Mendon, Massachusetts is a town of nearly 6,000 residents in Worcester County. It covers over 18 square miles in the Blackstone River Valley. It has a number of neighboring communities including Upton, Northbridge, Uxbridge, Millville, Blackstone, Bellingham, and Hopedale.
The main body of water in Mendon is Lake Nipmuc, covering 85 acres. Due to its natural beauty unspoiled by the pollution of industries in other Massachusetts towns, it became a popular summer destination. In 1882, it began offering canoe, steamboat, and sailboat rides. There is an entertainment hall along the shores that attracted big name acts for a period of time and now serves as a function hall. The town beach is a popular destination for families and water enthusiasts throughout the summer months.
Mendon was first settled by fifteen families originating from Braintree and Weymouth, Massachusetts in 1664. The land was purchased from the Nipmuc tribe that inhabited much of central Massachusetts, and the 8 mile by 8 mile tract was called Squinshepauge. It included much of the land of the surrounding towns. It was then incorporated as Mendon in 1667, making it the second oldest town in Worcester County.
Mendon, like other Massachusetts towns, was hit hard by King Philip’s War. Several settlers were killed in 1675, leading the rest to flee back to Weymouth and Braintree until the death of King Philip in 1676. The deaths in Mendon were the first of the war that would kill as many as ten percent of soldiers on each side.
As the Industrial Revolution took over many of the towns in Massachusetts, Mendon was left behind. Without waterways to support milling, it had to rely on agriculture and small business. It was during this period that the surrounding towns separated from Mendon, forming businesses around their own waterways enough to support their own townships.
Mendon has many claims to fame including the largest zoo in Massachusetts, one of three drive-in theaters in the state, and the site of Aerosmith’s first gig.
Southwick Zoo, located in Mendon, covers 300 acres and is the largest zoo in Massachusetts. It is family-owned and operated, and has been since it’s opening in 1963. Each year, over 200,000 visitors come to the town for this attraction, which features animals including:
The Mendon Drive-in is another local attraction, as one of only three such theaters in the state. It opened in 1954, and continues to operate today with two screens and parking for 800 cars. Guests get to enjoy two first-run movies on some of the largest movie screens in New England, for one low price. This theater attracts patrons from all over the region to experience this classic drive-in experience.
Mendon, Massachusetts is one of the oldest settlements in the region, with a long and proud history. Agriculture and small business formed the foundation of this town, where residents now enjoy the scenic and small town charm.