STREET BEAT: Lake Archer an oasis for Wrentham residents

Lake Archer in Wrentham was summer resort similar to Lake Pearl before the turn of the 20th century. (Staff photo by Mark Stockwell)

WRENTHAM - Larger than Mirror Lake and smaller than Lake Pearl, and lacking public access of those other two waterways, Lake Archer is a private oasis for residents - a splendid spot for swimming, fishing, and boating and simply taking in the aquatic views.

Local dentist Donald Fisher has lived on the lake since 1988, and says he wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

"It's very nice," Fisher said. "Overall, there are very nice people on the lake, great neighbors who are helpful to each other. We get together periodically. It's a great place for kids to play."

Fisher said his eight grandchildren especially like tubing on the lake.

It is also popular with Jet Skiers.

And, Fisher said, when the lake freezes in the winter, "a lot of people drill holes in the lake and do ice fishing."

The lake abounds with large-mouth bass.

As for wildlife, there are muskrats, geese, swans, and blue heron.

Fisher sees snapping turtles now and then. "I heard there are some big ones," he said.

There are more than 60 homes on the figure-eight shaped lake, several of which were once summer cottages that have been converted to year-round use. Many have their own dock.

Some homes, including ones with steep terrain, have had problems over the years meeting septic regulations.

The lake, which has an average depth of about 12 feet, is spring fed, making the water relatively clean. There isn't the pervasive weed problem that plagues Lake Pearl.

A nearby creek near Creek Street runs between Lake Archer and Lake Pearl and helps control water levels.

"Usually in the spring it's quite high," Fisher said.

Before the turn of the 20th century, the lake was a big summer resort similar to Lake Pearl.

Beginning around the 1870s, Wrentham saw an influx of summer residents who built the cottages on its lakes. Many were from upper middle class families in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Even two decades ago, Fisher estimates about a quarter of the homes were still used only in the summer.

Chase Ross, 21, has spent about half his life living on the lake.

"It's been pretty fun. It's nice," said Ross, son of state Sen. Richard Ross, R-Wrentham. "You come home and just jump in the water."

Chase Ross says he also enjoys fishing, tubing, wake boarding and kayaking, and has fond memories of grilling on the lakefront with his parents.

"It's a nice quiet area," said Jonathan Carroll, a Norfolk police officer who grew up on the lake in a home near the end of Lake Street close to King Philip Regional High School.

Years ago, swimming lessons were given at Lake Archer.

Helen Keller, the famed blind and deaf woman who became a world-renown advocate for the disabled and equal rights as an author and speaker, lived on East Street (Route 140) in Wrentham from 1903 to 1917 and spent summers in the town stretching back to 1896. She used to swim in Lake Archer with her teacher Anne Sullivan.

A bathing suit believed to have been used by Keller was discovered in an old boathouse/bathhouse on the lake decades ago, just before the building was torn down. Stuffed away in a box and kept for years out of town by members of the Winter family who owned the small house and knew Keller, the suit was donated about 2000 to the Wrentham Historical Society.

The original "white man's" name for Lake Archer was Blake's Pond, named after Robert Blake, who settled in the area around 1700, historical commission Chairman Greg Stahl said. He might have got the lot from Robert Ware, whose house was burned during King Philip's War.

Later, John Fisher owned the same farm, which was over 200 acres on the lake. His grandson, Amos Archer, inherited the property in the early 1800s, and the water was then called Archer's Pond, Stahl said.

During Wrentham's Tricentennial celebrations in 1973, there was "an awesome water parade of boats" on the lake, Stahl said.

A landmark for decades on the lake was a 60-foot diving tower at the summer home of Jarvis Hunt, a lawyer from North Attleboro, that was taken down in the early 1990s. The tower replaced one that was destroyed in the Hurricane of '38.

STEPHEN PETERSON can be reached at 508-236-0377 or at speterson@thesunchronicle.com.

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