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Historic hills of Waltham.

Numerous hills dominate the landscape of Waltham on the north side of the Charles River. Their elevations range from 140 feet to 480 feet above sea level. Hilltops are important features in a city's landscape. In fact, in the planned capital city of Canberra, Australia, American architect Walter Burleigh Griffin had laws passed banning development of the city's hills. Regrettably many of Waltham's hills have been spoiled by unsightly developments. However, some wonderful hills still survive and provide dramatic backdrops, hiking trails, picnic sites and scenic lookouts.

Prospect Hill

First mentioned in 1669, this 482-foot hill is the second highest in the Metropolitan Boston area. At the instigation of Charles Eliot, a 250-acre park was set aside for public pleasure in 1893. Although the 20th century saw some encroachments at its western base, and towers marring its summit, the Prospect Hill Advocacy Group has been active in lobbying for a master plan to restore the park's natural features. The Walker-Kluessing Design Group has created an award winning master plan, which calls for the restoration of the parks's historic features. A long-abandoned Air Force tower at the summit will either be dismantled and the summit restored, or possibly used by the city.

Mackerel Hill

Named in 1650, possibly for a town in England, much of this 300-foot hill located along Trapelo Road is included in the DCR Beaver Brook North Reservation. Plans for a golf course are in the works, which may remove a portion of the forest and open fields on the south side of the hill.

Trapelo Hill

At 350 feet, this once-lovely hill is the highest summit along Trapelo Road. Once the site of the historic Wellington estate, the land was taken by Middlesex County for a tuberculosis hospital in the early decades of the 20th century. Built in 1780 on this summit, the venerable Wellington mansion is noted for its graceful Georgian architecture. In the 1990s, the county sold the hospital to a private corporation, which subsequently went bankrupt. A large portion of the land was sold and developed, and is now called Wellington Crossings. The historic Wellington mansion was given to the City of Waltham.

Jericho Hill

First mentioned in 1690, this hill has an elevation of 340 feet and offers fine lookouts to the east, over Waltham and in to Boston. Although much of the northern and eastern slopes have been developed, a six-acre parcel at the summit remains undeveloped. A larger parcel on the wooded west side also remains undeveloped. Citizens from the adjacent neighborhoods have opposed further development of this hill.

Bear Hill

With an elevation of 350 feet, Bear Hill was first mentioned in 1669. Located along Bear Hill Road near Main Street, the natural beauty of this hill has been marred by communications towers and industrial and residential development.

Owl Hill

This 250-foot hill along Waverley Oaks Road near Trapelo Road, has been developed along its northeastern slope. Some Fernald Center buildings occupy the summit and south slope, but these are widely spaced, leaving most of the south side tree-covered. Several streams run down this hill and empty into Lawrence Meadow. On the north side, a wide lawn is used for sledding by neighborhood children.

Pigeon Hill

Located off Forest Street and Pigeon Lane, this hill derived its name from the great flocks of Passenger Pigeons (a species now extinct) which gathered there. In the 18th century, the wooded hill was the site of a smallpox hospital, and in the 20th century, the hill was incorporated into Camp Ted, a Boy Scout camp. Recent residential development has destroyed these ancient woods.

Stearns Hill

Probably the most egregious example of unsightly development, Stearns Hill, along Lexington Street, looms over the landscape. The development of the hill has contributed to the silting and degradation of Hardy Pond. Owned by Amos Stearns in the 19th century, and covered with apple orchards and haystacks, this hill's former beauty is now much-faded.

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