By Thomas Grillo, Globe Correspondent, 6/7/2003

MIDDLEBOROUGH -- Want to try to double property values in your community? Convince the state to invest in a railway. That's what happened in this Southeastern Massachusetts town there the MBTA provided a commuter rail service.

Since the Middleborough/Lakeville station opened, in 1997, the median sales price of a single family-home has leaped to $266,000 in May, from $124,950, according to The Warren Group.

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That has made it more difficult for longtime residents to purchase homes. But the price is right for buyers who can't afford Greater Boston, where the median price reached $400,000 in the first quarter of 2003. In Middleborough, half of the single-family homes listed on MLS last week were priced under $350,000.

Affordability, a train to Boston, and an unhurried lifestyle have lured first-time and trade-up buyers, causing Middleborough's population to swell by 10 percent since 1990.

While residential real estate has soared in the town that calls itself the Cranberry Capital of the World, that industry has declined as cranberry prices have tumbled. Some growers have sold their land. In the past, Middleborough also made things like iron, bricks, shovels, and textiles.

Among the more unusual attractions in Middleborough is a collection of Tom Thumb's tiny possessions at the Middleborough historical Museum, on Jackson Street. Thumb (1838-1883), whose real name was Charles Stratton, and his wife, Lavinia, who were each about three feet tall, traveled with P.T. Barnum's circus and lived in Middleborough for a time.

Also, one of the few herring runs left in New England can be seen each spring at the restored Oliver Mills Park on the Nemasket River. In an annual phenomenon, thousands of alewifes swim upstream to spawn.

Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@hotmail.com.

This story ran in the Boston Globe on 7/13/2003.
© Copyright 2003 New York Times Company
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