Settled in 1639 along the dominant east-west trail leading into the interior of Massachusetts (later the Boston Post Road), Sudbury grew slowly, hampered by heavy losses in an April 1676 raid during King Phillip's War. A small number of mills augmented a subsistence agricultural economy in the colonial period, from which an impressive number of houses survive. After the Revolution, little changed in Sudbury's population or economy until the final quarter of the nineteenth century. Two secondary rail lines (1870s–1880s) only facilitated the export of agricultural products to a larger market. Anti-quarian interest in the colonial past brought urbanites eager to restore old houses, most notably the industrialist Henry Ford's activities at the Wayside Inn (SD3) in the 1920s. By then, the automobile highways of routes 20 and 27 opened the agricultural lands for suburban development. Commercial pressure along these routes and adjacent residential expansion increased in the second half of the twentieth century, although the Sudbury Center Historic District (SD1) retains its historic character.
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