Colonial-Era Farming Town Has Become One of the Richest Suburbs in the Nation

Associated Press

A history of this town's role in the Revolutionary War notes that it was half a day's carriage ride from Boston and a favorite stopping-over spot for weary travelers headed for the state capital.

Today it is the richest community in the state, one of two Massachusetts towns named as among the 50 most expensive suburbs in the nation. Elegant houses have replaced the outlying farms, and the automobile and the turnpike have cut the trip to Boston to less than half an hour.

The wealth has created some problems for town employees and many elderly people on fixed incomes who can't afford to live there. There is crime now, and a state lawmaker has proposed building a huge trash incinerator on the edge of town.

Per capita income here in 1985 was $35,260, well ahead of runner-up Dover, where the average was $28,525, according to the latest U.S. Census figures.

"It's consistently been that way," said Audrey Yett, a Weston real estate agent who has lived here for 25 years. "I think Dover might have nudged us once."

The average asking price for a house in Weston is about $750,000--double what it was three years ago, Yett said.

Its rural charm, residential focus and closeness to Boston, 12 1/2 miles down the pike, are the reasons residents say Weston is more desirable than other affluent suburbs.

"It's a town where you can mind your own business, ride your horse or fade away if that's the kind of privacy that you want, or you can be at the airport in half an hour and at the theater in less," said Yett.

"Weston's always been quite desirable and on the upper scale," she said in an interview. "Weston has a reputation among the executives."

The 17-square-mile community has a population of about 10,500.

Small shops in the tiny town center constitute virtually all of Weston's commercial property. Colonial-era inns are now museums, and you have to go to nearby Waltham if you want a drink.

Owners of a nearly-used-up rock quarry on the Waltham-Weston line have been fighting town leaders for three years for permission to build an office park. Residents fear that approval of the plan would lead to more commercial development.

State Senate President William Bulger recently raised eyebrows here by proposing a massive trash incinerator for the quarry property, raising the specter of garbage trucks moving among the luxury cars.

Property values aren't the only source of Weston's fame, however. Two years ago, Gail Givens pleaded guilty to three counts of enticing people to become prostitutes. Police said records seized from her Weston home indicated that her "Aaaah Bella" escort service had up to 50 prostitutes and 500 clients who paid fees of $150 to $180, of which Givens kept $100.

Three Massachusetts men arrested in 1982 were linked to a "Social Register" burglary ring whose targets included at least 15 Weston homes in 1978 and 1979.

Elderly residents on fixed incomes who have lived in the town for years now find it hard to maintain their large homes. Several schools have been converted to housing for the elderly in recent years, but town officials say more apartments are needed.

The town recently began a study to locate the areas where low-income and moderate-income housing could be built, said Donna vanderClock, administrative assistant to the Board of Selectmen.

Most town employees can't afford to live where they work, and VanderClock commutes from Tewksbury, 22 miles away.

"I think it would be very nice to live here," she said. "I think it's important to live in the town that you work in, but it's impossible, given the cost of housing."

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