311 Pleasant Street
Living in New England we are constantly surrounded by history in one form or another. Often it is a notable individual, or event, but many times it is a place. Ashland is rich with historic places. Pout Rock, the Witches Caves, Magunko Hill, Workmen’s Circle, all these places we have visited and more. We also have had our share of interesting buildings. Not all of them appear on any historical register, but they still are important to the history of Ashland. Some have been lost to fires or progress over the years, but many still exist. Today I would like to look at 311 Pleasant St.
OK, so what’s so special about 311 Pleasant St.? Today it is the home of the Ashland V.F.W., and most residents have only known it as such. The building itself however, dates back over 150 years and has seen families and businesses come and go. Originally built by the Perini family, 311 Pleasant St. is a Colonial located just before the bridge that connects Pleasant St. to Cordaville Rd., and is directly across from what is now the Church of the Latter Rain.
The building has an interesting floorplan. The first floor served as the dining and living rooms as with most homes, but there was only one bedroom one the second floor (Past VFW Commander Rick Smith recalls Mary Cavanaugh (Perini) stopping by one afternoon to look at her old bedroom on the second floor), with the remainder of the bedrooms on the third floor. After serving as a residence, the property much later became known as the Bonfiglio Alberini Restaurant and Liquors until at least 1957 when it was known as the Jackman Package Store. Finally in 1959-60, the property became the home of the Ashland V.F.W. Jackman Package Store moved to Union St. just before East Union St. where the original Clocktown Package Store operated, and is also the spot the Town of Ashland is currently considering for the new combined Fire/Police Station.
Getting back to Pleasant St., the V.F.W. needed more room for meetings and parties. Shortly after purchasing the property they built a function facility to the left of the building which included a member’s lounge downstairs. Some of the construction materials, including lights and windows, came from abandoned buildings in the old Workmen’s Circle Camp and are still visible today. The kitchen was furnished with ovens and utensils from the Riverside Club on Cordaville Rd.that was destroyed by fire, but later re-built and moved to the corner of Temple St. and Rt. 9 in Framingham (later named Finally Michael’s Restaurant, torn down, and is currently a CVS Pharmacy, I believe). Later, in 1974, the rear portion of the building was added to provide a stage for the function room upstairs, and an office for the Post Quartermaster along with a another smaller meeting room for the members downstairs.
At one point, there was a small bridge over the Sudbury River connecting the VFW to the Ashland Fish and Game Club on the other side. This provided additional parking, as well as easy access for both facilities, until the late 1960s. Apparently at that time a member of one of the two clubs unsuccessfully attempted to drive his vehicle across the bridge. Needless to say, town officials were not amused and the bridge was removed.
For almost 50 years, the Ashland VFW has been host to weddings, parties, and meetings of civic and political organizations along with their Post functions. Even with an aging membership they remain strong, currently lease their function facility through an independent caterer, and are the home for one of Ashland’s Boy Scout troops.
Steve Leacu for Ashland Directions