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Topsfield, MA Town Information

Topsfield is a town in Essex County, Massachusetts, United States.

The turnpike and railroad were important technological advances affecting Topsfield history in the early and middle 19th century, but the pace of technological change picked up dramatically as that century came to a close. The 1870s and 1880s saw the invention of three technologies that we take for granted today, but were revolutionary in their day: the electric light bulb, the telephone and centrally-generated electricity generation. All three were available to Topsfield residents by the 1890s and boomed after the start of the 20th century. These technologies, like the turnpike and railroad before them, integrated the town of Topsfield ever more closely into the county, the state, the nation and the world.

The automobile, however, affected Topsfield more than any other technology by allowing its residents to disconnect where they lived from where they worked. Automobiles need roads, of course, and the quality and quantity of road-building accelerated during the twentieth century. Massachusetts Route 128, with Boston at its center, quietly but powerfully influenced Topsfield's history and character. Originally known as the "Circumferential Highway", Route 128 was the first limited-access beltway in the United States. The Route 128 number dates from the origin of the Massachusetts highway system in the 1920s. By the 1950s, Route 128 ran from Nantasket Beach in Hull to Gloucester. With the rapid growth of high-technology industry in the suburban areas along Route 128, the highway came to symbolize the Boston high-tech community itself. In 1955, Business Week magazine ran an article titled "New England Highway Upsets Old Way of Life" and referred to Route 128 as "the Magic Semicircle". The number of companies grew rapidly from that point in time, many of them involved with space race and cold war defense projects. In the 1980s, the positive effects of this growth on the Massachusetts economy were dubbed the "Massachusetts Miracle". Throughout this period of expansion, employees of the Route 128 companies made Topsfield their home.

For its first three hundred years, Topsfield was a small farm town. But each year from its colonial period Topsfield has grown more closely connected to the larger world. More than anything else, affordable automobiles and modern road systems changed Topsfield and made the town what it is today - a suburban bedroom community within the greater Boston metropolitan area.

Source: Wikipedia


Image: "Looking northwest on River Road, Topsfield MA" by John Phelan - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.