If you’re blown away when you enter the Lucius Beebe Memorial Library in downtown Wakefield and want to see more, you’re definitely not alone.
“We love giving building tours,” says Jeff Klapes, the library’s head of reference services, noting that the Ralph Adams Cram-designed, Classical Revival-style structure is replete with rich architectural details, beautiful building materials, and even eye-catching furniture throughout.
But that’s par for the course in Wakefield, a town where seemingly everything rises above the standard. For instance, there isn’t just a library; it’s also housed in a stunning building that’s a centerpiece of the downtown and of civic involvement. There isn’t just a lovely lake; it also is ringed by a popular walking trail, offers an array of boating options, is home to America’s oldest inland yacht club, and is a great spot for winter skating. And there isn’t just a downtown; its also is pedestrian friendly and filled with great restaurants and shops, is steps away from the commuter rail, and is undergoing work to become more attractive and have additional businesses that residents crave.
“We have a wonderfully walkable downtown that is flanked by a lake called Lake Quannapowitt,” says town administrator Stephen P. Maio. “Our downtown is the quintessential New England downtown.”
Indeed, downtown Wakefield is filled with small businesses, historic architecture, fabulous restaurants, and, of course, the lake is not far away. All of these small businesses enjoy the support of townspeople, who do their part to raise up and help their community, whether it’s by shopping at local businesses, taking part in community events, or giving their time to volunteer efforts.
“You really see a lot of people coming together for that, and you also see a lot of local support in return,” says Klapes, who’s also on the executive board of the nonprofit Wakefield Main Streets. “They would rather go to the local hardware store and the local bank and the local grocery store.”
Also rising above the standard are Wakefield’s festivals and community events, from the sophisticated fundraiser Blossoms at the Beebe, which features great food and live music and benefits civic causes to the summertime Festival Italia, which turns the downtown into a classic Italian feast, complete with street performers, an outdoor beer and wine garden, food, and music.
But perhaps no town event tops the Holiday Stroll, which is being held this year on Saturday, December 3.
“We try to change Wakefield into a Charles Dickens village, with carolers on the streets, street acts, and the stores opening up,” says Maio. “It really is a fun time, and it brings thousands of people. We close down the downtown and really make that into a pedestrian outdoor mall.”
Marianne Cohen, executive director for the Wakefield Lynnfield Chamber of Commerce, describes a scene filled with holiday cheer. There are horse-drawn carriage rides, local businesses serving cookies, hot chocolate, and warm apple cider, street performers, and fire pits along the streets, among other lovely and welcoming touches. Plus, it’s a great time and place for people to do some of their holiday shopping.
“It’s just a wonderful way to spend a winter afternoon,” Cohen says. “We really like to promote our local businesses for holiday shopping.”
Even moving to Wakefield isn’t you typical move. Cohen says that the town, the library, and the Wakefield Lynnfield Chamber of Commerce work together to host Wakefield 101, an orientation program for new residents, held every six months at the library. At these open house events, new residents can meet people from town departments and community and civic groups, and even receive a helpful goodie bag from the chamber.
Sharing all you need to know to know one of the ways Wakefield seems to go above and beyond. “It’s a community-focused town,” says Cohen.
Date of settlement: 1638
Date incorporated as a city: 1812
Area: 7.9 square miles
ZIP code: 01880
Household income: $66,117
Doyle Early Child Center, Dolbeare Elementary, Greenwood Elementary, Walton Elementary, Woodville Elementary, Galvin Middle, Wakefield High
Former Senator Scott Brown; Olympic gold medalist Kayla Harrison; journalist, author, and bon vivant Lucius Morris Beebe; 19th-century industrialist and town namesake Cyrus Wakefield; playwright, screenwriter, and father to Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys Israel Horovitz; former Massachusetts Governor John Anthony Volpe; former NFL player Dave Lapham; Olympian and former NHL player Mark Kumpel; NESN host Charlie Moore