In 1901, the Norwood Literary Society voted “that an effort should be made to form a Norwood Historical Society, while we people among us to tell its history, and give us relics of the past.” An attempt was made that year to form a Society, but it was not until February 1907, that such a Society was formed and duly incorporated.
On February 14th, 1907 a charter was granted to the following members: Milton H. Howard, Emily Curtis Fisher, Walter J. Berwick, Frank E. Bartley, Maria E. Colburn, Marcia M. Winslow, Nellie M. Babcock, Charles F. Smith, Clara W. Berwick, David A. Ellis.
The first regular meeting of the Norwood Historical Society was held in the home of Nellie M. Babcock, at 483 Washington St. At that meeting, Milton H. Howard was elected President, an office he held until his death in December 1931. David A. Ellis was elected Vice President, holding that office until October 1910. W. T. Whedon succeeded Ellis as Vice President and held the position until the death of President Howard, when he was elected President, holding that office until he resigned in January 1937. Walter J. Berwick was elected Secretary, holding that office until his death in 1910, at which time Nellie M. Babcock Gillooly was elected to fill the vacancy and held that office until January 1933.
For much of its early history, the Society struggled along but held the charter. Not much interest in the Society was aroused until Fred Holland Day gave incentive to the Society by the terms of his Will.
Independently wealthy since birth, Day was able to pursue artistic interests without the need to make a profit. In addition to his work as a highly successful amateur photographer, F. Holland Day founded the Copeland & Day publishing firm with Herbert Copeland in 1893, influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement. Day was also interested in local history and genealogy. He personally collected and preserved the genealogical records of various prominent families in town, with names many of us would recognize today from Streets around Norwood, such as Dean, Everett, Ellis, Guild, and Fisher. He was engaged in writing a history of Norwood at the time of his death.
Day’s Will stipulated that if a charitable corporation should be formed under the name of the Norwood Historical Society before 1970, acquire a stand-alone location to house the collection he had amassed, and run for one year to the satisfaction of the Dedham Historical Society, the fund would be turned over to this society. In florid language, the Will spells out these terms:
Whereas by the fourth clause of the will of Fred Holland Day, late of Norwood, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, deceased, which will is dated March 3, 1913, it is provided in subdivision (d) thereof that if before the first day of January, 1970, a charitable corporation shall be formed under the name of Norwood Historical Society, for the purpose of stimulating and sustaining interest in the history of the area now within the limits of the Town of Norwood and shall be financially and otherwise capable of securing and maintaining a building suitable for its purposes in said Norwood distinct and apart from any other building maintained by others and shall have so acquired and maintained a building for one full year to the satisfaction of said Dedham Historical Society, (previously named in said will) then upon the fulfilment of these conditions said Dedham Historical Society may terminate said Joseph Day Trust (which trust is created by earlier provisions of said fourth clause) and the investments and the funds and the property of historic and genealogic interest belonging to said Joseph Day Trust may be paid and turned over to the said Norwood Historical Society, free of all trusts and conditions except that so long as said Alfred Tanneyhill (previously named in said will) shall live he shall be entitled to the payments herein above provided.
And whereas there now exists a Massachusetts charitable corporation in said Town of Norwood of the name Norwood Historical Society which corporation was created and exists and is maintained for the purpose of stimulating and sustaining interest in the history of the area within the limits of the Town of Norwood as the same existed at the time said will was executed and as the same now exists, and whereas said Norwood Historical Society is desirous of fulfilling the conditions upon its part as prospective done to be performed and imposed by said will which will permit the payment and turning over to it by said Dedham Historical Society, free from all trusts and conditions, except the condition pertaining to said Alfred Tanneyhill, of the funds and property of historic and genealogic Interest belonging to said Joseph Day Trust, and whereas said Dedham Historical Society is also desirous of accomplishing said purpose upon the fulfillment of said conditions and proposes to terminate said trust and to pay and turn over said property to said Norwood Historical Society upon such fulfillment and at as early a date thereafter as is permitted by the terms of said will, NOW THEREFORE, it is hereby understood and agreed by and between said Dedham Historical Society and said Norwood Historical Society that if and when said Norwood Historical Society shall undertake to acquire and shall acquire a good title to the property in said Norwood which was the place of residence of said Fred Holland Day and now owned, or assumed to be owned by a corporation known as the Trustees of the Lewis and Anna M. Day Home for the Aged in Norwood, then and In consideration thereof it will be recognized by said Dedham Historical Society and will be held to be a building suitable for the purposes of said Norwood Historical Society in said Norwood distinct and apart from any other building maintained by others and a fulfillment to that extent of the requirements of said will to the satisfaction of said Dedham Historical Society, the maintenance of which under said, title for one full “year” shall further satisfy the requirements of said will in that regard and in the further regard to the financial and otherwise capability of said Norwood Historical Society of acquiring and maintaining said building as” suitable for its purposes to the satisfaction of said Dedham Historical Society said Dedham Historical Society meaning and intending hereby to indicate and represent to said Norwood Historical Society its understanding and appreciation of its responsibilities and duties under the terms of said will and its performance of the same and its expressed intention of paying and turning over said funds and other property to the said Norwood Historical Society in accordance with the conditions and requirements of said will.
Joseph and Anna Day had left Fred a life interest in their house. After his death, it was to become the Joseph and Anna M Day Home for the Aged. They could not find a way to make this structure work as intended, so a year later, in 1934, they sold the Day House to the Norwood Historical Society. This satisfied the terms of the Will, and the rest as they say is history.
One additional note here: Fred’s Will continued payments to Alfred Tanneyhill until Alfred’s death. We’ll talk more about that another time.
The F. Holland Day house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 18, 1977.
The Norwood Historical Society is independent and receives no financial support from the Town of Norwood. For over a century we have worked to preserve and share the history of Norwood – its residents, its organizations, its buildings.
The Norwood Historical Society is fully maintained and run by volunteers. We rely on your contributions to continue our work.
Donations to the Norwood Historical Society are tax-deductible. Your gift helps us maintain and expand our archives and continue bringing Norwood history to you, through events, our new and popular series, “This Day in Norwood History,” and exhibits (in-person or, now, virtual).
We rely on you to share your Norwood history with us. Are you going through the material in your house during this pandemic? Are you finding old photos or papers about your family or the town of Norwood? Don’t throw them out! Contact us – we can arrange contactless donations and we are happy to scan and return items, too. We can work with you to make this painless and you can help us preserve Norwood’s history for future generations.
Membership includes benefits like free admission to programs, access to our Archives, and make a number of free scans or copies of archived materials each year. Click here to learn more: https://norwoodhistoricalsociety.org/membership/