The Village Square Returns
The original plot of the Village of Waterville as designed by John Pray in 1831 contained fifty lots of approximately ¼ acre in size and at the center a large village green or public square. The public square was a fixture in New England towns as our founder was well acquainted. The square belonged to the people. It was a place where they could tether the family cow to graze or perhaps a few sheep if they owned such. A frontier town had little to offer in the way of mercantile enterprises and the townsfolk had to be quite self-sufficient. Most kept some livestock for winter food supplies, wool to make needed clothing and of course the family cow for milk, cream and butter. Most townsfolk had a farm plot outside of town for at least subsistence farming. Even Welcome Pray, one of our earliest town doctors, farmed for subsistence and a little extra cash. It seems many of his patients had little with which to pay for his services. The public square then served an important role in the life of our young village.
By 1885 nobody in the village needed to keep cows or sheep. The public square provided a very nice empty space to build a new school. The school was completed in 1886 and the village square became the village school yard. It has remained so even as school buildings were changed or replaced over the years, aged and finally abandoned. Now in 2017 the school building will be torn down. The property will be used by ODOT as the staging area for the construction of a new Waterville bridge. Once the bridge is complete, sometime in 2020, the village will convert the property to a park, thus returning the village square to the people. This is great news. Just don’t plan on tethering your cow in the new village square.