The Christian Hill neighborhood is hemmed in by Nichols Street to the North, Cottage Street to the East, Winter Street to the West and Walpole/Washington Streets to the South. In the late 1990s, the Massachusetts Historical Commission assessed Norwood for structures of architectural note. They called the area as the “F. Holland Day House Neighborhood,” which is slightly different then Christian Hill, as it extends Cottage and Vernon Streets beyond Nichols Street all the way to Prospect Street and it includes Nahatan Street, extending Maple and Nichols Streets to Nahatan.
For a long time most of South Dedham was an agricultural community. Many small family subsistence farms were in the parish. The majority of the Christian Hill area had been the farm of Elijah Bullard. Bullard bought the farm in 1824 from his wife’s uncle, William Dean, who had inherited the land from his father. Dean and his wife were childless, so one of the conditions was that Bullard would provide life care for the couple. In 1854 Bullard sold the bulk of the property to Joseph Day. He relocated the Bullard farmhouse to Central Street and then sub-divided the land and began to sell off house smaller lots. About the same time, George Bird Talbot began acquiring property in the neighborhood. Both Day and Talbot, along with architect/builder Tyler Thayer and house builder George F. Bagley were responsible for the growth and development of this neighborhood.
The main road through South Dedham, was Centre Street (now Washington/Walpole Streets). It was a road that was laid out in the early 1700s and was the main highway from Boston to Providence until about 1806. Nahatan Street was laid out in 1827 and it connected West Dedham (now Westwood) to South Dedham. Maps and deeds illustrate that the area developed from Nahatan Street toward the southwest to Cottage Street and Vernon Street. Streets laid out by 1855 included Vernon, Cottage, Maple, Winter, Day and Nahatan Streets. Along these streets George B. Talbot and Joseph Day built modest homes on small house lots that reflect the Greek Revival style, which they sold and Talbot held the mortgage. Day sold larger lots to some of South Dedham’s most successful families who built large and elegant homes.
Tyler Thayer, who lived in the neighborhood, was the primary architect/builder of many of the stately homes in South Dedham, and was actively building between the years 1850 and 1890. He built elegant homes for those who lived in Christian Hill – Lyman Smith and his sons Charles & John, Joseph Day and his son Lewis, Joel Baker and his son Francis and George B. Talbot. And he built fancy homes for people who lived outside of the Christian Hill neighborhood too, George H. Morse, John E. Morse, George Morrill who lived in today’s South Norwood neighborhood, and George S. Winslow who on Walpole Street across from Winslow Park. Thayer seemed to have three home styles he liked to build, a square boxy Mansard Roof style, a rectangular center entry Italianate style and a cross-shaped rambling Italianate style with elaborate porches.
Today the majority of these small and large homes still stand in the Christian Hill neighborhood, however the neighborhood continued to grow over the next one hundred seventy-five years. Large lots were sub-divided and sold as a buildable smaller house lots. The newer 20th Century homes are smaller in statute, and most fall into the Colonial Revival category, but they also reflect the neighborhood’s elegant feel. Walking through the Christian Hill Neighborhood, all the homes here stand out for their features, whether grand or simple, but one may have to look closer at some of the older homes and they are hiding under aluminum/vinyl siding and much of their detail has been stripped away.
One might expect to find a large variety style of homes in any neighborhood in a New England town. After all the area was settled…
The Joseph Day house, circa 1990 (Source: MACRIS database) Joseph Day had Tyler Thayer build this Italianate style house in 1855 for him and his…