SIGHTS ON SAUGUS
A massive orange dinosaur, a giant plastic cactus, an Asian-Pacific-inspired temple, and a Leaning Tower of Pisa make it abundantly clear: You are smack in the middle of Route 1 (otherwise known as Broadway) in Saugus. But beyond the kitschy roadside attractions and restaurant signage lie plenty of other good reasons to love this big small town.
“It’s just a quiet little town, not a city,” says lifelong resident Valerie Green, an employee at Russo’s Candies on Main Street. Green is quick to point to the Ballard Street section of town down by the Saugus River—a place that many Italian families have called home for generations. Green talks about long-standing traditions, like the annual Founder’s Day celebration, which features a carnival and a country mark et, and the Christmas Parade organized by the police and fire departments. In addition, the Theatre Company of Saugus hosts three to four productions each year in community centers, local churches, and at Saugus High School.
To some, Saugus may appear like a city, but it still behaves like a town, with a board of selectmen and a town manager who work hard to keep the small-town vibe alive.
Janice Jarosz, editor of the hometown paper, The Saugonian, says there’s a burgeoning sense of pride among r esidents, especially among the volunteers who help keep the town running smoothly. For example, user fees for kids’ sports recently went up, which was a big cause of concern for many families. “People have volunteered to help organize the teams in town,” says Jarosz, “and that offsets the fees so that families who can’t afford to pay can keep their children involved in sports.”
While organized sports and a winning football team (Go Sachems!) fuel endless dinnertime conversations, Saugus also has a tradition of outdoor recreational activities, thanks to places like Breakheart Reservation, a 640-acre state park located on the north side of t own. The park offers two ponds ideal for fishing and an extensive network of trails, as well as a main lodge that looks more suited to the Alaskan wilderness than to the immediate suburbs of Boston. Also located at Breakheart is Camp Nihan, an environmental education camp located on 65 acres of woodland forest, marsh, and a spring-fed pond. Cabins are available for camping even in the winter months and come with refrigerators, bunk beds, and pellet stoves.
The Malden Anglers Association calls Saugus home, too. Since 1946, they have enjoyed the trout-stocked pond and a clubhouse with a woodstove. Additionally,the Fox Hill Yacht Club, located at the Saugus River mouth where it empties into Broad Sound, has 39 boat slips for members.
Before small-town lovers too harshly criticize the chronic bustle of Route 1, remember that the highway brings millions of dollars in sales annually, thanks to restaurants like Kowloon and Hilltop Steakhouse. Crowds also flock to the Square One Mall, Hockey Town USA, and Roller World, where 15,000 square feet of coated hardwood floors welcome skaters of all ages for an old-school party.
SAUGUS IRON WORKS
Puritans in colonial Massachusetts were sticklers for good manners. Cussing, fighting, lewd behavior, and drunkenness— all considered crimes—were dealt harsh penalties, including public whippings. But when the seemingly sinful Europeans began to settle in and around Boston, it became apparent that the timber and fishing industries could bring a substantial windfall to the region. All that was missing were the tools, until the mid-1600s when Saugus Iron Works, birthplace of the American iron industry, came onto the scene.
Located near the town hall, the nineacre site where the first iron makers operated not only brings to life an era in our nation’s history, but also gives students and families a unique educational opportunity. Owned and operated by the National Park Service, Saugus Iron Works appeals to a variety of visitors, young and old—something for which Supervisory Ranger Curtis White, who has been on site since 1987, is responsible.
“You might expect certain [visitors] to enjoy it here, but the cool part is when the kids get their hands on the equipment,” says White, “especially when they see the bellows move up and down. Their mouths drop wide open.”
Visiting Saugus Iron Works is like having an industry vocabulary lesson. The bellows — car-sized fans that blow air into the blast furnace — are located below the “charge hole” into which founders would place bog ore, gabbro, and charcoal. The resulting materials were molten iron and slag, which were processed into things like sow and merchant bars. Tour guides help decipher some of this lingo and discuss the products that were once produced here, like saw blades for axes and wire for fish hooks, which helped establish New England as a powerhouse.
But Saugus Iron Works is more than just an education in industry—it’s also a veritable time machine. The park consists of a museum, an original 17th-century Puritan home, and a half-mile nature trail that meanders through the restored worksite, where working waterwheels, mills, and great views of the Saugus River basin please visitors.
Reconstructed in 1949 by archeologist Ronald Robbins with $2 million in funding from the American Iron and Steel Institute, the site was formally opened to the public in 1954 and then donated to the National Park Service in 1968. According to White, Robbins kept notes during the initial dig and was amused that people considered him just a junk dealer lookingfor old iron. Others thought he was part of a federal coverup and that he was involved in a secret uranium dig!
For White, no monetary value can be placed on the experience of witnessing history firsthand. Along the walls and on many of the tools are instructions that workers once used. “It’s amazing to see that moment in time inscribed on the instruments,” says White.“It’s tangible evidence of what 17th-century workers were doing.” nps.gov
ON THE TOWN
George’s Barber Shop Known as “America’s oldest barbershop” and run by the fourth generation of Moriellos, George’s is where haircuts and local lore go hand in hand. Cliftondale Sq., 59 Jackson St., 781- 233-0289, georgesbarbershop.net
Theatre Company of Saugus With annual performances like The Glass Menagerie and A Very Special Christmas, this local troupe carries on a long-standing tradition of performance art in Saugus. 85 Chestnut St., 781-816-7019, tcsaugus.org
Square One Mall With more than 115 offerings, this is the shopping epicenter of Saugus and beyond. 1201 Broadway, 781-231-9087, simon. com
Kowloon This massive Asian-Pacific eatery serves a variety of dishes from around the Pacific Rim and draws a celebrity crowd (check out the wall of photos that includes Hulk Hogan, Jerry Seinfeld, and the Goo Goo Dolls). 948 Broadway, 781-233-0077, kowloonrestaurant.com
Hilltop Steakhouse The giant, cactusshaped sign and fake cows out front make for a grand introduction to this classic Western-themed Saugus throwback. 855 Broadway, 781-233-7700, hilltopsteakhouse.com
Prince Restaurant With a Leaning Tower of Pisa replica, a comedy club (Giggles) next door, and some of the finest slices this side of the Tobin Bridge, another Saugus tradition lives on. 517 Broadway, 781-233-9950, princepizzeria.com
Donatello Restaurant It’s not big or bold, but perhaps that’s why this genuine Italian restaurant is brimming with loyal customers. 44 Broadway, 781-233-9975, donatello-restaurant.com
Russo’s Fine Chocolates For 50 years, the selection and quality of chocolates at Russo’s have made kids and parents grin from ear to ear. Now in a new, smaller location just down the street from its original site, Russo’s has maintained the high quality of its sweets. 329 Main St., 781-233-1737, russoscandy.com
Hockey Town USA For kids growing up within a 10-mile radius of Saugus, there is no better place than at this hockey institution. Also available are roller hockey, flag football, clinics, and camps—and parents will love the price. 953 Broadway, 781-233-3666, hockeytownsaugus.com
Roller World Roller With 15,000 square feet of skating space, an arcade, a bowling alley, private party rooms, and skating gear for e veryone, this place is a total blast. 425R Broadway, 781-231-1111, roller-world.com
Breakheart Reservation Lace up your hiking shoes and explore the park’s 640 acres of trails and wilderness, or relax with a fishing rod on one of its two ponds . Bring the pooch—dogs are allowed ! 177 Forest St., 781-233-0834, saugus.org/FOBR
Kitchens by Hastings This Saugus institution has been creating dream home designs for over 30 years. 36 Broadway, 781-233-7171, kitchensbyhastings.com