Joseph J. Feeley Bandstand
Built - 1901
The early history of Walpole and the surrounding area, is rich in industrial and agricultural activity. Grist mills, clothing mills, farming tool manufacturing plants, cotton factories, etc. sprung up in the area due to its perfect location to existing water power and grazing areas for cattle. Also a number of Walpole's residents' names will go down in history for their ingenuity and inventions that changed the face of American history in those days including Eleazer Smith who is known for the invention of the card machine and Ollis Gay who invented the pin machine and was also the one who cut the first nail in America from cold iron with a machine of his own patent. In East Walpole, Warren Colburn made a name for himself as being a world-famous arithmetician and author of Coburn's Arithmetic.
Walpole also saw many famous people pass through the town since the main thoroughfare between Boston and Providence went through a part of Walpole. Before the advent of the automobile, many stage coaches passed through the town - rumored between thirty and forty daily, with such distinguished dignitaries as the French General Lafayette and our own General George Washington who used this well-traveled road. Also one of the Bonaparte family, a brother of the first Napolean, is said to have ridden through. Alexander Hamilton, John Quincy Adams, General Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren and many other important people also traveled through the town.
On April 13, 1900, a Mr. Joseph Feeley, a representative of Walpole's Improvement Association, presented a plan for improvement of the town's common area and on June 16th of that year, at a town meeting, he also requested permission to erect a bandstand on Walpole Commons and such request was granted.
Between the Fall of 1900 and the Spring of 1901, the bandstand was erected and was wholly a gift given to the town by Mr. Feeley, thus his name was affixed to the structure. Any information on the building of the bandstand or activities on it for over 100 years have been destroyed or lost as well as other countless records and memorabilia on the town. Elder residents of Walpole still do remember those wonderful concerts on the common during the summer months played by local bands sponsored by the downtown merchants. Christmas carols were also presented and broadcast from the structure.
What is definitely remembered by residents is the day that John F. Kennedy, and his wife Jacqueline, visited Walpole during his campaigning years, and gave a talk from the bandstand. Louella Hennessey, a native of Walpole and a registered nurse for the Kennedy children, was the one instrumental in getting JFK to make an appearance. In turn, along with the adoration of his supporters, John F. and Jackie received flowers from the Gallo Flower Store and candy from Watson's Candy.
At one time, the town had another bandstand located in Memorial Park built by the Department of Public Works around 1927, which was built of field stone, similar to the existing one on the common but possibly a bit larger. Behind the bandstand the American Legion would sell popcorn and soda during concerts in the park.
The bandstand, which now still proudly stands in Walpole Common after over 100 years, has been changed little over the years with just wrought-iron railings added in the 1970s for safety reasons. The overall look of the bandstand has not changed and has stoically withstood the many changes of our New England seasons.
INFORMATION FURNISHED BY:
Elizabeth M. Cottrell, Member
Walpole Historical Commission
and Historical Society