On Thursdays, we’ll take a closer look at the historic stories and scenes depicted in Richard Gibney’s mural, “Stoneham, Yesterday and Today.”
The 55-year-old mural, “Stoneham, Yesterday and Today,” by artist Richard Gibney keeps Stoneham’s history alive for many people. In particular, the second scene is special because it celebrates three important local stories.
First, the street depicted was known as the Medford and Andover Turnpike, a planned six-mile run that actually ended at the Reading line in 1806. It slowly drew residents from the original town center at Pleasant and Summer streets to the busy turnpike, which was a toll road until 1836. Today we know it as Main Street Route 28.
Second, in 1840 the members of the First Congregational Church erected a Greek Revival building on the turnpike. It was actually the third sanctuary replacing the original meeting house, built in 1729, and a second building on Pleasant Street which burned in January of 1840. Nearly 300 years later, the congregation continues to worship and now provides a local food pantry, a meeting location for Boy Scout Troop 513 and a private preschool.
Finally, the centerpiece of this vignette is the stagecoach. The line was established in 1833 and was bought out six years later by local entrepreneur Padilla Beard. In a 1937 newspaper article, his grandson reported the “equipment consisted of three coaches and an omnibus closely resembling later barges. Three horses usually drew the coach, two-wheel horses and a leader [horse].” It was also customary for a youngster to be stationed by the side of the road to flag the coach to stop for passengers. The lead horse didn’t make the trip in Gibney’s portrayal, but the young man in the foreground is certainly doing his job.