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South Dedham’s Furniture Building

The 1850 US Federal Census for South Dedham, showing the home of Curtis Lincoln, who lived on Nahatan Street, showing in his home there were three men working as cabinet makers.

Censuses of the Christian Hill neighborhood, between the years 1850 and 1865, indicate the majority of homeowners in the neighborhood worked for local furniture manufacturers. Before the Civil War, the W. Everett & Co. manufacturing concern was one of the largest employers in South Dedham. At one time, it is said they had around 300 employees. There were at least two other furniture manufactories in South Dedham at the same time the Everett factory was operating. These census records illustrate that because these businesses needed skilled laborers, the Christian Hill Neighborhood was established.

The W. Everett furniture manufactory in South Dedham

The W. Everett & Co., was the largest furniture manufacturer in town.  The company was founded around 1820, when Willard Everett took over Jabez Boyden’s business. Everett learned the trade of cabinetmaker from Boyden. He built up his business into a large and profitable company. Initially he was located in the Railroad Avenue area, but he expanded his company and relocated to the South Dedham Depot area, near Guild Square by 1858. After Willard Everett’s death, his sons, George, Edward and Francis, took over the family business.  The Everett company was known to make furniture using fine woods, such as black walnut and mahogany. They became one of the first furniture manufacturers to make extension tables. By the 1860s quality of Everett furniture gained an excellent reputation, and they expanded their market to cities all over the United States, as well as into foreign markets. In 1865, the factory experienced a terrible fire. It burned to the ground. All that was left was a chimney stack. Newspapers reported a loss of $150,000, an astronomical amount for the day. Instead of rebuilding the South Norwood plant, the Everetts decided to relocate the business to Boston.

The Boston manufactory and store of W. Everett & Co. (Source: digitalcommonwealth.org)

Other early furniture makers in South Dedham were Ellis D. Draper and partner Curtis G. Morse who formed the company Draper & Morse in 1847. Draper had learned the trade of cabinet making from Abijah Colburn of West Dedham (now Westwood). The partnership dissolved around 1860. At that time, Draper took over the foundry originally established by Isaac Colburn and Spencer Fuller. Morse continued to make furniture taking on new partners, Dennis Haley and Addison Boyden and forming the company Haley, Morse & Boyden. They took over the old Everett site on Railroad Avenue when Everett moved his company to Guild Square. Haley, Morse & Boyden worked with expensive woods, mahogany, rose wood, black walnut and other native woods. They too made extension tables.

Curtis G. Morse and his wife Fannie (Boyden) Morse from the collection of the Norwood Historical Society.

For a period of approximately forty years, furniture manufacturing was a major industry in South Norwood. The men who came to work in South Dedham’s furniture manufactories, were not only from South Dedham, but came from other nearby towns, such as Walpole, Dedham Village, West Dedham (now Westwood) and Canton. This influx of workers into South Dedham meant they would need places to live for themselves and their families. Furniture manufacturing was an important business to South Dedham, not just because it provided so many jobs, but it seems that they provided a good life style for their workers who were able to buy homes.

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