Map of Germantown Area – Wilson, Walpole & Bullard Streets (Source: Mapcarta)

Initially Wilson Street, Norwood had been part of Walpole. Five families were affected when the area became part of Norwood in 1872 when Norwood was established. According to records, these families agreed to the switch. In the 1880 census, Julius Balduf was the only German living on Wilson Street, although census records show several German families had begun to settle nearby on streets with an easy walk to the tannery. Over the next fifty years, more homes on Wilson and Walpole Streets, Norwood and Bullard Street, Walpole would be built creating the neighborhood of Germantown. The majority of these homes are ”carbon copies” of each other. The only variation at the time they were constructed would have been they were mirror images; the front entrance door was either on the right or the left side of the home. These houses were simple, and probably affordable to build for an immigrant who just bought a plot of undeveloped land. These houses had three rooms on the first floor. When you entered, you were at the base of the staircase, looking down a hallway leading to the back of the house where the kitchen was located. The room at the front of the house was the sitting room or the parlor; the room in the center of the house was a dining room. Upstairs were two, or three small bedrooms and a bathroom.  Over the years these homes have been altered or enlarged to accommodate modern needs, but from the front yard, they still look similar.

Some of the carbon copy houses on Wilson Street. (photo by LLKearney)

These little homes and a slightly larger style, sprang up on Wilson, Walpole and Bullard Streets, as more and more Germans and Austrians moved into the area. From studying census records and land deeds, help to illustrate how this neighborhood grew. For the most part, these Germans built their homes along Walpole Street, from just before Windsor Gardens, down to the intersection of Wilson Street. There are a few German families living through out the area on Davis Street, Endicott Street, and along Walpole Street as far as Chapel Street, but not many. They are more Yankees and Scandinavians living along these streets then there are Germans. There are a about five houses old enough on Main Street to Bullard Street from the Norwood/Walpole border to have housed Germans, but it does not appear any were living in this stretch of the road. These records also give a good indication regarding the number of homes on these streets in ten-year increments. In 1880, there were about three houses on Bullard and six houses on Wilson, and probably none on Norwood from border to Wilson. By 1900, Bullard had eight houses, Wilson had around twelve and Walpole had around five. By the 1930 census, Bullard had grown to have approximately seventeen houses, Wilson about twenty-one houses and Walpole around eighteen houses. At that time, the majority of people living here were of German descent and they where the homeowners, in fact at least five of these houses continue to be owned by Germantown descendants to this day! The majority of the original houses are still standing, which give people a good idea of what the neighborhood looked like ninety years ago.

The Alien Enemy Registration of Ida Grady of Wisconsin. Most of these documents have been lost. According to the National Archives, they do not have any cards from Massachusetts. (Source: Lee Grady, “America’s Alien Enemies.” The Wisconsin Magazine of History. Vol 102, No 2 (Winter, 2018) pp 4-17.

Germantown was a tight knit community. Similar to other Norwood immigrant neighborhoods who acquired the names of Swedesville, Cork City, Dublin, because the immigrants who came over lived close to family members and people that spoke their language and shared cultural customs. However, Norwood’s Germans faced an unusual situation, one that most others in town did not have to face; during the two World Wars their allegiance to the United States was scrutinized. At the time of the Great War (WWI), there was a federal directive to register all German born males residing in the United States. So in January of 1918 the German and Austrians of Germantown had to bring four 3×3 photos to the police station, as well as to be finger printed to comply with this federal directive. In June of the same year all German and Austrian woman were included. In the late 1930s and 1940s, when Hitler’s power was growing, all un-naturalized Germans in the US had to register with the federal government. The forms they had to fill out asked questions about where they were born, when they came to the US, and where they live and worked. If the government felt the answers were questionable, then the government would do a through investigation.

One of the most surprising facts regarding the Germantown families is where they originally came from. Yes, several families came from Germany but a large group came from Gottschee, in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire (now a part of Slovenia), which has its own language and culture. It was these two groups that made up Germantown.

The Germans

The Gottscheers

A Stroll Through Germantown in 1930

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