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The craftsman
Vol. V, No. 5 (February 1904)

[Title Page],   p. 423 PDF (338.1 KB)

Page 423

  Vol. V
HE precursor of the American vil-
        lage improvement movement was
        the early New England village
        (omnion,-the people's forum, tile
 (enter of their social and industrial life, a
 place of recreation, and on it, at Lexington,
 was the opening act of that great drama
 that led to American independence. Early,
 especially English, colonists set apart liberal
 portions of land to be used by householders in
 common for public landings, pasturage, and
 from which to secure timber, sedges, and the
 like,-all under restrictions imposed by the
 citizens in town meeting. This Coimion was
 at first an irregular plot or a very wide street,
 around or along which the village grew.
 Many are still retained, sometimes little,
 sometimes much, diminished by unauthor-
 ized encroachments of adjacent property
 owners or by the town's permitting public
 or semi-public buildings to be placed upon
 them. Public landings have suffered even
 more from private appropriation, and most
 of the "common lands" lying away from
 the villages became "proprietary land," at
 an early date, by such acts as the following:
 Malden, Massachusetts, in 1694, votedl: "Yt
 ye Common be divided; bottom and top yt
 is land and wood," and it was ordered that
 commissioners making the division "employ
 an artist to lay out ye lots." While such
acts were legitimate, they were not always
Figure 1. Lexington ('ommon. 1775
lease of a paft of it as a site for its chapel,
and then ran a public road curving diagon-
ally through what remained. During recent
years various persons have obtained permis-
sion to build sheds on the remnants of the
Common, and there is not much of it left for
future appropriation."
  That street trees were appreciated in the
earliest days is evinced by the action of a
town meeting in Watertown, Massachusetts,
in 1637, which passed a vote "to mark the
shade trees bv the roadside with a 'W' and
ARY       1904                 No. 5
  wise, for often the same land has been re-
  purchased for public use at large expense.
    The extent of the illegitimate encroach-
  ment of private individuals upon lands re-
  served for the common good was not realized
  in Massachusetts until Mr. J. B. Harrison
  ",nvestigated for The Trustees of Public
  Reservations the status of such lands in the
  sea-shore towns. A typical example of his
  findings will suffice:
    "Marshfield formerly had a Common. In
  earliest times it was the training field. The
  town gave a religious society a perpetual

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