At the annual town meeting on March 1, 1909, a committee was formed to investigate the financial condition of the town. This committee consisted of George F. Willett, chairman, the Hon. Frank A. Fales, and Cornelius M. Callahan. Willett and his associates were all wealthy men.
Applying the analytical techniques that had served them well in business to the business of the town, they developed the idea of town planning.
The rugged Individualists who had built the town at first scoffed and then became openly hostile to the notions that Willett proposed, and they also took exception to his tactics.
So deeply rooted was the dispute that it took a major emergency to unite the factions of the town once again. The flu epidemic struck Norwood in 1918, taking a heavy toll.
As a result of this disaster, the Norwood Hospital was started to care for the hard-hit community. From its simple beginnings in a time of great need, the hospital has grown and expanded.
After the epidemic passed, the citizens were ready to work together. In 1924, they voted to move the Village Hall and create the Town Square, abolishing the last remnants of “the Hook.” By now, automobiles and motor trucks had almost completely replaced horses and wagons, and George Willett had another controversial idea: Westover.
He laid out the Westover area as a housing development 30 years before it became a reality. It was largely through his foresight that the high school was located away from the center of town, where it had room to grow. In the process of becoming a public benefactor.
George Willett blazed a trail, aroused many people’s resentment, and spent a fortune. He lived to see many of his dreams fulfilled, but all at the hands of others.
During these busy years, the rest of the townspeople were not standing still. One whose imagination soared was H. Roy Waite, one of the world’s first aviators, a Norwood resident who was a friend of the Wright Brothers.
Waite flew many of the first airplanes, and at the start of World War I, he wrote to the Secretary of War, suggesting that airplanes might be useful in the war. In a coldly-worded reply, the Secretary politely ridiculed the idea.
Daring and imaginative thinkers like Roy Waite have made Norwood in the twentieth century remarkable for its civic foresightedness. From a town with few electric lights at the turn of the century, Norwood in 1925 boasted of being the “best electrically-equipped town in the state,” a statement which is still valid.
In 1914, Norwood became the first community in New England to adopt the town manager form of government.
By Marguerite Krupp, Originally published in the 1972 Centennial Magazine
It was called TIOT, “the place to cross the water.”
By Marguerite Krupp, Originally published in the 1972 Norwood Centennial Magazine The Indians who lived near the Great Blue Hill…
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