South Norwood was a largely undeveloped area when Norwood was established in 1872. There were a few houses located on in Upper South Norwood by Dean Street, the Balch School and in the Lower South Norwood, several homes owned and occupied by mostly Morse Family members. In the 1980s, Vincas Kudirka said that when he arrived in South Norwood in 1902, the area was largely agricultural and that there were only about fourteen houses and a school in the area (only five of these houses remain). The 1900 census does not seem to show that the roads that radiate off of Washington Street had been officially developed, and a picture from 1897 confirms that notion. Much of the land in Upper South Norwood had been divided up into house lots a few years before Kudirka arrived, and builders were poised to develop these lots into living quarters. The men who developed the area chose to construct triple-decker apartment buildings instead of single-family homes. When people arrived in Norwood, they found many affordable apartments to rent.
By 1900, Norwood had established several large manufacturing companies. Some had been established in Norwood for several decades earlier and others set up shop here in the late 1890s. All were within walking distance for those who lived in South Norwood. And all had a large demand for laborers to help run them. Newly arrived immigrants, who came from many different countries, found jobs in Norwood’s growing industries. One page of the 1920 census records people living in South Norwood as having been born in countries such as Syria, Italy, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, and Turkey, being employed as tanners, pressman, bookbinders, and as laborers at the ink mill and the paper mill.
South Norwood encompasses a large area, basically from Dean Street to Mylod Street. This exhibit looks at how South Norwood grew, as well as the businesses and organizations that served its residents. In less then twenty years, it had housing, nearby jobs, churches, a school, meeting halls and multiple shops and had become a bustling multi-ethnic community.
Growth and Development of South Norwood
The Ethnic Groups that Called South Norwood Home