In rural New Braintree, life moves at a slower pace
By Teri Borseti, Globe Correspondent, 1/29/00
Susan Reed, who has owned and operated the establishment with her husband, Ed, for the past 22 years, said: "There isn't much around here. It isn't uncommon for people to wander in here and ask where they are."
Reed finds her rural lifestyle charming these days but admitted that when she first moved to New Braintree from Boston, her first thoughts were to move back to the city right away.
There's no real direct route to New Braintree, which was put on the map during the 1980s when the state wanted to build a prison here. The Massachusetts Turnpike goes only as far as Fiskdale and then there is another half hour of back roads to travel to get into the center of town. Once there, the only notable building is the First Congregational Church, which is flanked by farms.
Life moves at a slower pace in this neck of the woods. A motorist passing through town who needs to check a map or change the radio station probably won't even have to pull over because it's unlikely that another car would come from behind for quite a while. To buy groceries, get a prescription filled or go to the bank, residents have to drive at least 12 miles into North Brookfield. There's no hair salon, no movie theater and no mall. Cable TV hasn't made it out this way and many locals resigned to that fact have satellite dishes in their yards. But residents seem to like their small town the way it is and they work to keep it that way.
"Everyone knows each other in town and kids don't grow up as quickly here," said Reed.
New Braintree, originally an agricultural community, is off the beaten path and it isn't an easy place to build. Town Clerk Amy Griffin said the town issued only 20 house permits in 24 months. The zoning laws require lots to be a minimum of three acres in size.
Elaine Tatro of ERA Key Realty in Spencer said she sold only two houses in New Braintree last year. One was a four-bedroom Colonial that sold for $189,000 and the other, a ranch that sold in the $120,000s.
"When something comes on the market in New Braintree, it sells right away because there's so little inventory available. A house lot over there can go for anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000," she said.
When contractors find out about the town's strict guidelines for new construction, they immediately recognize it as a place where they won't be able to make money, Tatro said.
She currently has three listings in New Braintree: a seven-room ranch for $170,000, a 10-room Colonial with 5.4 acres of land for $228,000, and a farmhouse with a single-car garage and 40 acres of land for $360,000.
Theresa Langelier has lived in New Braintree since she was 5 years old. Today she lives there with her husband and two sons, and she said it's a nice, quiet place. Her sons enjoy participating in parent-organized sports, and during the summer they ride dirt bikes and fish at several local ponds.
"This is the kind of place where you get to know your neighbors and your kids' teachers and the principal of their school. If we want to go to the mall or to the movies we have to make a day of it, but that's OK," she said.
Residents take pride in the fact that they stick together. "When they wanted to build that prison out here we all went into Boston and marched on the State House every day. In the end, Governor Weld realized that it wasn't a good idea to build a prison of that size in a town this small, so they built the State Police training facility instead," Reed said.
While there's no video store and no pizza shop, the town does have a new school. But because this year the town had just one kindergarten student, the child was sent to class in bordering Oakham.
Although New Braintree offers few of the comforts to which suburban residents are accustomed, it offers much in the way of aesthetics. There's no shortage of wide-open fields and woods and it's a safe bet that animal lovers will see plenty of animals.
When asked what the family does for fun in town, Langelier said, "We go to Reed's."
This story ran on page E1 of the Boston Globe on 1/29/2000.
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