The Clifts (or Cliftons) were one of the first families to settle in this area during Colonial times and they continued until 1808 when George Washington’s father died. The story goes that he had been passing through town on his way from New York City to Fredricksburg VA with two wagons filled with goods for sale.
One of them overturned spilling out its load under an apple tree where it was found by some boys playing there – which would later become known as “Washington’s Apple Tree.” It has since grown into a majestic landmark so much so that eventually it became home to what is now the Academy Hill School and students have nicknamed their school mascot the “Ole Apple Tree.”
In 1901, John E. Haigis, a Boston-based developer began acquiring property in this area of Saugus that would later be known as Cliftsdales. He built some 25 homes on his then newly laid out subdivision and sold them to many middle class families who lived there until the 1950’s when development reached their neighborhood.
What you can see now is an older community with well established trees lining streets named for distinguished Americans such as John Quincy Adams (Adams Ave.), Benjamin Franklin (Franklin Rd.), George Washington (Washington St.) and Thomas Jefferson (Jefferson Road).
Cliftondale was originally part of Lynnfield but eventually became annexed by the town of Saugus in 1869 from what had been called “Out West.” After the Revolutionary War, Saugus became an important place because it was the terminus of all roads coming from Boston with connections to Portsmouth NH and points west.
For much of its history Cliftondale has been a very rural area which is still evident in some parts today. However, now there are more new homes being built as well as other amenities that have come along such as restaurants and shopping centers. The railroad station nearby was closed long ago but you can still see where it used to be on Franklin Road just off Washington Street at the intersection with Leighton’s Corner.