A valuable stretch of land nearly a mile long through his Norwood estate has been given to Massachusetts by W. Cameron Forbes, grandson of Ralph Waldo Emerson, as a section of a future superhighway from Boston to New York.
The total cost to the Commonwealth will be $1.
Forbes, now 80 years old, was at one time Governor-General of the Philippine Islands and later Ambassador to Japan. It was in his capacity as head of the Philippines, he wrote to State Public Works Commissioner William F. Callahan, that he became interested in roads and his gift sprang from that.
Forbes signed the option giving the state the land on Jan. 15 before he left for a three-month stay in Honduras. He sought nothing in return, not even connecting links with the rest of the estate.
He told state officials who have talked with him that he believes there must someday be a direct route between Boston and New York City. He felt his estate was athwart the best direct route.
It has already been disclosed that Forbes does not plan to continue residing at his former estate. He was living in a Boston hotel prior to going to Central America. Also, he has deeded to Harvard University his fine red-brick mansion, polo field, and several acres of the estate.
Forbes’ gift recalls similar beneficence by motor magnate Henry Ford.
Back in 1927, after he had acquired the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, made famous by the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ford became worried about the destructive effect heavy traffic had on the inn. A shift of traffic just a short distance from the inn might preserve it for extra generations, he felt.
So Ford offered to build a new road (now part of Route 20, the Old Post road). His offer was accepted by the State Public Works Commissioner. Ford paid $280,000 for the new road. The land itself he gave to the state for $1.
Check ‘‘Dressed Up”
Incidentally, the check for the dollar was dressed up and occasioned a ceremony Involving high state officials. One drawing on the $1 check showed a tallyho arriving at Wayside Inn. Another showed a highway bus which, through changes in style, now looks as out of date as a celluloid collar. Forbes initiated the idea of his gift. He wrote a letter a few weeks ago to Commissioner Callahan. In the letter, he said he would like to give the state some land. He said that when he was in the Philippines he became interested in highways and established a road system there.
Particularly, he emphasized his belief Massachusetts would benefit from a highway freeway direct to New York. He felt the Worcester Turnpike has too many traffic lights and crossways. He suggested a meeting with Callahan.
The commissioner’s executive assistant, John McCloskey, who is in charge of projects, visited Forbes. They went over the land on the estate, “Gay Farm,” which is in Norwood at the Westwood line. Later Callahan visited Forbes and subsequently, the option was drawn up and signed.
A direct route to New York has been under consideration by the Public Works Department for some years. Part of it has already been built, a two-mile stretch from Mattapan along the Neponset River to a place called Paul’s Bridge. This is shown by a broken line on the map.
Projected plans would carry this road across Route 1 to the vicinity of the Forbes estate. From there two alternatives exist. One, which we call “B” on the accompanying map, would go through Douglas to the Connecticut line This is the most direct route. But it would be impractical unless Connecticut made a link with it.
The other route, marked “A” on ‘the map. would go through Sturbridge. This is the route favored by Forbes. It has the further future advantage that Connecticut has built its Wilbur Cross parkway in that direction and also that Route 15 in Massachusetts, a link from the Connecticut line to Sturbridge, is already being rebuilt as a double-barrel highway.
Tract 400 Feet Wide
The option would give the state a width of 400 feet through the Forbes estate, ample for a superhighway. Location men of the state Public Works Department, under McCloskey’s direction, are now fixing the lines. When these plans are finished they will be filed with the Registry of Deeds and then automatically the land will belong to the Commonwealth.
Forbes, in his communications with the Public Works Department, modestly suggested that he had had ‘‘some experience” with road building. For some years he was on the executive committee of the Boston firm of Stone & Webber figuring traffic problems, besides his experience in the Philippines.
For many years after his graduation from Harvard University in 1892. Forbes was active in the business world. He then had the additional interest of public service and went to the Far East. He was a member of the Philippine Commission, in charge of Philippine police and commerce activities, and Vice Governor before he became Governor-General in 1908. He served for five years.
President Harding in 1921 asked him to investigate conditions in the Philippines and he went there. He did the same in Haiti. Then in 1930, and for two years thereafter. He was Ambassador to Japan, in 1935, he was a member of an economic commission in the Far East.
He is a member of many societies but has had a particular interest in universities. M. I T. Carnegie Tech and Harvard. At Harvard, he was an overseer for six years.
By JOHN G. HARRIS