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Notre Dame one in 1,000

State's 'Great Places' list includes Southbridge landmark, other area gems

Parishioners pray during a recent rally to “Save Notre Dame” on the steps of the venerable Southbridge church. File photo/Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
July 13, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Remember George H.W. Bush's famous "1,000 points of light?" Well, now there's Deval Patrick's "1,000 great places," and Southbridge has one of them — Notre Dame Church.

According to parishioner and Save Notre Dame activist Gerald Proulx, however, most of the people in his group "haven't had time" to pay attention to the state's site nomination process, so he doesn't know who named the church.

"We always knew it was a valuable site; I guess we just need to sell the diocese on that fact," he said. "I always knew it was a hidden treasure."

The church is the town's only listed place, but some nearby communities have several entries on the list. Sturbridge, for example, has four, two of which are almost too obvious to miss — Old Sturbridge Village, the Publick House (from 1771), the historic center, and Wells State Park. Webster is equally honored, with Webster Lake, Memorial Beach, Main Street Historic District and the Perryville Trace being named.

"Being on a list of four out of 1,000 is pretty unique," said Sturbridge's local historian Robert Briere. "Some towns won't have anything listed. But I think there's something in every town that's unique and worth seeing in their history."

Although he didn't know the nomination process was even happening, Briere said he could see why all four of his town's sites got named — three because people "come for what they are" and the park because of what they can do there. But one key place was left off that he'd add — the Tantisques lead mine.

"You're not going to find a mine in every town," he observed. "It's possibly the oldest mine in the country, certainly the oldest in New England. … The Indians were mining it [before colonists came.]"

The Indians are also associated with Webster Lake, whose native name, Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg, is probably the longest one-word place name in the nation and third in the world (after a New Zealand mountain and a Welsh village), according to Wikipedia.

See Wednesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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