Hopedale, Massachusetts is located in the upper Mill River valley, in Worcester County. This small town of just under 6,000 residents is 5.3 square miles in area, and is bordered by Milford, Upton, Mendon, and Bellingham.
Hopedale lies several miles west of Route 495, with access to this major interstate via Route 16, which bisects the town. Area residents do not have easy access to public transit.
Hopedale Pond, located near the center of town, provides recreation for residents of the town and other Massachusetts communities. It is large enough to accommodate small water craft, and is home to a variety of fish to the delight of local fishermen. There are also walking trails and a town beach. Historically, women were not allowed to use the beach, finally gaining permission in 1905.
Hopedale is a historic mill village, significant in Massachusetts and industrial history. The town was first settled as a part of Mendon in 1660, with the first mill built in current-day Hopedale in 1664. Throughout Massachusetts, towns followed a similar pattern of settlement with agriculture and mills providing the bulk of the local economy. In 1780, the town of Milford splintered from Mendon, taking modern-day Hopedale with it.
Hopedale was formed as a community within Milford in 1841 when Adin Ballou led a band of “Practical Christians” to form an experimental community. It was founded with strong beliefs on abolition, women’s rights, and temperance, and focused on farming and manufacturing.
Approximately 170 people joined in this experimental community, living in 30 houses in the community. However, disagreements led to the bankruptcy and the end of the community in 1856. The land was taken over by the Draper family, who led the town to industrial success, and Hopedale was officially incorporated as its own town in 1886.
When the Draper family took over the property of the Hopedale community, they began the development that would give the town a permanent place in Massachusetts and industrial history. Originally manufacturing a variety of products, they soon began to focus on textile machinery, holding over 400 patents for this equipment that they manufactured in their Hopedale mills. By 1880, there were over 800 workers employed by the Draper Corporation in the town, and by 1892, they were the largest textile machinery manufacturer in the United States. By the early 20th century, Draper machinery could be found around the world.
The Drapers turned Hopedale into a planned community, much of which remains today. Catering to the needs of their employees, they built quality duplex housing which was rented at low rates to Draper workers. These houses were planned to work within the natural beauty of the town, keeping the scenery and views intact. The Drapers also built parks, streets, schools, and utility services. By providing quality living conditions to their workers, they believed they could receive in return unmatched loyalty and productivity, and in fact there was only one recorded strike in all of the Draper Corporation’s history in Hopedale.
Hopedale, Massachusetts was founded on religious and social ideals and built into a prosperous planned community around the Draper Corporation. This small Massachusetts community maintains much of its original charm and beauty, despite the closing of the Draper Corporation in the 1970s. Today residents enjoy the strong legacy of the town, situations among some of the most beautiful scenery in central Massachusetts.