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George Bird: Local Legacies

Bird Memorial Hall (Courtesy Walpole Historical Society)

The Bird family has contributed immensely to the life of the Norwood and Walpole communities. Their company has employed people for over 225 years. Providing good jobs for their employees, and perhaps putting them in such a position that they could buy a home – The American Dream. Frank Bird built Bird Hall in 1885, it was a place where people could gather. On the ground floor was shop space, which at one time had a dry good store, a post office and in the 1990s a restaurant. There was a large open meeting hall on the second floor. Here people attended plays, lectures, banquets and the facility even showed movies. Sadly the building burned down in 1994 and all that remains is the clock tower.  Frank Bird was responsible for donating a small patch of land across from Bird Hall to build a park in honor his daughter, Mary. He also supplied the seed money that lead to the construction of Walpole Public Library that was located on Common Street. His son, Charles Sumner Bird continued his father’s generous support of Norwood and Walpole’s citizens. Charles donated the building that is now Footlighter’s Playhouse, as well as the Boy Scout house (now gone) for Troop #1, and the Girl Scout house. The Boy Scout house was a two-story structure that had a meeting room and library on the first floor and a gym and locker room on the second. The Footlighter’s Playhouse and the Girl Scout House sit on the edge of Bird Park in Walpole and today are still used and enjoyed by both Norwood and Walpole residents alike. Charles Bird also donated then land for a new East Walpole Congregational Church building, on Rhoades Avenue on the edge of Bird Park.

The family also became the caretakers of the East Walpole Cemetery. This burial ground was established in 1827, when the records of the South Parish Church (now the First Church of Norwood) record, “July 22, 1827 Elizabeth Fuller, daughter of Capt. Willard Fuller, (died) of mortification (age) 6.  She was the first person buried in the New Burying Ground over the other side of the (Neponset) river.”  The Bird Paper Manufacturing Company was located near by, and Francis William Bird, whose family is buried here, took an interest in this little cemetery, pledging for his organization to care for it, which they have continued to do. His son and grandson have added land to this little burial ground; In 1926, Charles S. Bird (Sr) sold/gave 8 acres to the cemetery which would have approximately doubled the cemetery’s size, then in 1963, his son Charles (Jr) sold/gave another 15 acres to the cemetery, thereby doubling it again. Because of the Bird family’s dedication to this little rural cemetery, it was renamed the Charles Sumner Bird Memorial Cemetery around 2018. Today it is the final resting place for many members of the Bird family.

The Bird family was also responsible for donating large open spaces, creating parks for people to explore and play.

Francis William Bird Park, Walpole

Ellis Field, Walpole

Walpole Town Forest

Charles W Eliot Park, Norwood

Endean Recreation Area, Norwood

Go to George Bird Exhibit main page –>

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Sources:

The 52nd Annual Report of the Town of Norwood, Massachusetts for the Year Ending December 31, 1923. Norwood (MA): The Ambrose Press, 1924

Bird, Charles S. Jr., (Chairman) Town Planning for Small Communities: Walpole, Mass. New York (NY): D. Appleton and Co., 1917

Boreman, Rachel. “Walpole Town Forest Celebrates 100th Anniversary” Hometown Weekly, 5 May 2016 Medfield (MA): hometownweekly.net/Walpole/

Cosgove, Joe. Walpole Town Forest Status, 1975. Walpole (MA): Walpole Conversation Commission, 12 Mar 1975.

Fanning, Patricia. Open Spaces: Norwood, Massachusetts. Norwood (MA): Norwood Conservation Commission, 2009.

Kendall, Andy (Exec. Dir.). Francis William Bird Park Management Plan, 2004. Boston (MA): Trustees of the Reservations, Oct 2004.

Murphy, John A. “The Town of Walpole Establishes a Communal Forest of 200 Acres” American City, Aug 1916

Rinaldi, Deborah et.al. Walpole: Images of America. Charleston (NC): Arcadia Publishing, 1998.

“New Walpole Athletic Field to be Dedicated: Gift of Charles Sumner Bird Will Be Opened Tuesday,” Boston Hearld (Boston, MA) August 21, 1927, page 2, col 3.

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