When Norwood was established in 1872, the area around Chapel Street was undeveloped land. George S. Winslow had a large house on the Walpole Street end and John M. Robbins (today the Abdallah/Donahue House) and Samuel Morrill had large homes on the Washington Street end. Robbins bought his property in 1867 from the estate of Sally (Rhodes) Thompson. In 1878 he had the nineteen home lots drawn up along Chapel Street, and he began selling them off. In 1888, he sold lots ten through nineteen to George and Elisha Winslow these lots lay between Cedar Street and Savin Avenue. In the same year, George S. Winslow and his partner George O. Peterson, an Englishman who also lived on Chapel Street, had laid out Cedar Street, Quincy Avenue and the lower portion of Savin Avenue, and created 38 home lots along these streets. By 1900 most of the lots had been sold and developed. The original purchasers of these home lots were a combination of Germans (Ekhardt, Waldheim, Hurst, Nowak and Fielder), Swedes (Erickson, Mattson, Johnson, Anderson and Henrickson) and a few New Englanders/Canadians (Williams, Larrabee, Randlett and Phelan). Only a few of the owners lived on the Street, but most were renters – the majority being Swedish immigrants, thus giving the name “Swedeville” to these streets. Between 1900 and 1910 the Savin Avenue, Melville Avenue and the Johnson Streets section was developed by Melville Smith – he created 28 house lots. The majority of these homebuyers were Finnish.
All the home lots in both developments were sold as empty lots, and buyers would have to construct their own buildings. Some built single-family houses, some duplexes and others small three to four family apartment buildings. Some were owner occupied; Walter Phelen, Joseph Nowak, Frank Williams and John Waldheim lived in their homes for approximately fifty years! But most homes were rented.
Swedeville extends to the other side of Chapel Street and on to Chapel Court. George S. Winslow, John M. Robbins and George O. Peterson owned the bulk of the land on this side of Chapel Street too. Peterson sold parcels of his land to build the Massachusetts Baptist Sunday School Association, to build Finnish Hall on the top of Chapel Court, as well as several buildable house lots. From 1890 to 1910 Swedeville was growing, not just because people were buying house lots to build their homes and raise their families, but it contained three churches, a school and many small businesses – grocers, barbers, a tailor, a shoemaker, two saunas and a tavern, not to mention a social hall. Today, Swedeville has become largely a quiet residential neighborhood – still a place to raise a family. Gone are the small businesses (except for the Colonial House) that operated along these streets, but if you look closely one can still see a church or a store hiding in the architecture of someone’s house. For those who spent time here…either as a resident or as a visitor, Swedeville holds many fond memories of vibrant community.
More About Swedeville:
Four family building on Savin Avenue. (photo LLKearney) The house lots in Swedeville, when originally sold, were empty lots, ready to have a house…