Images, such as the above aerial shot of the center of Burlington from the late 1950s are prized by the Archives. It's great because the Archives has a special focus on collecting any records and documents relating to the period of the town's great growth and expansion between 1945 and 1970. During this period the once-quiet town emerged into the 20th century connected to the rest of the world via the construction of highways and bcame home to many of the technology-related businesses that drove the growth of Massachusetts' economy during this period.
At the same time, the farms and fields that once dotted the landscape were developed into subdivisions and and housing tracts. With abundant land near to highways and growing industries the town's population rose sharply, reaching nearly 25,000 by 1970. Careful rezoning of land, the carving out of open space and recreation areas and road construction all contributed to making Burlington the state's fastest growing town during that time.
With growth came a myriad of pressures on the landscape and municipal resources. Many of the official records related to the town's growth and development were maintained in municipal offices. The scope, scale and speed of Burlington's expansion prevented that growth from being adquately or carefully documented. Because of this, the town is always seeking letters, business records, photographs, plans, or other documents that relate to construction or development during that time.
We appreciate gifts of official records that help fill the gaps in the minutes, reports, maps, and other items relating to building, zoning, planning, or other development and construction functions. However, we especially prize the images correspondence, and memoranda produced in the normal course of business. These less official items are often more illustrative of the processes of development and shed a different light on the impacts and processes of growth and development. They often tell a story behind the official record and fill the gaps in our knowledge.
Growth-related records are of historical interest, but they have a more practical dimension. As new industries find a home in Burlington, developers and business owners need to know the history of a parcel of land, or structure, where they might want to locate. Their search may lead them to the Building Department, Planning Department or the Archives. We are visited frequently by engineers, builders, architects, and homeowners who need to know the history of a property in order to move forward with their own plans. Our best resources are the records donated to the Archives by citizens, business owners, and former residents.
If you'd like to donate records that relate to the town's growth between 1945 and 1970, we'd love to talk with you. We're at 29 Center St., in the basement of Town Hall, and can be reached either by email or at (781) 270-1604. Your contributions are important to preserving the record of this most important period in the town's history, as well as helping those whose vision is helping shape the town's future.