About Rockport Millbrook Meadow Conservancy
At the heart of Rockport's Community Life
The Meadow and Pond belong to Rockport and offer a special place to build memories with our families and friends. For generations, Rockporters and visitors have skated on the Pond, fished in it, and brought their children and grandchildren to visit the ducks. Countless groups have visited the Meadow for picnics, fairs, festivals and weddings. And, each year artists come to capture its unique charm on canvas, paper or film. We have all been able to enjoy this beautiful green jewel right in the heart of our Town. But, the Meadow and Pond have been deteriorating for many years. The area suffered from poor drainage, weed and sediment-filled waterways, aging plantings, and large populations of invasive exotic plants. Now we have restored it. The Pond has been restored, the Mill Brook has been returned to its traditional, winding path, but much friendlier to aquatic animals, plants and people! We have a new Shade Garden, new Playground and "Millie", our new Granite Whale, has beached herself next to the Brook! We now have a fine park for Rockporters and visitors to enjoy!
For many years the Algonquians traveled across this swampy area and sometimes camped in what we now call Millbrook Meadow while they were fishing.
In 1690 Richard Tarr became the first foreign arrival to Sandy Bay. He built his house nearby. Then John Pool, the second settler, arrived, and he and Tarr agreed to dvide their property at the stream they called Davison's Run. Pool thought he'd use the water from the stream to power a mill, but first he'd have to create an impoundment. He acquired the rights to build a grist mill in 1702 where our Mill Dam is now. He created the Mill Pond to supply his water power. Next he built a lumber mill on the site, and cut large hemlock timbers to send down to Boston to build Long Wharf.
Then others built an Isinglass mill, to turn fish bladders into a product for making beer and wine; an organ factory, a glue factory, and a buggy seat factory. Our Meadow was a busy, noisy and smelly place!
The advent of electricity ended the need for water power and the mills shifted to steam. Then they closed. The last burnt to the ground in 1932.
Reuben Norwood used the Pond to harvest ice which was stored in his two ice houses on its edge; that ice was used throughout the year, and often shipped out of town, in the years before mechanical refrigeration.
In 1936 the family of George Todd gave the Pond to the Town in his memory. In 1938 the Rockport Garden Club, which had just acquired the Meadow, gave it to the Town.
The Meadow became a Victory Garden for Rockporters during World War II. About 1946 the natural Mill Brook was moved into the narrow, granite-lined watercourse.
In 1951 the Town started to pave the Meadow and make it into a parking lot, but Lura Hall Phillips stormed onto the scene and stopped the bulldozers, and began to create the Meadow that we know and love. For the next 40 years she worked tirelessly to make the Meadow beautiful, and when she died in 1994, she left a fund for improvements.
The Mill Dam blew out in a flood in 2006 and was finally rebuilt in 2012. It became clear that our Meadow needed large improvements to its drainage, the Mill Brook was clogged with stones, large trees were reaching the end of their lives and the Pond was filled with sediment and clogged with invasive plant life.
The Millbrook Meadow Committee formed the Millbrook Meadow Conservancy and began raising money for this restoration. We received $182,145 from Lura's Fund, The Community Preservation Fund and the Town gave $1,120,000. Private donations have yielded over $380,000 to date. This has enabled us to dredge the Pond, and to restore Millbrook Pond and Meadow, now completed.
The Rockport Millbrook Meadow Conservancy has supported the restoration goals. Now we intend to give the Meadow and the Mill Pond the care to last another century.
Norwood ice house on Mill Pond, ca. 1925. In foreground are drying fish bladders, or "sounds", for Isinglass mill in Meadow. Rockport isinglass was sent all over the U.S.for use in clarifying beer and wine.