The Community Playhouse

To many Wellesley residents, one of the most tragic events ever to strike the town was the closure of the Community Playhouse. For 65 years, the theater was the lifeblood of the community. It was where families brought their young children, teenagers went on their first dates, and adults enjoyed a night out. There’s not a place in town today that’s even remotely comparable. When I was growing up in Wellesley, years after the Playhouse’s 1987 closing, we used to bemoan the lack of nearby entertainment establishments. The only reasonable option was to rent a movie. Perhaps that’s why I’m deeply fascinated by the history of the Community Playhouse. I’d like to know what exactly I missed.

The viewing of motion pictures in Wellesley actually predates the 1922 erection of the Community Playhouse. In 1920, Roger Babson acquired movie projection equipment in order to show industrial films to Babson Institute students in the 250-seat auditorium of the new Babson Report’s Building (located east off Laurel Avenue). As a service to the community, Babson also offered to show feature films to local residents. Unsure of whether to allow this new form of entertainment within the community, the town formed a committee to examine this issue more closely. A Townsman editorial of May 7th, 1920 strongly defends the importance of making a well-thought-out decision: “Few public activities have a more far reaching influence on the fundamental well being of a community than a permanent motion picture show. Its effect penetrates, and modifies the character of the people, old as well as young, and touches the heart of most of the homes. It is a potent force for good or evil.”

After months of debate, the Wellesley Community Playhouse, Inc. was officially organized in September of 1920 and then incorporated in November as a joint-stock company that would be owned by hundreds of Wellesley resident shareholders. It held its grand opening at the Babson Report’s Building in February of 1921, but its occupancy there was brief. In March of 1922, the Community Playhouse took out a lease in the newly-completed Babson Society House, a social center for faculty and students of the Babson Institute, that was located at the east corner of Washington and Forest Streets. Designed by Benjamin Proctor Jr. (architect of dozens of buildings in Wellesley, including the Sprague Memorial Clock Tower and Kingsbury, Perrin, and Warren Elementary Schools), the Society House had a 540-seat theater, in addition to reading rooms, a social hall, and a cafeteria.

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Former Community Playhouse (and Babson Society House)
(Photo taken by Joshua Dorin – January 2013)

The first movie shown at the Community Playhouse’s new theater was Disraeli, a 1921 silent film starring George Arliss about the British prime minister and the purchase of the Suez Canal. Sounds riveting. I was hoping to include a clip, but the film has been lost to history (as were many of the early silent movies). I did, however, find an entire version of another movie shown at the Playhouse during its first week at its new location: Miss Lulu Bett. I’ve embedded the movie for those who are interested in taking a trip back in time to the earliest days of the Community Playhouse. I dare you to try to watch for more than five minutes — it’s not exactly Batman or Shrek. And remember, this movie was played without an organ, which wasn’t installed until a few months later to liven up the pictures. (The first “talkie” shown at the Playhouse was Rainbow Man in July of 1929.)

Although the Community Playhouse was met with great popularity, it operated at a substantial loss during its first two years. Facing possible closure, the Playhouse was saved when Roger Babson bought out the shareholders and took control of the company. In 1928, when the Babson Institute was well established on its current campus at the southern edge of town, he sold the company along with the theater to the longtime manager of the Playhouse, Denmark-native Adolph Bendslev. For the next 59 years, the Bendslev family operated the theater, which became a community treasure that everyone enjoyed.

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Interior of the Community Playhouse in 1981
(With permission from John F. Allen)

Over the years, the Playhouse was also used for other events, including theatrical productions, dance shows, and operas. It was even the venue where then-Vice President Calvin Coolidge gave the keynote address at a business leadership conference run by the Babson Statistical Organization in August of 1922. (Coolidge even greeted and shook hands with five hundred schoolchildren, all waving little American flags, on the grounds of the Shaw School, which stood to the rear of the Playhouse until it was razed in 1926.)

The Community Playhouse ran without much trouble until 1986, when the executors of the trust that owned the theater since the death of Les Bendslev (Adolph’s son) announced that they were going to close the theater and develop the property. It had been determined that even though the theater, which was still operated by the Bendslev family, was profitable, commercial development of the property would yield a larger return (which was the executors’ fiduciary responsibility). Although the community was outraged and attempted the save the theater, the Playhouse closed in 1987. (The last movie shown was Children of a Lesser God.) The building, however, was saved from demolition and converted into retail space. Since 1988, the old Playhouse has housed several offices and stores, most notably a Bertucci’s restaurant. In addition, the Playhouse Square commercial building was erected on the rear of the property.

Despite the outcry over its closure, I’m not sure how much longer the Community Playhouse would have survived had it not closed in 1987. Many small and independent movie theaters shut down during the last few decades. And the ones that did survive are now facing a huge crisis. Over the last few years, the movie industry has been phasing out film in favor of digital cinematography and many of these small theaters don’t have the money necessary to convert to digital projection. Nevertheless, it would have been nice to have grown up in Wellesley with a movie theater a hop, skip, and a jump away from my house. Maybe then I could really appreciate the comments from so many longtime Wellesley residents who speak of the Community Playhouse with such fondness.

Sources:

  • Wellesley Townsman: 10 October 1919; 7 May 1920; 3 December 1920; 28 January 1921; 4 February 1921; 10 February 1922; 3 March 1922; 19 May 1922; 19 January 1923; 19 March 1926; 5 July 1929; 22 July 1938; 11 August 1939; 22 December 1939; 21 February 1963; 29 May 1975; 17 July 1986; 24 July 1986; 14 August 1986; 5 March 1987
  • Abstract of the Certificates of Corporations Organized Under the General Laws of Massachusetts prepared by the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1920)
  • wikipedia.org (for information on Disraeli)
  • youtube.com

The Jewel That Wasn’t Built

I think anyone who has read my previous blog posts knows that I am obsessed with Wellesley’s historical buildings and houses. But what actually interest me more are those that were designed, but for some reason never built. I’d argue that we can learn a lot about a city or town’s history from its failures to complete a proposed project. And there are plenty of examples in Wellesley that fall into that category, from schools to administrative buildings to movie theatres. Here I want to write about one such example, a combined library and community center that was proposed in 1919 and would have stood where the Wellesley Hills Branch Library was later erected in 1928. Without a doubt, this building would have been one of the most elegant and stately structures in town. But instead, the project never got the approval of Wellesley voters and the proposed building was relegated to history.

There’s really not a lot of background to this story. What you need to know is that by 1919, the Wellesley Free Library, which had been housed in the eastern half of the Town Hall building since 1883, was in desperate need of more space. Although there were a few branch libraries, each one was nothing more than a single room in an otherwise occupied house or building. The one exception was a branch library run by the Wellesley Hills Women’s Club out of the vacant James A. Beck House since 1912. That house was located more or less on the site of the current Wellesley Hills Branch Library. Nevertheless, this situation — a cramped main library and an old house for a branch library — was not ideal for a town that was well on the path towards becoming an affluent suburb. Beginning in 1914, Wellesley began considering building a new library, but no significant action was taken until 1919 when the Special Library Committee that was formed to investigate the matter and make recommendations drew up plans for a new main library. This post is about those architectural plans and the fate of that building.

So let’s start with a sketch of the proposed building:

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Proposed Library and Community Center
(Source: Wellesley Townsman)

This brick building with ornate stone trimmings (designed by Boston architects Blackall, Clapp & Whittemore) was to be more than just the main public library. It would also be the headquarters for the American Legion and a community center featuring a large 363-seat auditorium that could hold theatre productions, lectures, public meetings, and even “moving pictures,” as well as space for a museum or art gallery. In addition, there would be a memorial to Wellesley veterans, including those that served in the Great War that had ended only months earlier. It was to be located on the site of the aforementioned Beck house. Now to fully appreciate the formidable presence this building would have had, you need to understand the geography of the area at the time. So take a look at the following image:

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Street Configuration in 1919

I’ve done my best to draw the roads as they were in 1919. Washington Street was almost exactly as it is today. Worcester Street (Route 9), however, was completely different. It wasn’t until 1933 that the road went under Washington Street, bypassing Wellesley Hills Square to the north. Before then, Worcester Street split to the east of the current underpass into a westbound road that merged onto Washington Street and an eastbound road that went more or less along the current eastbound on-ramp. Once in Wellesley Hills Square, these two branches merged back together. In addition, there was a road called Beck Lane to the west of the Beck House that connected Worcester Street and Washington Street. And as you can see, a large triangular tract of land, known as Ware Park, was formed by this street configuration. (Grantland Extension, the road that currently runs just to the east of the Hills Branch Library, did not exist in 1919.)

So given these changes, try to visualize the proposed building where the Wellesley Hills Branch Library is today, overlooking an expansive grassy park to the west. Wouldn’t that have been wonderful? Instead, all that exists there today is a little bit of grass to the west of the Branch Library, the Route 9 westbound off-ramp, and a void where the highway dips down to go under Washington Street.

When I look at the floor plans of the proposed building, I’m even more disappointed that it was never built. Everything about them prove to me that it would have been one of the jewels of Wellesley. (Source: Wellesley Townsman — CLICK ON A FLOORPLAN TO ENLARGE)

So why wasn’t this beautiful building constructed? Well, that brings us to our lesson in town politics. For starters, the building would have cost between $110,000 and $125,000, adding $1 to the property tax rate, which was already thought to be too high. And the town desperately needed additional school buildings more than a new library. However, one of the most interesting reasons that the plans didn’t pass at the 1920 Annual Town Meeting was that those voting were upset that the Special Library Committee spent money that hadn’t been appropriated to draw up architectural plans. The voters were sending a message that “when the Town appoints a committee to do a specific job, and does not appropriate any money therefor, the committee must not expect the Town to foot any bills incurred by the committee in doing the job, especially if they go beyond the scope of the specifications, and expend money in the full knowledge that none has been appropriated for their use…The voters made it clear that such policy would not be tolerated.” [Wellesley Townsman: 19 March 1920]

And with that, the drive to build a new library ended for some time. To be fair, it wasn’t just spite from the voters that led to further inaction. In fact, it was mostly because the town’s overcrowded schools took center stage. In only one year, four new elementary schools opened (Hardy in late 1923, Kingsbury in early 1924, and Sprague and Brown in late 1924). There were also large additions to Fiske in 1921, Hardy in 1925, and Phillips Junior High School in 1928. This further reduced the need for a new library because additional branches opened in the recently closed Fells School (now the Fells Branch Library) and in a room at the enlarged Fiske School.

Therefore, in 1927, when the town finally revisited the issue of a new library, it voted to build just a branch library. The location chosen was the site of the Beck House, which was conveniently owned by Isaac Sprague, chairman of the building committee. And with the library’s construction came a slight reconfiguration of the streets: Grantland Extension was laid out to the east of the new library and Beck Lane was removed and incorporated into Ware Park. Unfortunately, only five years after the library’s 1928 opening, Ware Park disappeared when the Worcester Street underpass was constructed.

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Wellesley Hills Branch Library
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Although Wellesley didn’t get the proposed library and community center, the consolation prize of the Wellesley Hills Branch Library wasn’t too shabby. That said, I still think the town missed out on an absolute treasure. Not just in terms of the building’s architecture and aesthetics, but also in its potential ability to unite Wellesley’s literary, artistic, scholarly, and heroic citizens under one roof. It would have been truly representative of the diverse population that makes Wellesley a great town. Sadly, it just wasn’t meant to be.

Sources:

  • Norfolk County Registry of Deeds
  • Wellesley Historical Commission files: Wellesley Hills Branch Library
  • Wellesley Townsman: 6 December 1907; 28 February 1919; 21 March 1919; 9 May 1919; 19 December 1919; 27 February 1920; 19 March 1920; 3 December 1920; 30 December 1921; 7 September 1923; 25 January 1924; 4 September 1925; 8 January 1926; 12 March 1926; 27 May 1927; 15 July 1927; 24 February 1928; 14 July 1933; 24 May 1956

The Original Hunnewell Schools

This September marks the 75th anniversary of the opening of Hunnewell Elementary School on Cameron Street. While this is certainly a milestone that needs to be celebrated, what’s even more impressive is that, technically, it will be the start of Hunnewell’s 144th consecutive school year. That’s because there were two schoolhouses of that same name that predate the current building — the first one was built in 1870. So follow me below as I explain the histories of the first two Hunnewell Schools.

To be complete, we should actually begin in the year 1785 when the town of Needham (to which Wellesley belonged) voted to establish the first school districts, one of which was to be called the West district and would serve the entire western portion of what is now Wellesley. (I’m guessing that means everything west of around Forest Street.) The first West district schoolhouse, however, wasn’t built until at least 1791 and was located a bit west of Weston Road south of Central Street on the current Wellesley College campus. Around 1844, a new West district schoolhouse was constructed on land now bounded by Central Street, Weston Road, and Cross Street. This would be the first of three schoolhouses built here — the latter two called Hunnewell School. To those of you familiar with Wellesley, it might be hard to believe that this property was ever home to a school. As seen in the satellite view below, it is entirely commercial today with a block of stores along Central Street, a fire station at the corner of Central Street and Weston Road, and a large parking lot in the rear.

However, back in the mid-19th Century, Central Street was entirely residential. It wasn’t until the early 1920s that commercial blocks began to pop up along the street. Today, the only remaining dwelling is the Hathaway House, a circa 1830 farmhouse at the corner of Weston Road that is now home to the Stuart Swan Furniture Company.

The second schoolhouse on this site — the first Hunnewell School — was built in 1870 fronting on Cross Street directly opposite where Church Street ends. (The first schoolhouse had been moved south of the school grounds, converted into a dwelling, and then burned down sometime before 1906.) At the time of its construction, this new schoolhouse, a three-story Second Empire building, was the largest school in Wellesley. It was built by Freeman Phillips (the father of Alice L. Phillips, the namesake of the original Junior High School on Seaward Road) at a substantial cost mostly covered by donations from some of Wellesley’s most notable residents:

  • Horatio H. Hunnewell (patriarch of the Hunnewell family)
  • Henry F. Durant (founder of Wellesley College)
  • Edmund M. Wood (owner of Wood’s paint shop at Paintshop Pond near Lake Waban)
  • William E. Baker (owner of Ridge Hill Farms on Grove Street)
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Horatio H. Hunnewell
(Source: ‘Life, Letters, and Diary of Horatio Hollis Hunnewell‘)

Mr. Hunnewell’s donation must have been the largest because the school was officially named after him when it opened in 1870. For its first five years, the building housed students of all ages: primary on the first floor, intermediate on the second floor, and high schoolers on the third floor. (In 1875, the high school moved to the newly completed Shaw School on Forest Street.) Interestingly, indoor plumbing wasn’t added to Hunnewell School until 1885. As a former teacher, I have to say that a school without bathrooms would be a dream come true. Students might actually be forced to sit there and learn instead of ‘going to the bathroom,’ which usually means roaming the halls and texting their friends.

The occupancy of the first Hunnewell School, however, was short lived. In 1892, the second Hunnewell School (the third schoolhouse on this lot) was built, this one fronting on Central Street. Sometime over the next two years, the first Hunnewell School was moved onto the Wellesley College campus and remodeled into a dormitory using money from a donation by Charlotte Matilda Morse Fiske, the widow of Joseph Norton Fiske, one of Boston’s most successful bankers in the mid-1800s. Amazingly, neither Morse nor Fiske appear to have any relationship to the well-known Morse or Fiske families of Wellesley — their only connection to the town was that Mrs. Fiske was a close friend of Pauline Durant, the widow of the founder of Wellesley College. The renovated schoolhouse was renamed the Fiske House and served as a co-op dormitory until 1939 when it became housing for graduate students in the Hygiene and Physical Education program. Since 1953, the Fiske House has been used for faculty and staff apartments.

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Fiske House — the first Hunnewell School
(Photo taken by Joshua Dorin – January 2013)

The second Hunnewell School served the town until the 1938 opening of the current (and third) Hunnewell School, which was built on Cameron Street because traffic near the school grounds on Central Street had become far too dangerous over the years. Cars and trucks (and trolleys for some time) sped down the road to and from Natick, causing too much noise and posing too much risk to the children during recess. In 1939, the second Hunnewell School was razed and a commercial block was soon built along Central Street. (Previously, in 1929, the west corner of the school grounds had been taken over for the construction of the stone fire station that still stands there today.)

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The second Hunnewell School
(With permission from cardcow.com)

Before we leave the site of the first two Hunnewell Schools, there’s one more interesting thing to note, which is the presence of a pond at the corner of Weston Road and Cross Street near the southern edge of the schoolyard. There was no name associated with this pond because it was more like a giant puddle where all the runoff collected. And nothing good came from its presence. It was unsightly and smelly. Stagnant waters caused mosquito outbreaks and disease. Students were always falling into the water during their one hour unsupervised lunch breaks. What was even more ridiculous was that, in 1921, the town tried to grade the rear portion of the schoolyard where the pond would always reappear by permitting residents to dump their ashes and other clean filling materials. That plan backfired when people started dumping their trash and refuse, creating an even more unsightly and hazardous situation. Local residents soon protested to the Selectmen, who shut down the dump the following year. (And this wasn’t the only time that dumping was permitted either on school grounds or adjacent to them — there were also dumps by the North School at the current site of Warren Elementary School, as well as on the Sprague Elementary School playing fields.)

So as we note the 75th anniversary of the opening of the current Hunnewell Elementary School this fall, I propose that its two predecessors be included in the celebrations. Perhaps this story could be told to students on a field trip to the original Hunnewell school grounds. Only by really observing this location can one envision either of the old Hunnewell Schools surrounded by a grassy playing field and one swampy pond. Then everyone could walk towards the main gates of Wellesley College and take a look at the Fiske House (the first Hunnewell School). Perhaps a discussion of Katharine Lee Bates, the most famous graduate of the first Hunnewell School, could follow. Students would learn not just what Wellesley was like over 100 years ago, but also how this area of town transitioned from entirely residential to a bustling hub of commercial activity. It might not be as much fun as a field trip to the New England Aquarium or Drumlin Farm. But it would give students a better understanding of life in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, as well as a much deeper appreciation for their hometown. I don’t know about you, but if I was ten years old again, that field trip would be awesome.

Sources:

  • Needham Map of 1856
  • Wellesley Atlas of 1888
  • Wellesley Atlas of 1897
  • Wellesley Historical Commission files: 103 Central Street; Hunnewell School (Cameron Street); Fiske House – Wellesley College
  • The Wellesley Courant: 11 September 1885 (reprinted in the Wellesley Townsman of 13 September 1935)
  • Professional and Industrial History of Suffolk County, Massachusetts by William Thomas Davis (1894)
  • Life, Letters, and Diary of Horatio Hollis Hunnewell by Hollis Horatio Hunnewell (1906)
  • Wellesley Townsman: 7 December 1906; 27 May 1921; 31 March 1922; 16 March 1923; 15 February 1929; 20 April 1934; 29 April 1938; 27 December 1945
  • History of Needham, Massachusetts, 1711-1911 by George Kuhn Clarke (1912)
  • Wellesley College 1875-1975: A Century of Women edited by Jean Glasscock (1975)
  • Google Maps

Save 53 Grove Street!

This will be my most overtly political post to date. Surely, I’ve always been standing on my soapbox preaching the importance of knowing about Wellesley’s history, but I’ve never tried to rally the troops like I’ll do here. The issue at hand is 53 Grove Street, a small late-19th Century cottage that sits vacant at the rear of the Wellesley Inn construction site. Originally, the dwelling was to be incorporated into the development of the property, but it appears that the plans may be changing. So I’d like to make the argument that Wellesley must do everything in its power to preserve this piece of history.

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53 Grove Street
(Photo taken by Joshua Dorin — January 2013)

However, before I talk about why this house is so important, let me give you some background on what’s been going on with the Wellesley Inn property in recent years. Of course, anyone familiar with the town knows that Wellesley lost the c. 1860 building (and a number of additions, including the 1965 annex) when it closed in 2005, was sold to the commercial developer, Spaulding & Slye LLC, and torn down the following year. The only part of the Wellesley Inn complex that was spared was 53 Grove Street located on the rear of the site, which I believe was to be used for a few affordable housing units. But before any construction began, the 2008 financial crisis hit, forcing Spaulding & Slye to suspend its plans for the site. Today, over four years later, the property is nothing more than a hole in the ground blocked from view by a solid white fence.

But just recently, at the beginning of this month, a new commercial developer, HRV Development LLC, began the process of buying the entire property from Spaulding & Slye. And it’s not clear whether this new developer wants to preserve 53 Grove Street or tear it down. That’s why this post is urgent. Maybe if people know that this house has a story to tell, then public pressure can sway HRV Development into saving it (assuming the sale goes through).

At this point, I’d like to put out a disclaimer. I am an advisory (non-voting) member of the Wellesley Historical Commission (WHC), the town board whose mission is “the preservation and protection of the tangible evidence of the architectural, aesthetic, cultural, economic, political and social history of Wellesley.” I was made aware of the changes in ownership of the Wellesley Inn property at a recent meeting of the WHC. What I write here is not necessarily representative of the views of the WHC, which is currently looking into the matter and will release a statement soon. Also, I’m not here to comment on the specific use of 53 Grove Street, including the issue of affordable housing. My sole purpose is to argue for the preservation of the dwelling on the basis of its historical importance.

So here’s the history of 53 Grove Street:  The small two-story cottage was built 137 years ago, in 1876, by Daniel Grant, a local resident who erected a number of homes in the area, especially on the tract of land between Washington Street and Grove Street near Wellesley Square. That same year, Grant sold the property to Benjamin H. Sanborn, who had just arrived from Vermont with his new wife. Sanborn would enter into a career publishing textbooks, of which he produced more than two hundred before his retirement in 1913. He also made his mark on the town by serving on the school board for many years and helping to organize the Wellesley National Bank, of which he was the first vice-president. Sanborn moved away from Wellesley a few years before his death in 1926 at the age of 74.

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Beebe Hall – Wellesley College
(Photo taken by Joshua Dorin — January 2013)

In 1893, Sanborn sold 53 Grove Street to Captain John Allen Beebe, a successful whaling captain from Nantucket. At the time, Beebe’s daughter, Alice, was a student at Wellesley College and would go on to graduate in 1896. When Capt. Beebe died in 1907, he bequeathed $80,000 ($1.95 million in 2013 dollars) to her alma mater. This money went towards the construction of both Beebe Hall dormitory, completed in 1908, and the college library. His donation was especially important towards building the library because it completed the fundraising campaign that guaranteed a matching grant from Andrew Carnegie.

The house stayed in the Beebe family until it was sold in 1937, first to a Captain Flagg and then a month later to Helen Temple Cooke, the longtime principal of Dana Hall Schools. Cooke bought dozens of homes throughout the area for use as student dormitories and faculty/staff housing. 53 Grove Street was known as the ‘Beebe House’ and was owned by Dana Hall Schools until it was sold in 1973 to William White, owner of the Wellesley Treadway Inn. This was soon after the school finished shifting its campus from its original location on Grove Street near Wellesley Square (across the street from this house) to its current location south on Grove Street. The specific use of the house by the Wellesley Inn is unknown. As mentioned above, it now stands vacant.

I’m sure many of you have been asking yourself the question of whether Capt. John Allen Beebe has anything to do with Beebe Meadow or Beebe Way, both of which are located to the east of Grove Street south of Benvenue Street. Well, I’m not 100% sure, but I think that there’s no relationship. Beebe Meadow/Way were named for Charles Curtis Beebe, who settled in Wellesley in 1919 and lived at 188 Grove Street until his death in 1967. He was born in New York, far from Nantucket, where Capt. Beebe’s family had long resided. Furthermore, Charles Curtis Beebe’s wife was a 1900 graduate of Wellesley College, so I’m guessing that’s what brought him here. However, it’s still possible that they’re related because I couldn’t find a complete genealogy of the family of Charles Curtis Beebe.

But even without a connection to Beebe Meadow or Beebe Way, 53 Grove Street is still an historical treasure of Wellesley. And that’s not just because it’s one of the few remaining houses near Wellesley Square. Rather, the significance of 53 Grove Street lies in its connection to education in Wellesley. Its first owner, Benjamin Sanborn, was a textbook publisher who served on the Wellesley school board for many years during a time when the public schools were still in their infancy and needed much guidance. Then the house was owned by John Allen Beebe who gave $80,000 to Wellesley College to construct a dormitory and library. Its third longtime owner was the Dana Hall Schools and is one of the few relics of the old Dana Hall campus. So, 53 Grove Street has ties to the Wellesley Public Schools, Wellesley College, and Dana Hall. That’s quite the trifecta!

So for these reasons, I call on you to spread the word (by forwarding this post!). Only through knowledge of its importance will we have a chance to save 53 Grove Street. We already lost the Wellesley Inn. Let’s not lose this house as well.

Sources:

Joseph E. Fiske

The earliest memory I have of wanting to know more about Wellesley’s history is when I entered Fiske Elementary School for the first time in the Fall of 1989. I had just moved from West Newton and now I was surrounded by unfamiliar people and places. Quickly, however, I found comfort away from home in my new elementary school. And it wasn’t just the building and the people in it that helped me deal with my new environment. It was also the name: the Joseph E. Fiske Elementary School. It might sound really stupid, but I felt more at ease because I shared with this Fiske guy for whom the school was named a first name beginning with the letter ‘J’. Yeah, I know…that makes no sense. But I was six years old and much of what was going on in my head was nonsense. Regardless, I felt an attachment to Joseph E. Fiske. Yet, in my five years at the school, I can’t recall one time that any of my teachers or administrators told me anything about the man. I didn’t even know what his middle initial stood for. Well, twenty years went by, and I finally had enough of not knowing much about the namesake of my elementary school. So I dug deep and sought an answer to my question of who was Joseph E. Fiske.

Turns out, this guy was a big deal. Like if I had to name the top five most important citizens in all of Wellesley’s history, Fiske would be up there. And boy, did he have a ridiculously fascinating life: born into an important family whose roots in the area date to Puritan times, educated at Harvard, fought against the Confederacy and ended up as a prisoner-of-war in the South, returned to Wellesley to start a family only to lose his first wife during childbirth, entered into politics and led the fight for separation from Needham, and once Wellesley was born, became one of the largest property dealers during the town’s transition from rural community to suburb. I’m shocked his life hasn’t been made into a movie yet. Well, here’s my best attempt at bringing Joseph E. Fiske to the big (computer) screen.

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Joseph Emery Fiske
(Source: Fiske and Fisk Family)

Joseph Emery Fiske was born in what is now Wellesley on October 23, 1839, but the story of his ancestors in Massachusetts began over two hundred years earlier when Nathan Fiske (his great-great-great-great-grandfather) came here from England in 1636 and settled in Watertown (which was then comprised of Watertown, Cambridge, Belmont, Waltham, Weston, and Lincoln). How the Fiske homestead came to be in Wellesley is a bit confusing. In 1778, Enoch Fiske (a prominent citizen of Natick and the great-grandson of Nathan) bought 200 acres of land in the Hundreds Woods, in the general vicinity of Carisbrooke Road, Woodlawn Avenue, and Hundreds Road. It wasn’t until 1804 when he built a farmhouse on the property for his unmarried son, Isaiah. When Isaiah finally married in 1831, he moved to Maine with his new bride and sold the homestead in 1833 to his second cousin, Emery Fiske, who had been residing in Dedham. Six years later, Emery’s son and the subject of this post, Joseph Emery Fiske, was born in that farmhouse.

Joseph E. Fiske’s life started out rather uneventful. His mother, Eunice Bacon Morse of Natick and a descendant of the families for whom Morse’s Pond and Bacon Street (in Natick) were named, gave birth to eight children, but only two survived beyond infancy, Joseph being the youngest of those eight. He was educated at the local public schools, including the ‘Little Red Schoolhouse‘ in what is now Needham, until 1852 when he enrolled at an academy in Falmouth and then was fitted for college at the school of N.T. Allen in West Newton. (There was no high school in Wellesley until 1865, so most students desiring a college education went to the Allen school.) Fiske entered Harvard in 1857, graduating in 1861.

That fall, he enrolled in the Andover Theological Seminary in Newton, but left in the summer of 1862 to enlist in the 43rd Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. He was soon ordered to Beaufort on the coast of North Carolina, where his company was put on garrison duty far from the battlefields. Fiske also had the additional assignments of being post chaplain and his company’s orderly, which kept him busy throughout the day, but often left him with little to do when the soldiers at the fort were off fighting. This frustrated Fiske, who noted, “I would rather run my risk of getting killed or wounded than of missing the sight of a big battle.” Unfortunately, not much changed until June of 1863 when he was ordered back to Boston on recruiting duty. And things still didn’t get any better when Fiske returned to the South in December and was put in charge of Fort O’Rourke in Norfolk, Virginia, a job similar to what he had been doing in Beaufort but on a much larger scale. But all this would change in February of 1864 when he was transferred to Fort Gray along the banks of the Roanoke River in Plymouth, North Carolina. This fort was threatened by Confederate forces, who wanted control over the river and thus the ability to resupply soldiers within the interiors of North Carolina and Virginia. Unfortunately for Fiske and the Union, the CSS Albemarle, a Confederate ironclad ram, was successful against the Union naval defense surrounding the fort, leaving it more vulnerable to enemy fire. In April, the fort and town were surrendered to the Confederate forces and Fiske was taken as a prisoner-of-war. For ten months, he was held in South Carolina and Georgia prisons before successfully escaping in February of 1865.  A free soldier once again, Fiske joined Sherman’s Army in the middle of its march through the Confederate States and was put on the staff of Major General Francis Preston Blair. He would remain in that group for a month before being allowed to go home, leaving Sherman’s Army a mere month before the Confederate forces surrendered at Appomattox, effectively ending the Civil War. After two and a half years of service, Fiske had been promoted all the way to Captain. Not too shabby for a volunteer with no military training.

Once back home in Wellesley, Fiske chose to finish his degree at the Andover Theological Seminary. However, instead of entering into the ministry when he graduated in 1867, Fiske returned home to care for his elderly father and start a family. Tragically, in 1871, his new wife of two years died after the birth of their first child, Nellie. Unfit to provide for his daughter, Fiske gave up Nellie to his wife’s sister and her husband, Charles Wilder (who was a very successful and wealthy paper manufacturer and lived nearby on the current site of the main parking lot of the Wellesley Hills Congregational Church — the Wilder house later served as its parish house until it was destroyed by a fire in 1948, though the former Wilder barn was moved to the rear of the parking lot where it still stands today). The Wilders were childless, having lost their two-year-old son the previous year, so they were more than happy to care for their niece. The following year, Fiske remarried and soon had another daughter, Isabel. It wasn’t long after that before little Nellie rejoined her father and his family.

Now that his home life was more stable, Fiske chose to enter into politics, serving locally as Needham Selectman from 1873-77. He was also elected to the Massachusetts Legislature, first serving as a Representative from 1873-74 and then as a Senator from 1876-77. Needless to say, these were very important times during Wellesley’s history as it worked to separate itself from Needham. And Fiske certainly had an intimate role in the process. Besides being a liaison between Wellesley and the Commonwealth, he was probably sought for advice by town leaders more than any other citizen. In 1880, Fiske was even chosen to announce to the Legislature that Wellesley was going to submit a petition requesting separation from Needham and incorporation as a new town. That following year, the town of Wellesley was born.

Fiske also took an active role in developing the local public schools, helping transform them into models of modern education. His most profound influence was from 1876-79 when he served on the School Committee (which more or less ran the entire school system at the time). During these years, he would make unannounced stops at the schools and quiz students, asking such annoying questions as ‘Is three times zero equal to three or zero?’ Or he would ask the kids to turn around completely, and when they only went around halfway to face the opposite direction, he would admonish them for not doing a full 360° turn. Fiske’s quizzes, however, were not as terrifying as they seem. At one visit, he secretly had little kittens in his pockets, which began to peek out as he lectured at the children. Surely, such a display of cuteness would overwhelm any intimidation brought forth by Fiske. He may have valued education over all else, but he had a soft heart and was attuned to the sensitivities of young children.

By the early 1880s, Fiske’s life had shifted away from politics and he spent the next two decades in real estate. By buying and selling land, he was able to influence how certain properties were used, which was crucial as Wellesley began its transformation into a true Boston suburb. And although he was removed from the political arena, Fiske was still consulted by town leaders on all kinds of matters related to the development of Wellesley. His service, however, did him in, as he collapsed after moderating a meeting and never fully recovered. Joseph Emery Fiske died at the age of 73 in 1909 in the same house on Woodlawn Avenue in which he was born.

IMG_0922

Fiske Homestead – 126 Woodlawn Avenue
(Photo taken by Joshua Dorin – January 2013)

The Fiske name, however, never left Wellesley. For starters, the Fiske homestead still stands near the end of Woodlawn Avenue, though it looks nothing like what it did when he lived there — after it was sold out of the family in 1936, the old farmhouse underwent an extreme renovation that included a 90° rotation. But the Fiske name, of course, is most closely associated with the schoolhouse on Hastings Street. This building, however, was not the first Fiske School. The original Fiske Grammar School was actually located on the site of Ouellet Park on Cedar Street. Built in 1892, the school closed in February of 1954 when the current Fiske School was completed (the old school was razed in 1962).

I hope you all now understand why I believe that Joseph Emery Fiske was one of the greatest citizens this town has ever had. His intelligence, patriotism, leadership, and sagacity helped shape Wellesley (and the country) during its most fragile period. Fiske was a true hero in every sense of the word. And I’m darn proud to have attended the elementary school that bears his name.

Sources:

  • First Triennia Report by Harvard College, Class of 1861 (1864)
  • Harvard University in the War of 1861-1865 by Francis Henry Brown (1886)
  • Fiske and Fisk Family by Frederick Clifton Pierce (1895)
  • War Letters of Capt. Joseph E. Fiske by Joseph E. Fiske (1900)
  • Ware Genealogy: Robert Ware of Dedham, Massachusetts, 1642-1699, and his Lineal Descendants by Emma Forbes Ware (1901)
  • Wellesley Townsman: 26 February 1909; 19 April 1929; 4 May 1934; 11 February 1943; 4 March 1943; 30 December 1948; 13 March 1952; 4 February 1954; 19 April 1962;
  • History of Needham, Massachusetts, 1711-1911 by George Kuhn Clarke (1912)
  • Report by Harvard University, Class of 1861 (1915)
  • History of the Town of Wellesley, Massachusetts by Joseph E. Fiske (1917)
  • Images of America: Hartford, Vermont by Frank J. Barrett Jr. (2009)
  • Wellesley Historical Commission Files – #126 Woodlawn Avenue
  • findagrave.com: Isaiah Fiske  (accessed in January 2013)
  • Needham Public Schools  (accessed in January 2013)

A Tour of Wellesley Square

During my freshman year of college, I had a pretty bad eBay addiction. I won’t admit to much of what I bought, but I will say that it included hundreds of old postcards, many of those of Wellesley. And one of my absolute favorite purchases was this postcard:

WellesleySquarePostcard

The ‘Business Section’ a.k.a. Wellesley Square – c. 1906 (Source: Joshua Dorin)

This view of Wellesley Square looks east down Washington Street. It should be pretty familiar because most of what you see is still there today. Below is a present-day shot from the same location:

WellesleySquare

Wellesley Square – January 2013 (Taken by Joshua Dorin)

The lighting is pretty poor, but you should be able to see the similarities. Of the six buildings in the postcard, three remain as is, two were razed, and one was remodeled. So how about I give you a little tour of Wellesley Square, including a brief description of each of those six buildings. In the future, I plan to write up a full post on each block, but this is a good introduction. So on with the tour!

wellesleysquarepostcardA

Wellesley’s ‘skyscraper’ — the Shattuck Block — was built in 1888-89 by Frank Shattuck on the site of the old Flagg Variety Store (which was the first commercial building built in Wellesley Square, probably around 1840). Much can be said of the Shattuck Block, but I’ll keep it brief here. From 1889 to 1904, the Wellesley Post Office occupied the entire first-floor side along Grove Street. Upstairs, on the second floor, were suites of offices, including those of town treasurer Albert Jennings, whose scandalous actions in 1902 made headlines in the Boston and New York newspapers — a topic I wrote about in an earlier post. On the third floor (and the half story on the fourth floor) were the headquarters of the Odd Fellows fraternal organization until 1919 when it moved to what is now known as the Odd Fellows Building on Central Street. In 1960, the Shattuck Block was remodeled by squaring off the fourth floor and paneling the exterior. I have no idea what they were thinking. Growing up, I always thought it was one of the ugliest buildings in all of Wellesley. Fortunately, the panels have since been removed during a renovation of the building’s exterior, bringing back some (but not all) of the charm the Shattuck Block once had.

wellesleysquarepostcardCFurther down from the Shattuck Block on the north side of Wellesley Square were the Shaw Block and Partridge Block. The Shaw Block was built in the early 1890s by John W. Shaw, one of the most important Wellesley developers throughout the second half of the 19th Century. (The Shaw School at the corner of Forest Street and Washington Street was named for him after he donated a bell and clock to the school when it was constructed in 1874. The bell and clock are now used in the Sprague Memorial Clock Tower.) From 1912 until the Shaw Block was razed in 1932, the primary occupant was the Wellesley Fruit Company. When this business outgrew its tight quarters, a larger building was constructed on the site.

Beyond the Shaw Block to the east was the Partridge Block, which was built in 1904 by William Partridge on the site of the former Blanchard’s Tavern/Jennings house (which was moved behind the Shaw Block and razed in 1932). The Partridge Block has been the location of a countless number of small stores, but it’s best known for being the first home of E.A. Davis & Company from 1904 until 1922 when the store moved to its current spot in the newly completed Holman Block just past Church Street.

wellesleysquarepostcardBAcross Washington Street, on the south side of Wellesley Square, sat the imposing Taylor Block and the smaller Norman Block. Constructed in 1904 by Charles N. Taylor (on the site of a famous buttonwood tree where Dr. William T. G. Morton, a dentist who was the first person to demonstrate the use of ether as an anesthetic, was hanged in effigy around 1860 because of unpaid debts), the Taylor Block was built to house the newly founded Wellesley National Bank, of which Taylor was president. It was also the location of the Wellesley Post Office from 1904 until the current post office opened on Grove Street in 1964.

Just east of the Taylor Block was the Norman Block, built in 1906 by Charles N. Taylor and named for his son, Norman. It sits on the former location of McClellan’s Wheelwright Shop. The Wellesley Townsman and its publishing arm, the Wellesley Press, occupied this building until 1930 when they moved into the Colonial Building at the corner of Central Street and the Crest Road bridge. The Wellesley Cooperative Bank also had its quarters here from its founding in 1910 until 1948.

wellesleysquarepostcardDThe final building in the Wellesley Square postcard is the old Waban Hall (also called at various times the Fuller Block, the Nehoiden, and the Montague). This was the second commercial block built in Wellesley Square (after the Flagg Variety Store  — though Blanchard’s Tavern/Jennings house dates back to the late 18th Century). Waban Hall was built around 1858 by three Fuller brothers (two of whom lived on Great Plain Avenue in Wellesley). In the new block, they opened a grocery store, which would have several different owners over the next few decades. On the second floor of Waban Hall was a meeting space for social and religious gatherings that was also used as the West Needham High School from 1865 to 1871. In 1912, a fire destroyed the second floor of Waban Hall. The following year, the building was razed and the Waban Block was erected by…you guessed it, Charles N. Taylor (who was one of the most active developers in Wellesley during the first three decades of the 1900s). Unlike the Taylor and Norman Blocks, the Waban Block didn’t have any historically really important tenants with the exception of the Wellesley Hotel, which operated on the second and third floors from the building’s completion in 1913 until it closed in 1986.

Well, that ends our brief tour of Wellesley Square. In the near future, I’ll write up a much longer post for each of these buildings. But until then, this summary should give you something to think about when you’re in Wellesley Square, be it walking to the library, sitting in your car at a red light, or eating a slice of pizza for lunch.

Sources:

  • 1856 Map of Needham
  • 1897 Wellesley Atlas
  • Our Town: December 1902
  • Wellesley Townsman: 14 December 1906; 18 April 1913; 27 June 1919; 28 July 1922; 29 September 1922; 25 January 1929; 11 October 1929; 18 October 1929; 26 September 1930; 26 August 1932; 10 April 1941; 7 August 1947;  6 April 1950; 25 January 1951; 29 March 1951; 28 November 1957; 4 February 1960; 24 November 1960;  9 February 1961; 28 November 1963; 16 July 1964; 15 August 1968; 4 December 1986

Knitters of Wellesley

It’s well known that Needham has a rich history involving the manufacturing of knitted clothing. In fact, a book on the subject came out last year: Knitters of Needham by Chaim M. Rosenberg and the Needham Historical Society. It chronicles the history of the industry from its arrival in the early to mid-1800s to its demise early in the 1900s. I’m not going to try to reproduce that history on this blog (though I encourage everyone to buy the book). Instead, I’m going to talk a little bit about Wellesley’s history of knitting. Although it pales in comparison to what went on next door, there were still several knitters in Wellesley and their presence is largely unknown.

Before I begin, I just want to say a few words about manufacturing in Wellesley. It’s hard to believe, but Wellesley used to be quite the industrial town. A full explanation of that last statement would create a large book, but I’ll briefly say that during the 1800s, there were hubs of industry at a few locations throughout the town: Lower Falls, Longfellow Pond, Paintshop Pond by Lake Waban, and the junction of Cottage Street & Washington Street. In addition, there were scores of small workshops throughout Wellesley, usually adjacent to dwellings, where locals would make or finish some small product (in particular shoes). Most of these cottage industries bit the dust after the arrival of the Industrial Revolution in the Northeast, but some hung around through the early 1900s.

One of these cottage industries was knitting. Like I said before, most of the knitters lived in what is now Needham. But there were two knitting ‘hotspots’ in what is now Wellesley that I want to talk about — Brookside Road and part of Cedar Street. Let’s start with Brookside Road because that began earlier, almost 180 years ago. Right now, if you walk or drive down Brookside Road from Oakland Street to Wellesley Avenue, you don’t see a whole heck of a lot:

On the west side, there’s the community gardens, the Country Club golf course, and the former Dana Lowell residence (the 1951 ranch now owned by the Country Club). And the east side is entirely woods that back up to Rosemary Brook with the exception of the former site of a sewer pumping station, which was razed in 2002. (That station actually has a really fascinating story, as do most of the water and sewer stations in town, but it will be told on another day).

Well, way back in the mid-19th Century, Brookside Road was home to several knitters and even a small knitting shop. Now to tell this story properly, I first need to jump across the ocean to jolly ol’ England — specifically, the East Midlands region during the 16th Century. Located in central England, this area was quite chilly and raw in the winter time and a lack of home heating made warm clothing and hats hugely important. Therefore, knitting became a fairly large cottage industry there. And early on, the knitting process was slow and tedious as workers used only their hands to stitch the fabric. But all that changed in 1589 (during the reign of Elizabeth I) when William Lee of Nottinghamshire invented the stocking frame, which was a hand and foot powered mechanical knitting machine that produced knit-goods much faster. I’m not going to try to explain how it works mainly because I have no idea. I guess you sit on the chair portion and pedal away, using your hands to make sure the top part is working correctly. Anyways, this revolutionized knitting and made central England a thriving knitting and weaving industrial center.

Stocking_Frame

Stocking Frame
(Taken by John Beniston — Wikimedia Commons)

Now let’s jump ahead to the early to mid-1800s. The Industrial Revolution was now well under way in England and many of those knitters using the stocking frame were being pushed out of business by textile manufacturers who had built factories that harnessed external energy (from steam or water) to power large knitting machines. As a result, thousands of unemployed knitters emigrated to the United States, most of them settling in Pennsylvania and New York, but many came to the Boston area as well.

The first knitter to settle in what was then Needham (including modern-day Wellesley) was John Turner, who came here between 1825 and 1833. At first, he lived in the old Ephraim Ware house, still standing at 200 Oakland Street at the head of Brookside Road (though he didn’t own it). Some time later, he moved into his own house on Brookside Road. The exact location of this house is unknown, as the earliest map of the area — the 1856 map of Needham — shows two Brookside Road residences with his name (though they probably belonged to his son of the same name as the elder Turner died in 1854). Both dwellings were located on the west side of the road, one where the community gardens are today and the other a bit south near the first bend as seen in the map above. In addition, there was a ‘Weaving Shop’ just to the north of the southern house. Whether the shop had a stocking frame is unknown, but I would imagine so given its importance to the craft.

(And just for the record, I’m unsure about whether Turner’s shop did knitting, weaving, or both. It seems that many of the sources I consulted used knitting and weaving interchangeably. They are, however, different. Knitting is basically making fabric by intertwining yarn in a series of connected loops. Weaving, on the other hand, is taking two distinct sets of yarn and interlacing them at right angles. Maybe knitters were also weavers and vice versa. Perhaps someone could fill me in.)

In addition to establishing his own knitting/weaving shop, John Turner was instrumental in bringing other knitters and weavers from his native England to this area during the 1840s and 1850s. One of those included John Wakefield, who had a house further down Brookside Road on the west side slightly more than halfway between the first and second bends in the road. (It was still located there in 1897, but was removed long ago.) Also, various sources mention that newly-arrived immigrants would stay at the Turner residences both before and after his death.

An interesting side note is that many of these immigrants, often middle-aged men, served for the Union forces during the Civil War. The most fascinating example, in my opinion, was that of John Coulter, an English knitter, who moved to Brookside Road in the early 1860s after spending many years in Surrey, Maine. In 1815, Coulter had served as a bugler under the command of the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo at which Napoleon was defeated. More than forty-five years later, Coulter tried to enlist in the Union Army here in Wellesley, but the enlisting officers became skeptical when the 60-year-old gave his age as 45. Only when they learned of his service under the Duke of Wellington did they accept him as a soldier. (Fun fact: the Duke’s birth name was Arthur Wellesley, but his name has nothing to do with our town name, which comes from the ‘Wellesley’ estate of Horatio H. Hunnewell on Washington Street — Hunnewell named it in honor of his wife’s family, the Welles.)

Another important English knitter to stay at the Turner residence on Brookside Road was Mark Lee, who came to Needham in 1853. Three years later, he and his brother started their own shop on Hunnewell Street (in what is now Needham). This business eventually became the William Carter Company, which operated several large brick factories and was the largest knitting manufacturer in all of Needham, employing between 300 and 400 people at its peak.

In addition to the John Turner shop on Brookside Road, there was also a weaving shop on Cedar Street that was started by his nephew, Edwin Turner. This story is quite fascinating as well. Edwin had emigrated from England to the United States in 1846, along with his parents, siblings, and their children (a total of at least 25 family members by my count). All of the adult males were knitters, and surely the introduction of steam-powered knitting machines in England put them out of work, so the entire family relocated to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. A few years later, in the early 1850s, Edwin and at least two of his brothers left Portsmouth and settled in Needham. And by 1856, Edwin had a house and a few weaving shops on Cedar Street:

The three Edwin Turner buildings — house & two shops? — were located in a row along the west side of Cedar Street right beyond where it bends just north of Route 9 (right around that triangle formed by Cedar Street and the Route 9 westbound on- and off-ramps).  In 1867, Edwin Turner sold these properties and moved with his family to Toronto, while his brothers and their families moved to Newton. Unfortunately, the old Turner buildings didn’t stay around for a long time afterwards. In 1868, one of the shops was either razed or significantly remodeled into a dwelling. And by the 1880s, the old Edwin Turner house had been remodeled so much that none of the original structure remained. (And I have no idea about the other shop.) Then in 1895, the Water Department of Wellesley acquired the former Turner land in order to manage the water supply of Rosemary Brook, which flowed just south of the properties. The remodeled/rebuilt Edwin Turner house was moved north along Cedar Street and is now #3 Bobolink Road. And the remodeled/rebuilt shop was moved south and is currently located at #200 Worcester Street at the corner of Cedar Street and the Route 9 eastbound on-ramp that passes by The Wok.

But the story of the Turner family in Wellesley doesn’t end there, as Edwin’s son, George Turner, returned from Canada to live on Cedar Street around 1890. George had married Susan Hurd, who grew up on a 29-acre farm just north of the original Edwin Turner property. When her father died, she acquired the land and farmhouse and the Turners moved back to Wellesley. This property stayed in the Turner family until 1951 when it was sold and developed into Redwing, Bobolink, Oriole, and Bluebird Roads. The original Hurd-Turner farmhouse still stands at #7 Redwing Road.

So that’s the story of knitting in Wellesley. Although both Brookside Road and Cedar Street today show no evidence of this cottage industry, we should not ignore their past. This is especially true because this period in time was an important part in Wellesley’s history, one that culminated in its secession from Needham. Without these little shops and the immigrants that they brought to the area, Wellesley might very well be a completely different town today. So from now on, as you drive down Brookside Road or the stretch of Cedar Street just north of Route 9, try to envision the small knitting and weaving shops that lined the roads during the mid-19th Century. They may be long gone, but their history and importance should never be forgotten.

Sources:

  • 1856 Map of Needham
  • 1876 Map of Needham
  • 1897 Wellesley Atlas
  • Epitaphs from Graveyards in Wellesley (former West Needham), North Natick, and Saint Mary’s Churchyard in Newton Lower Falls, Massachusetts by George Kuhn Clarke (1900)
  • History of Needham, Massachusetts 1711-1911 by George Kuhn Clarke (1912)
  • History of the Town of Wellesley, Massachusetts by Joseph E. Fiske (1917)
  • Wellesley Townsman: 9 February 1917
  • Knitters of Needham by Chaim M. Rosenberg and the Needham Historical Society (2012)
  • Wellesley Historical Commission files: 3 Bobolink Road; 225 Oakland Street; 7 Redwing Road; 200 Worcester Street; Brookside Road Area
  • Descendants of George Turner — genealogy prepared by Ricky Bain http://fromscotlandtoamerica.com/turner/  (accessed in January 2013)
  • Google Maps

(And just to be complete, I need to note that there’s no evidence that Turner Road in Wellesley has anything to do with the Turner family mentioned above. This road was renamed from Morse’s Pond Road around 1947.)