The April edition of “Contact”, a publication of the New England Electric System of which the Norwood Gas Company is a member, carries a feature story on Norwood.

Nahatan St Looking West toward Washington St, Late 1940’s (Norwood Historical Society photo)

Illustrated with a dozen photographs of Norwood people, institutions, and industries, here is what they have to say about us.

Situated about 15 miles southwest of Boston and covering an area of lü’/á square miles, Norwood is a prosperous, well-integrated and growing community of approximately 17,000 people. Its rapid growth in recent years is shown by the several new industries and housing developments built in the last decade The first community in New England and 12th in the country to adopt the town manager form of government, Norwood has benefited much from this type of government. With a surprisingly low tax rate of little over $41, Norwood has managed to keep an active and progressive staff of town departments, a modern water works, built an unusual and attractive town hall as a memorial to her war dead, provided the town with a well-rounded program of recreational activities and facilities for both younç and old, and still maintain a modern and attractive community with a predominance of individual family homes and well-kept roads and parks.

Industrially, Norwood. ranks high too, with 29 principal manufacturers doing gross business of over 50 million dollars annually. Principal items produced in the community include asphalt shingles and roofing, floor coverings, and rugs, shipping cases, printing and binding, books, bookbinding cloth, printer’s ink, hides and leather, brake shoes, foundry products, machine products, and electronic devices. A large privately operated airport and proximity to Boston plus location on the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad line provide adequate shipping and transportation facilities.

A shopping center for some 100,000 people from 12 neighboring communities, Norwood’s retail business stores and establishments form a long main thoroughfare aided by modern, low buildings. The community is serviced by four banks.

Originally a part of Dedham, then a territory of rugged individualists who wanted the land only for themselves and cared little for good vs ill or inter-community relations, the part which is now Norwood was first settled by Ezra Morse who built the first sawmill on Hawes Brook. Guild’s Tannery was built shortly after, later to be absorbed by the Smith and Winslow tanneries for the purpose of, as a local historian facetiously put it, “tanning the local hides.” A grist mill for grinding grain for nearby farmers temporarily put a halt to further industry in the agricultural community which at the time only needed to serve its own needs.

The middle nineteenth century brought the railroad and with it came a furniture factory, carpet shop, tanneries, foundry and a real estate boom. In 1894 the Berwick and Smith presses began to hum at the Norwood Press followed closely by the Plimpton Press in 1897, and Bibles and textbooks began to roll in great numbers from these two geat printing establishments. As if in anticipation of them, Morrill’s ink plant had preceded them by 40 years. Thus Norwood became noted as one of the major printing and publishing communities in the country, a reputation she still holds today even though diversification has brought many other types of industries into the town.

Separated from Dedham for several reasons, including distance, the different character of their industries, the need for a high school, and the authoritativeness of the mother town in such matters as a steam fire engine which she insisted So. Dedham (Norwood) help pay for and which would be of no benefit to its inhabitants, it is said that the straw that broke the camel’s back was Dedham’s refusal to allow So Dedham to ring her firehouse bells on a Fourth of July morning at sunrise in 1871. They were rung anyway in defiance and marked the first liberty tolls for Norwood, which was incorporated as a separate and distinct township in t872.

(All articles were originally published in the Norwood Messenger unless otherwise noted)