This Plymouth County community of 26,563 set along the Taunton River has evolved from the home of farmlands and factories into an amicable town-and-gown community with a relatively easy commute to Boston or Providence.
“Bridgewater has a community feel and an identity,’’ said Sally Egan, a longtime resident and Jack Conway realtor. “The center of town, with its green in the middle, is very New England. It looks like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ ’’
The presence of Bridgewater State University provides vibrancy, with artists’ series, an observatory, and summer camps for local kids, plus a commuter rail stop. The real estate market “is hopping,’’ Egan says, with multiple offers on high-end Colonials going in the four to five hundred thousands, a bargain compared with pricier towns nearby.
“It’s not an affluent town, but it’s an affordable community,’’ she said. “When you buy in, you get a lot for your money.’’
The year Bridgewater was incorporated, possibly named after a town in England.
The surface area of peaceful Lake Nippenicket, known locally as “The Nip,’’ a popular spot for fishermen, kayakers, and personal watercraft.
Square mileage of the stretch of land dubbed “The Bridgewater Triangle’’ by cryptozoologist Loren Coleman in his 1983 book “Mysterious America,’’ allegedly the site of much bizarre paranormal activity, including Bigfoot and UFO sightings, especially at Hockomock Swamp. The Wampanoag gave the swamp its name, which means “the place where spirits dwell.’’
Students enrolled at Bridgewater State University (as of last spring). Originally founded in 1840 as Bridgewater Normal School, one of the country’s first teaching colleges, it transformed itself in 1960 into a comprehensive liberal arts college. It became Bridgewater State University in 2010, and today offers 90 degree programs and employs more than 1,000 faculty and staff.
The town has been investing in new facilities, including a playground at Marathon Park, girls’ softball field, and the clubhouse at Olde Scotland Links, a championship links-style public golf course. Diners flock to My Sister and I in Central Square for breakfast and lunch and to Crispi’s Italian Cuisine for dinner, and get their summertime ice cream fix at Sugar Hill Dairy at Hanson Farm. Undergrads pack Bogart’s Pub & Pizza for $4 pitchers.
Bridgewater is home to a correctional complex that includes 1,940 inmates and civilly committed offenders, including prisoners at Old Colony Correctional Center. The complex also houses facilities that treat sexual offenders, people addicted to drugs, and the criminally insane. Although very rarely an issue, a prison break will set off townwide alarms and phone alerts.
The stories surrounding “The Bridgewater Triangle,’’ also the title and subject of a new documentary screening around the Boston area this summer. But filmmaker Aaron Cadieux believes “The Triangle’’ is more a draw than a deterrent. “People seem to have a fascination with the mysterious and the unexplained,’’ Cadieux said.
Melissa Schorr, a writer on the South Shore, is a frequent Globe contributor. Send comments to Address@globe.com.