HISTORIC OLD BUILDING MOVED
Norwood’s Once Famous “Old Tavern’’ to Be Used as a Workingmen’s Boarding House.
NORWOOD, Aug 30—The removal of the old “Norwood House’’ this week from the site which it has occupied for more than a century, and its passing as a public house, takes away from the center of Norwood a landmark which will be missed by the thousands of automobilists who pass along Washington st, the old State road of past years, to Providence from Boston.
This historic house was known to former generations as “The Old Tavern,” later as “The South Dedham Inn” (for Norwood was South Dedham till 1872), and later as the Norwood House. When it was first built or what was its first name is unknown—for part of it is very old. A woman who died at the age of 100 in 1897 told her grandson that the central part, the “Old Tavern,” was an old inn when she was a little girl.
The Old Tavern was built probably sometime before the Revolution on land owned by Paul Ellis, a part of his many acred farm, in the center of what is now a large town of nearly 12,000 Inhabitants. The first proprietors are believed to have been Paul Ellis and Lewis Rhodes, and they carried on the Inn business for a Quarter of a century.
For many years the center square of the village of South Dedham was known as “The Hook.” and it is known as such to some of the oldest people of the present day. This was where the Old Tavern stood.
Many legends have come down from the past, explaining the meaning of the name. It is said that from the iron rod on which swung the sign, extended a hook, over which the horseback riders visiting the tavern bar would throw their bridle reins while they were gossiping with their friends and sipping “flip” and other drinks.
There are well-authenticated stories of Revolutionary soldiers marching over this road and stopping at the old tavern for refreshments, and as the community was a hotbed of “rebellion” In the Revolutionary days, they were doubtless welcome. The story that Washington and his suite visited the tavern while besieging Boston, while unauthenticated, Is not regarded as apocryphal by many of the historians.
It is certain that Abraham Lincoln stopped at the Inn while passing through the community, and remembered it through having his tall hat knocked off by the branches of some trees while riding under them, just below the Inn. When President in the White House, Lincoln recalled that fact to a visitor from this community, when he heard the name of South Dedham.
In the second story of the central part, the oldest section, where the four windows are close together, was a dance hall. The barroom was below.
Many interesting stories are told of the Innkeepers. Uncle Joe Sumner was the landlord for many years during the early part of the 19th century. It was during the time of the great temperance Washingtonian movement that Rev Edwin Thompson was pastor of the Universalist Church of South Dedham. He was much troubled by the sale of liquor in this community and after much investigation decided that the Old Tavern was the headquarters of the business. So he pleaded with Joe Sumner to stop selling, and finally, the landlord agreed to quit the business forever if someone would buy his stock of liquor.
Rev Mr. Thompson was a poor man, but he pledged his salary, bought the liquor and poured it out on the ground. His salary was at that time but $300 a year. Mr. Sumner kept his word and become president of the Washingtonian movement here.
The son of Rev Mr. Thompson, the late Charles Marsh Thompson, a newspaper mail and former correspondent of the Globe, used to complain that in writing about the affair of telling of it, people and especially reporters would always omit to tell what his father did with the rum, leaving the outcome uncertain. But Mr. Thompson assured the writer that it was emptied in the gutter.
There are some darker chapters to the old house. In 1868 occurred triers one of the most bloody murders ever committed in the State. A Dr. Marston lived there with his wife and little daughter. The wife grew crazy with jealousy, hid under the bed in their room, which was the one at the corner, and when her husband went to bed, shot him dead. She then went out into the hall, met their little child, awakened by the noise, and shot her, killing her instantly. Then she got into bed with her husband’s body, put her arm around his neck, and shot herself.
The place has not been free from the taint of suicide in the olden time, according to legend, while other stories more or less authentic are related to death within the old house.
The front part was built probably 100 years ago, while the part at the rear was erected in 1856. The Odd Fellows bought the property some years ago and used the hall in the rear of the second story for their meetings.
When Norwood separated from Dedham in 1872 the old place was called the “Norwood Hotel,” afterward “The Norwood House.” As such it was known and used as a hotel till last Spring. About a year ago Mr. George F. Willett bought the property of the Odd Fellows and later sold the land to the town of Norwood. The Odd Fellows built a fine, new block. Mr. Willett has had the old building moved to a place on Nahatan st, where it is understood it will be used as a workingmen’s boarding house.
The site, on what is known now as “Norwood sq,” will be used by the town as a park, while at a later period a town hall may be erected on adjoining land which the town also owns.