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Book Review: A New Look at Old Northfield

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By Audrey Seaman
The first settlers of Northfield recognized the strength in its landscape. The town quickly became home to woolen mills and sawmills powered by the Dog River, acres of farmland that fed local families, and a train hub that sent both people and granite around the Northeast. As generations passed, Northfield proved its adaptability with bustling businesses and its collaboration with Norwich University, despite the devastation of dozens of fires and the flood of 1927.
Whether Northfield’s history is engraved in your own life or you’re just meeting the town, the Northfield Historical Society’s new book, Images of America: Northfield, holds interesting surprises. Local historians Donald Boardman, Christopher Delmas, Linda deNeergaard, and Karen Halsted are to thank for capturing Northfield’s story since the town was settled by Europeans in 1781.
Images of America: Northfield is essentially a picture book, including approximately 250 photographs, drawings, letters and newspaper clippings, all accompanied with descriptive text. These images may easily bring a nostalgic feeling to those who have called Northfield home for many years. Although some of the image details are difficult to make out, the explanation provided with each is proactive in identifying aspects of the photo that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
This book inspires the reader to take a closer look around this seasoned town. Although Northfield has seen many areas of growth over time, the text makes connections between the past and the present. I encourage you to find the oldest house in town, to compare the Common today with what it was in the early 1900’s, and to learn the history of the iconic Gray Building, erected in 1876. Maybe you will even take a hike to our slate quarries, “thought to be the largest contiguous deposit of slate in the United States.” Reflecting on my way about the town, I had to wonder: What would the Paine familythink of Northfield now? Would this family, the town’s founders, be able to recognize the world they once knew just as we are able to see remnants of their past life today?
Images of America: Northfield went on sale July 28 and can be purchased from the Northfield Historical Society by visiting its home at 75 S. Main Street or e-mailing nhscurator@gmail.com. The book costs $20, with free shipping. Published by Arcadia Publishing, the largest publisher of local histories in North America, the Images of America series of pictorial books has delved into the histories of hundreds of communities throughout the United States.