Holland at a glance
Incorporated: 1783 Population: 2,400 Area: 13 square miles Distance from Boston: 70 miles Tax rate: $16.47 per $1,000 Form of government: Three selectmen, open town meeting Median single-family house price: $105,000 (2000) Public schools: Holland Elementary, Tantasqua Regional Junior and Senior High (in Sturbridge) Hospitals: Palmer, Southbridge Library: Holland Public Library
Community Profile

Lake, low housing prices are Holland's attraction

By David Maloof, Globe Correspondent, 7/14/2001

HOLLAND - You actually can spot a few windmills here, even though the town was named for one Charles James Fox, also known as Lord Holland. [an error occurred while processing this directive]

Out of the way — no numbered routes can be found in Holland, only named roads — but not far from the Massachusetts Turnpike and interstate 84, Holland is both a year-round residence for 2,400 and summer home for another 3,500.

Holland's relative accessibility to Springfield, Worcester and Hartford is a good thing, as the town itself offers little employment, shopping, or recreational activities other than the lake.

"I came to Holland one day because of the lake," said Bob Ford, a summer resident since 1964, who in 1992 retired to Holland from Connecticut.

In January 1995, he recalled, "I was volunteering (in town) the day our town hall burned down. And the next week the town clerk resigned. I said 'I'll take it until June.' "

He has since been elected to a full term as town clerk.

Summer residents arrive from Connecticut and the Springfield area, as well as New Jersey and New York. In Holland they can find one small market, a bar, and a seasonal drive-in restaurant.

As town treasurer Linda Blodgett pointed out, there is no bank, laundromat, supermarket, full-service post office, or place to get a hair cut.

This means not only driving out of town (most likely to Sturbridge or Palmer) for such services, but relying almost exclusively on property tax revenues.

Several proposals to develop a tract of land near Route 84, including a prison and a dog track, either have been voted down in town meeting or never reached that forum, according to Blodgett.

The town's exclusive reliance on well water and septic systems is another factor discouraging new businesses.

According to Blodgett, whose husband is a descendant of Joseph Blodgett, the town's first settler back in 1730, the town once had more activity. The Holland Inn was built in 1812 for travelers on the Hartford-Worcester stage line, but it burned to the ground in 1957.

And the lake — officially the Hamilton Reservoir, but known in town as Holland Lake — is a manmade body created to serve bygone mills.

Blodgett noted that participation in government has diminished in recent years. Only one candidate has announced for a vacancy on the board of selectmen.

But there still can be an intensity to Holland town politics.

Earlier this year, a recall vote ousted one particular selectman for the second time in five years. And two years ago, a frustrated proponent of a new dog shelter was accused of burning down the small, existing shelter.

In a special town meeting earlier this month, voters decided not to fund $15,000 for elementary school repairs, with some concern expressed over the portion of the total budget going to the schools.

Meanwhile, a new regional junior high and high school, located behind the current school in Sturbridge, is expected to open in September 2002.

Combined MCAS scores for the elementary school ranked it at 152d out of 294 schools statewide. The eighth grade ranked 95th out of 259; and the 10th grade, 155th out of 267; those two grades were at the regional school, and so also included students from Brimfield, Brookfield, Sturbridge and Wales.

Beverly Gray, a 34-year resident who sells homes for Coldwell Banker/Towne & Country Realty in Sturbridge, noted that the town "has been planning a new public safety complex for the last three years. But the prices were high, and it was shot down in the last town meeting in May."

Only 10 to 15 new homes are built each year, according to building inspector Jack Keough. These range from $100,000 Capes to large Colonials and contemporaries selling for $250,000 to $300,000.

The town's hilly and rocky terrain, as well as the one-acre minimum lot size, limit new home construction.

Instead of building, noted Keough, people have been upgrading lake homes since the mid-1980s.

The lake and low housing prices attract people to town.

As for what might discourage others, according to Beverly Gray, "Some people feel it's too far out, or they want to live in an upper-scale community, which they perceive Sturbridge to be. They want more of a neighborhood — all the ranches, Colonials and Capes, side by side, built by the same builder."

Gray is from Portland, Maine, and in fact Holland has something of a rural Maine feel to it, with the small houses sitting around the glistening lake, the bare-bones local market, and the winding, tree-lined roads and solitary traffic light.

This story ran in the Boston Globe on 7/14/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company
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