Long before South Dedham became Norwood, there was industry here supported by immigrants from many countries. One of the first industries was the Willard Everett Furniture factory, located approximately where the Lorusso portion of the Norwood Hospital was. Willard Everett was a furniture apprentice to Jabez Boyden who made furniture in a small mill near the Neponset River. Around 1821 Jabez sold the furniture making business to his apprentice Everett and he moved it to the Washington Street location. The factory produced high-quality walnut furniture and is attributed with making and designing the first extension tables.  Everett hired skilled joiners from Germany to work in the factory. They settled in a section off Railroad Ave and that was considered the first Germantown.  The factory was completely destroyed by fire on May 26, 1865, and Everett did not rebuild but moved it to Boston, the German workers followed him, and the Irish moved into the area off Railroad Avenue, and it then became known as “Cork City.”

Tannery workers at the Winslow Bros & Smith Tannery, ca 1890. Julis Balduf is in the back row, second from left (courtesy of Susan Bannon)

Meanwhile in the southwest part of town the Smith & Winslow tannery was in full force and hiring mostly German and Austrian immigrants to work in their leather business. Abner Guild had established his tannery around 1791 on Everett Street (now the Win-Smith Marketplace), and took on John Smith as an apprentice. John Smith in time became a partner in the business, and he hired George Winslow as an apprentice. Winslow eventually married John Smith’s daughter Olive; and Winslow then became a partner and the tannery was renamed Smith & Winslow Tannery. In 1853 John Smith’s son, Lyman left the company and started his own tannery (where Public Housing is now located) on Railroad Avenue called “Lyman Smith & Sons”. In 1901 the two tanneries merged and became Winslow Bros & Smith Co.  The tanneries were a huge Norwood business, along with printing and ink production, and they drew many foreign workers to run them. 

Before Norwood was established in 1872, this area was part of Walpole, and at the time was largely unpopulated.  Early settlers dammed the three predominate brooks; Bubbling Brook fills Willett/New Pond, Bubbling Brook and Germany Brook fills Gould Pond, and Bubbling Brook fills Ellis Pond. Water exiting Ellis Pond becomes Hawes Book. These ponds provided waterpower for the first industries in the area; Abijah Fisher’s sawmill, the Ellis brothers paper mill and later their ice business, and The Smith and Winslow tannery which was the main source of employment for the people of this Germantown.

The Dea. Joseph Fisher House on a cold snowy day. (photo by LLKearney)

Originally, this land was a 40-acre parcel that was owned by Joseph Fisher. It borders were approximately Bullard Street, to Bubbling Brook, to Walpole Street/Main Street, and back to Bullard Street.  Fisher sold a portion of the land to Solomon Bullard around 1767, who built a house. His house, today would be located on the corner Wilson Street and Bullard Street. The road to his house was off The Norfolk Bristol Highway (Main Street, Walpole), and was referred to in deeds as the “road to Bullard’s house” and is now called Bullard Street. The Bullard family sold the property to Edwin Wilson, and the road to his house eventually became Wilson Street. It is interesting to think that one house is responsible for naming two streets!

Norwood was experiencing a huge growth in immigration to work in the printing presses, tanneries and the railroad yard. In 1878 Julius Balduf purchased a couple of acres along Wilson Street and built his house at #71 Wilson St.  In the census of 1880 Julius Balduf was the only German to be living in this area of Wilson/Bullard Streets, although the census indicates there were about a dozen nearby German families in Norwood and two in Walpole. By 1900 besides Julius Balduf, the families of John Eppich, Mathias Pfiffer, Wolf Waldheim, Herman Hertzog, the Verderbers, and Joseph Gunther had settled here. Most worked in the Winslow & Smith tanneries. As the tannery grew the influx of Germans and Austrians came to work there. They ultimately created a German-speaking enclave on Wilson and Walpole Streets, Norwood and Bullard Street, Walpole. It was a tight knit community and soon became known as Germantown. Other immigrant neighborhoods acquired names such as Swedesville, Cork City, Dublin, because the immigrants who came over lived close to family members and people that spoke their language and had their same cultural customs.

Busy intersection on Walpole Street. (source: Google Street View)

Today, Walpole Street is a well-traveled road though town and has quite a few business that cater to locals. Most recently a new Big Y opened on Walpole Street across from Wilson. Also at this intersection is a Walgreen’s Pharmacy, a Shell Station, a convenient quick mart, a deli and a dog groomer. However, today Germantown – Wilson, Bullard and Walpole Streets are mostly residential. This area now includes the Garden Parkway neighborhood, which was the undeveloped land that was encircled by Wilson, Bullard and Walpole Streets. Initially called “Holmwood.” the house lots here were built on in the 1950s and 1960s.

         For further information on this area, see This Day In Norwood article Links:

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