The View from the Top
Nelson’s vistas have changed continuously over the period since the town’s settlement in 1767. The place was old-growth forest with no views when Breed Batchellor, Nathaniel Breed, Joseph Stanhope, James Bancroft, and others settled here. Fifty years later, the land was almost entirely cleared, creating views everywhere across land used for sheep pastures. The old photographs in this calendar represent views of Nelson that would have been familiar to residents and visitors from 1880 to 1964. By the late nineteenth century, the landscape had almost entirely returned to forest, with the remnants of our hill farm fields visible here and there.
The photograph on this page illustrates a vista that was sought regularly by summer visitors to Nelson in the early twentieth century. The urge to get up high to see the view from the top created paths like the East Side Trail up City Hill. That trail is lost now, but the view from the top is accessible today, thanks to the work of the Nelson Trail Group.
Pick a sunny morning and set out on one of the trails. Approaching the landscape on foot is one way to reconnect with the families that first cut the trees, built the roads, laid the stone walls, and built the houses whose cellar holes you will come across as you walk. And the views are just as beautiful as ever.
– Rick Church