19th-century manuscript plan of the Charles River Lower Falls

Gustavus A. Hyde, Surveyor, PLAN OF LOWER FALLS. Surveyed, Aug. 1846. Drawn, Dec. 1849. [PLACE], Dec. 1849.
Manuscript in ink and watercolor on wove paper, 13 ½”h x 16 3/8”w at neat line plus margins, some outline and wash color. Lined with linen at an early date.

An early manuscript plan of the Lower Falls area of the Charles River, showing numerous paper mills and other industrial development. 

Straddling both banks of the Charles River, the Lower Falls area includes parts of Newton and Wellesley (formerly Dedham, then Needham), Massachusetts. Here the river drops no less than 18 feet in a quarter mile, and the abundant water power made it an excellent setting for early manufacturing. Already by the 1690s there was a grist mill on the south bank, and in the early 17th century a forge and trip hammer went up on the north (Newton) side. In 1790 John Ware erected the first paper mill, and by 1816 no fewer than nine were in operation—six at the upper (Cordingly) dam and three at the lower (Washington Street or Finlay) dam. A somewhat later spur to development was the opening in 1846 of a branch of the Boston and Worcester Railroad, with service from Newton Center to Lower Falls.

This map of the Lower Falls depicts an area encompassing part of the Lower Falls village of Newton north of the Charles River and of Needham (now Wellesley) south of the river. The topography of the river valley is depicted by subtle shading, and the street layout is shown, as are the Boston & Worcester and the Lower Falls Branch Railroads. The “Boston” (aka Cochituate) Aqueduct runs west-east across the middle of the map and is highlighted in red. The draftsman seems to have made an effort to show all structures of any significance, including several paper mills and their feeder canals along the banks of the river. Dozens of residences are shown and several landowners identified by name, at least some of whom (such as Mssrs. Crehore and Ware) are probably owners of the nearby mills. A comparison with printed maps of the area from roughly the same period, such as Woodward & Ward’s (1848) and Henry Walling’s (1855) maps of Newton, reveals numerous differences in detail.

Surveyor Gustavus Adolphus Hyde was born in Framingham, Mass. in 1826 and passed away in Cleveland in 1912 after a long and productive life.

“He was a civil engineer and surveyor by profession. He was engaged on the Boston waterworks, surveying the land used for the waterworks and serving in the engineering department, conducting an aqueduct from Lake Cochituate to Brookline, near Boston, during the years 1846 to 1849.” (Journal of the Cleveland Engineering Society, vol. V no. 4 (Jan. 1913), p. 276)

The map offered here was presumably drafted by Hyde based on surveys he or his colleagues had conducted for the Aqueduct project. In 1850 Hyde moved west to Cleveland, where he eventually took a job as head engineer for the Cleveland Gas Light & Coke Co., which occupied him from 1859 until his retirement in 1907.


Faint vertical strip of discoloration at left, a bit of staining in margins, and pin holes at corners. About very good overall.