Archive 2008 - 2019

Looking Back: Jets Over Holliston?

by Mike Raftus

No one told us about Massport plans to build a huge new airport to be known as the Hopkinton-East Jetport. Needless to say, we and thousands of others were shocked to see the full airport proposal. The July 16, 1970 edition of the Framingham News (now The Metrowest Daily News) published a map showing Massport’s plans to locate this second Boston area airport within large portions of Ashland, Hopkinton and Holliston.
While other sites, such as Plymouth, Otis AFB on Cape Cod, and Douglas-Uxbridge were under consideration, the Hopkinton-East locality was the prime choice as it was closest to Boston and was in a central location.
Land acquisition estimates for the Jetport were about 26-30 square miles of the three towns with the largest portion within Holliston. The map showed that our newly purchased home was located right at the intersection of two of the three planned runways. Plans called for 1,650 dwellings to be confiscated and about 6,250 residents to be uprooted. The land-taking area also included the then new HollistonHigh School, several industrial areas, the entire AshlandState Park and part of HopkintonState Park. The flight paths would be over Holliston’s downtown area. The Flagg-AdamsMiddle School and the MillerElementary School would be within a mile of the proposed boundaries.
John Losch of Holliston was our Massachusetts State Representative and he became a central figure on the Jetport resistance movement. Because of his political connections, he was able to obtain the Massport map that he then sent to the Framingham News. They published the map along with the story outlining the project. Representative Losch, a former Holliston Selectman, was instrumental in organizing citizen groups throughout the area now known as Metrowest. I joined the Holliston group, “Anti-Airport Executive Committee.”
The Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) was the driving force behind the airport project. Massport was then headed by Edward J. King, a future governor of Massachusetts. Massport’s Board of Directors consisted of Boston area business executives who pressured King to drive the Jetport project forward.
Each of the towns gathered signed petitions against the airport. Louis Paltrineri said that they gathered thousands of signatures at his Fiske’s General Store, as did other merchants in town. Henry Dellicker, a Holliston Selectman at the time, recalled bringing the signed petitions to a Republican Party event in Marlboro where Governor Francis W. Sargent would be in attendance. Dellicker, along with other Holliston Selectmen, George Decristoforo and Harold Noble, set up audio amplifiers with loud recordings of jet aircraft taking off and landing.  Dellicker recalled that his son, Mark, a high school student, was selected to present the petitions to Governor Sargent. The Governor was ignoring Mark, but then inadvertently stepped on his foot. It forced him to acknowledge Mark’s presence and then received the petitions from him.

John Losch said that in hindsight, the Jetport proposal may have been a diversion to enable Logan Airport to continue to expand in East Boston. Even if it was, we couldn’t take that chance. Also, if the threat of the Jetport continued, real estate values in the three towns would have been devastated. The fight was certainly successful and worthwhile.

It was interesting and even laughable (except for the seriousness of the threat) to hear and read some of the arguments put forth by Massport. At the time, the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport was under construction. Massport constantly compared building an airport in the Ashland, Hopkinton and Holliston area to building the Dallas
Airport—a ridiculous comparison!! 
To build the Hopkinton-East Jetport would require the destruction of three picturesque New England towns, removing 1,650 homes, displacing 6,250 people, leveling several hills and ridges and filling in many valleys, with millions of trees being chopped down. 
I knew that building the airport in the Dallas area was very different, even though I had never been to Texas at that time. About five years later, I made my first business trip to Dallas. As I landed at the Dallas-Ft.WorthInternationalAirport, I couldn’t help laughing. When DFW was built, they probably had to demolish two or three ranch houses, cut down about ten trees and move a few herds of cattle. The land was flat and level—no hills and valleys to contend with.
Luckily good sense and good work by citizens and political leaders prevailed in 1970, and we still enjoy life in Holliston as we deal with today's problems such as traffic, pedestrian safety and taxes.

Comments (4)

I can still see the yellow bumper stickers that read "HALT" "Homeowners Against Land Takeover".

Ed Grady | 2011-09-26 20:22:54

I remember this also as a kid- My parents were the first ones to buy a house in Brentwood, and it would have been a runway.

Brett Morrison | 2011-09-26 17:23:08

Interesting read. So how come we are not seeing this type of resistance to a huge resort casino that Milford would like to build on our border? Yes, it's not an airport, but it could still have a very significant negative impact to our town.

Anonymous | 2011-09-26 11:47:16

This was indeed an exciting time Mike. Please send a copy of this story to the Historical Society for their records. I also have newsclips and articles from those days, as I was involved in the anti-airport committee, too. I will donate my things as well so that the town has some record of this piece of history. The jetport idea might have been a "tactic" but it certainly elicited a potent response from this community and launched me into a love of local activism and public policy.

Mary Greendale | 2011-09-26 11:05:28