When Julie Atherton first moved into a Mendon duplex with her husband, Shawn, 15 years ago, what immediately struck her was the warmth her neighbors offered and the general sense of togetherness in this Worcester County town.
“Everyone in the neighborhood came up and introduced themselves, and we became good friends,’’ the 44-year-old said, noting that her family has since moved elsewhere in town. “With that first duplex we moved into, there was a lot of camaraderie in that neighborhood.’’
Atherton has run her father’s flooring store, Milford Hardwood Floors, for 22 years, but she also works in the box office at one of Mendon’s most famous attractions: Mendon Twin Drive-In. The landmark opened in 1954 and is one of the state’s last drive-in movie theaters. The Andelman brothers of Phantom Gourmet purchased it in 2014. Atherton, the mother of son Tyler, 22, is one of many Mendon residents who work there. She said the drive-in serves clientele ranging from locals who come every week to people who arrive from around the state, planning their weekends around catching a double feature.
“It’s pretty fun,’’ Atherton said. “It’s nice to see families with kids playing ball . . . it’s good family entertainment.’’
Mendon, which is celebrating its 350th anniversary this year, is also known for entertainment on the wild side — Southwick’s Zoo. Although she lives about a mile and a half away, Atherton sometimes can hear the lions roar. She praised the role the large zoo plays in the community, drawing people from all over to Mendon.
Beyond its two most famous attractions, Mendon is also known for its beautiful farmland, nationally recognized school system (which it shares with neighboring Upton), Lake Nipmuc, and its long and storied history.
What Atherton stresses most about the community, however, is its accessibility to people from a range of backgrounds.
“I think you have all walks of life in Mendon,’’ Atherton said. “You can buy a duplex at a very good price, but you have these million-dollar homes as well, so you can get these people from all ages and demographics.’’
The date of Aerosmith’s first paid concert, held in Mendon at what is now Miscoe Hill Middle School (it was Nipmuc Regional High School at the time). The school paid them $50, and Steven Tyler, while changing in the locker room, reportedly donned someone’s Nipmuc shirt for the gig. Guitarist Joe Perry had gone to high school in neighboring Hopedale.
The cost for residents to purchase a season pass to Mendon Town Beach on Lake Nipmuc. The spot features a popular snack shack with burgers, hot dogs, and ice cream.
The year Mendon was incorporated. The town is holding events all year commemorating its 350th anniversary, including a parade, fireworks, and historical reenactments. The town was abandoned from 1675 to 1676 during King Philip’s War after settlers were killed and the founding families fled back to Braintree and Weymouth, according to the town’s website.
The number of acres that form Southwick’s Zoo’s Deer Forest, an attraction that allows visitors to pet and feed Eurasian fallow deer
According to Zillow, Mendon’s median home value is a sensible $421,000. This makes the community great for buyers just starting out or people looking to upgrade to more lavish digs. While the commute to Boston is long (you have to drive for several minutes to get to a major highway), the prices are very reasonable for a town within driving distance of the capital.
Shared school system
While Mendon has its own elementary schools, high-schoolers head to Upton to attend Nipmuc Regional High School or Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School, both 10-minute trips from the center of town. This can mean long drives to pick up students from school or to attend events. Mendon, however, does host Miscoe Hill Middle School, so parents will be making the trek for only four years.