Ethnic Enclaves

Map of Norwood showing the various ethnic enclaves (Courtesy of Claire Kearney)
The Wiik Family Home on Mellvile Ave. in Swedeville (Courtesy of Barbara Wiik Brierley)

Many of Norwood new residents came from other countries and through chain migration, many of their friends and families were encouraged to come to Norwood. These new immigrants settled near others who had come from the same country or shared a similar cultures. This created little ethnic enclaves within the town of Norwood. These little communities came to be called, “Swedeville,” “Germantown,” and “Cork City,” to name a few, and it should be noted that the Yankees had their own sections of town. Most of the ethnic enclaves formed and built their own churches, social halls and social organizations. Their children were schooled in their culture and learned the language of their ancestors.

Finn Hall. (from the collection of the Norwood Historical Society)

Swedeville, was located on Chapel Street, along Winslow Avenue to Savin Avenue. This community was made of both Swedish and Finnish families. The Swedes were the first to arrive in the late 1800s, and by 1918 there were approximately 1000 Swedish residents of Norwood. The first Finn arrived in Norwood in 1903 and by 1918 there were about 500 Finns in Norwood. The community of Swedeville had three Swedish churches and two meeting halls, several small businesses and grocery stores, and a sauna. Many of the men who lived here found employment at the tanneries, the printing presses and Bird & Sons, while the women found work as domestic help in the nearby homes of Norwood’s industrialists.

An Alley in the Flats, South Norwood (from the collection of the Norwood Historical Society)

The Flats is today the area referred to as South Norwood from around the Coakley Middle School, down Washington Street to Dean Street, and including the side streets off of Washington.  Until the expansion of Norwood’s manufacturing industries, South Norwood had been sparsely populated farmland, but as the need for housing exploded in the early 1900s, this area was quickly developed. By 1917 there had been over 200 multi-family homes built and over 60 shops had been established in the area. The Flats were the most culturally diverse community in Norwood. Several different ethnicities lived here, Lithuanians, Greeks, Polish, Syrian and a few Jewish families and although they may have lived in the same neighborhood, they still segregated themselves by building their own churches and social halls. As this area was near the printing presses, many residents of The Flats found jobs at these facilities. Although, this area was viewed as the slums of Norwood by many people who lived uptown, but it was a thriving community that many loved and called home.

St. George Orthodox Church (from the collection of the Norwood Historical Society)

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