time-tested water bucket and fire axe, which had been around since Roman times, leather hoses had been added to the Boston firefighting arsenal by 1799.  Firefighting wagons began to arrive on the scene in the 1800s.

At first these were little more than a big water tub on wheels to aid the bucket brigade.  Most Colonial homes had a fire bucket ready to be deployed at the first sign of smoke.  An example of one still hangs by the stairs in the Hancock Clarke House.  Wagons with hand pumps were soon replaced by controlled chemical reactions that increased water pressure so fires could be fought from a safer distance.  These first machines were hand-drawn or horse-drawn carriages.  Even though the carriages were equipped with large water containers, pumps, hoses, and ladders, they remained only marginally effective.  Most cities still had watchmen that reported fires until 1851 when the first fire alarm was installed in Boston using the then new invention: the telegraph.  Until 1895 Lexington had fire bells that were rung in East Village and the Centre to alert citizens of a fire.

As innovations continued, cities and towns scrambled to update their firefighting equipment with the most modern improvements.  Lexington was no different.  In 1855 Massachusetts passed legislation requiring cities and towns to establish fire departments.  The Fireman’s Standard of March 1, 1915 reports that prior to the Lexington Water Company laying water lines in 1885, fires were fought by “valiant attempts in which practically all the people participated, (using) hand tubs, (and) buckets such as the Liberty, the first known machine in town.”  The Liberty was essentially a bucket on two wheels. According to The Fireman’s Standard, it was painted “ bright yellow and kept in the barn of Bowen Harrington…There were no suction pipes in these machines…the tubs being filled by the use of buckets in a double line.”  At the start, fire equipment was often provided by private citizens.  Soon after the Liberty was put in service, a similar machine the “Water Witch” was purchased by Benjamin Muzzey and presented to the town.

The legislation of 1855 demanded that towns have a suction engine before they could create their fire departments.  In 1857 Lexington budgeted $2100.00 to purchase “two of the most up-to-date suction engines known, the Hancock and the Adams.”  A suction engine could draw water from any water source.  It was a huge improvement on the bucket brigade approach.  Areas that were not close to a natural source of water were encouraged to dig a “fire pond” that would feed water to the engine in case of fire.  An example of one can be seen today near Wilson Farm.  Built in 1856, after many years of service, the Adams suction engine still survives.  It has been lovingly preserved and is currently in the care of the Lexington Historical Society.

Since its early days, the Lexington Fire Department has gone through many changes.  One man has made it his life work to chart those changes.  Bob “The Goose” Washburn is a self-described dedicated fire buff.  He’s also a Lexington treasure.   Over the years he has compiled a complete history of Lexington’s Fire Department and its equipment.  Bob has written several detailed books regarding the subject.  He not only talks the talk, but with 31 years of service on the Lexington Fire Department, “The Goose” is an expert on how to walk the walk.  I had a chance to talk with this local legend about a subject that he loves: “Most of the first firemen were Civil War veterans or their sons. Before the Civil War, all firemen were volunteers.” We sat down over a cup of Joe at the “Dunk” on Woburn St. just outside the center.  “The pumpers weren’t very effective.  Hoses were made out of leather.  You had to oil the hose so it wouldn’t crack.  Horses were rented from the residents of the town.”

Bob Washburn was dressed casually in his Lexington fireman’s T-shirt and arrived with a stack of research papers.  He lit up when we began to talk about his research, fire engines he’d known, and the fires he’d put out.  The Dunk is a regular stop for our local fire crews and I soon began to notice the nods of recognition and respect for “The Goose” from the men waiting to order.   Even though Bob has been retired since 2002 he knew every one of the fire fighters in line, and every one of them knew him.  Bob can’t remember when he wasn’t fascinated by fire fighting.  In large part he thanks his mother Gladys.  She would often bring him to the fire house to play when he was a child.  Gladys encouraged her two boys to be fire fighters.  Both Bob and his older brother Arthur became firemen and for many years served together on the Lexington Fire Department.

Up until 1895 there were few changes in Lexington’s firefighting tactics.  The Adams and Hancock were upgraded and retired for chemical engines that provided better water pressure. But it wasn’t until the Cary Mansion fire on January 24, 1895 that real changes began to take place.  The Cary Estate was built by one of the town’s most beloved benefactors, Maria Hastings Cary.  In 1895 her adopted daughter Alice lived there.  While Alice was visiting her niece in Boston, a fire in the laundry quickly got out of control and consumed the mansion.  Efforts to put out the inferno were hampered by an inadequate water supply.  The Boston Herald reports a bit of mischief as well: “At some point during the blaze the firemen came across a large amount of stored liquor in the mansion and partook of same.  Some of the men evidentially indulged too much.  Two of the firemen were removed from the scene by Lexington Police Chief WB Foster.”

After the fire, in Miss Cary’s letter of thanks to the town she writes, “if only this calamity should result in a better equipped fire department and more generous and progressive town government, I shall feel I have not suffered in vain.” Her message was heard loud and clear. Before the end of the year, a town water system was established, a fire alarm box system was approved, three new pieces of firefighting equipment were ordered, the fire department was reorganized, and the first permanent fireman was employed.

The “father” of the modern Lexington Fire Department is considered George W. Taylor.  Taylor was one of the most powerful insurance men in North America and for a time Chairman of Lexington’s Board of Selectmen.  He pushed hard to improve the fire department.  In 1913 Edward Taylor, George’s son, was appointed Chief of the Lexington Fire Department.  He served as Chief until 1942.  Shortly after his appointment in 1915 The Fireman’s Standard concluded that the “Lexington fire department has evolved from a bucket brigade to one of the most up-to-date firefighting machines in the State.”

The current steward of much of the Lexington Fire Department’s history is the Lexington Historical Society.  I had a chance to talk with Elaine Doran, Archivist  and Collections Manager for the Historical Society, who invited me to research the archives that are in the basement of the Hancock Clarke House.  Besides a wonderful pictorial history of the Fire Department the Historical Society maintains two of the Lexington Fire Department’s most precious artifacts: the 1856 Adams suction engine, and the 1911 La France, Lexington’s first motorized fire engine.  Both are proudly displayed along with the rest of Lexington’s firefighting equipment at the annual Patriots’ Day parade.

Lexington’s newest Fire Chief, John Wilson, was appointed in 2012.  I had a chance to talk with Chief Wilson about the future of the Lexington Fire Department. This year the Department is celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the fire department’s Ambulance Service started in 1940.  Before that, if you needed an ambulance, the McCarthy Funeral Home dispatched one of its hearses to transport you to the hospital. With new state-of-the-art fire engines costing up to a million dollars things have certainly changed since the department’s meager beginnings.  The Chief likens the fire fighters to a large family, “It’s unlike any other job.  You eat, sleep, and train together.”  Chief Wilson is a lifelong Lexington resident.  When he was growing up “one of the Lexington firefighters lived across the street” and like Bob Washburn, when the Chief was growing up he was a frequent visitor to the fire station.  The Chief admits, “I always wanted to be a fireman.  Every little kid wants to be a fireman.”

The Lexington Fire Department has a long and proud history.  They are pledged to be there to help you when you need them most.  Be sure to give these career heroes a loud cheer this year at the Patriots’ Day parade, as they celebrate their 75th Anniversary and continue their tradition of service to the community.


Colonial Times contributor DIGNEY FIGNUS is a Lexington native and musician. His band perform in clubs and festivals around New England.  Check www.digney.com for the latest information on upcoming shows.


Share this:

LACS Holiday Marketplace & more…



10AM to 9:00PM
Mon.-Sat. 10AM – 6PM
Sundays: 12PM – 6PM
Final Day: December 24
10am to 5:00pm
A great place to do all your holiday shopping!

For all those on your gift lists: Excellent, one-of-a-kind gifts: Baskets, Fine Jewelry, Paintings, cards and prints, Polymer Clay/Beading, Decorative Arts, Needle Arts, Weaving, Ceramics, Ornaments, Photography, Woodworks and Gift Certificates

Admission and Parking are free. For more information and directions please call:  781 862 9696 or visit www.LACSma.org





Members of the Teen Pottery Class along with Ceramics Guild potters created one-of-a-kind bowls which will be on sale through December 31st for $15 at Lexington Center’s Via Lago 1845 Massachusetts Ave., Lexington.  All procedse will go to Lexington Food Pantry.




These short-term classes will keep turning up, so keep checking our website: www.lacsma.org for complete details. Introduce yourself to a new skill, meet a new instructor, or make a unique item!

Preregistration required.  Some examples:  Special Lecture Series: Get Yourself Organized:

Take just one, or sign up for two or three, Product Photography Class, Painting a Color Chart – learning to use watercolors,  Decorative Arts Projects or Assembling a Swedish Star/Snowflake

Adding art enriches our lives!

Classes fill up quickly so stop by the Society Office,

call 781 862 9696 or visit our website at www.LACSma.org for a detailed listing

Share this: