Mighty Change After Two Score Years of Independence
Thousands of Artisans Find Homes In An Old Colonial Village.
May 3, 1909—This town had been in a trance for about 235 years before it woke up to the fact that it was of age and had a right to its independence. That was in 1871 and the following year the inhabitants of that portion of South Dedham known as Norwood were given permission by the legislature to set up housekeeping for themselves as the town of Norwood.
It had had an indifferent existence as a part of Dedham up to that time. As a community it had done its honorable share in the early Indian wars, in the taking of Louisburg in 1745, in the revolution and the civil war, but it had done nothing of much importance for itself.
It had a tannery, a paper manufactory, a furniture factory, and a foundry, and Samuel Morrill, an old printer, had established a small place for the manufacture of printers’ ink in 1856, as a result of which he and especially his descendants became very’ wealthy.
In 1873 the old New England railroad established car shops in Norwood, and this gave the town a little boost. It had a population of 1749 in 1875 and Dedham had 5756 the same year. But it took Norwood very nearly 20 years more to fully wake up, and since then it has stepped into the spotlight and taken its place on the map as one of the most wideawake towns in Massachusetts, with a population the present year of our Lord of more than 8000 people, which is going some for a Massachusetts town.
Has Caught Up With Dedham.
It has fully caught up with its parent Dedham and is about the most enterprising little town in Norfolk county today with a splendid municipal lighting plant, fine waterworks, a good sewerage system, excellent schools, fine churches and good roads, most of which have been built within a few years.
It Is up-to-date in nearly everything, and if the steam railroad would put up something a little larger than a flag station at Norwood the casual passerby might know it was on the map.
Then Norwood had a sort of second awakening in 1892, when a committee of its citizens decided to hunt up “new business.’’ George S. Winslow was chairman of that committee. Norwood had little to offer by way of inducement for manufacturing enterprises. It had no water power except the Neponset river, which was used principally as a sewer for the tanneries, paper mills, etc. There was a good deal of vacant land about the town and it was decided to purchase some of this and present it to a concern or concerns that would establish manufacturing enterprises.
Canvassing for Business.
“Ed” Shattuck, who ran the ink factory, and was a son-in-law of George Morrill, met “Jim” Berwick, a Boston printer, one day and asked the latter why he didn’t move his business out to Norwood, where he would at least have plenty of light and air, and cheap rent, and further, he would be near the ink factory.
Berwick’s business was largely press work, and used considerable ink. In the same building with Berwick on Summer st was J. Stearns Cushing, another printer of school textbooks. It is work that requires care and accuracy in the extreme. Mr. Cushing urged Berwick to go, but finally went himself, the Norwood board of trade giving nine acres of land and $7000 cash with which to put up a plant. Cushing, Berwick & Co, a bookbinding concern, established in 1893 a publishing plant employing now more than 1000 hands. Since then another large printing plant has been established there.
Norwood got back all it ever gave the new concern in five years in water rates, and perhaps there is no better indication of the growth of the town of Norwood than the receipts from water rates. In 1893 the receipts were $7647.89, and in 1908 they were $21,620.60. This water department of the town showed a profit overall expenses last year of $12,331.34.
So, where Norwood was formerly somewhat celebrated for its printing inks it is now celebrated for its printing, and there is no doubt but this industry has brought at least 3000 people to the town, nearly all of whom are of the “skilled” class and “very desirable” citizens.
Mr. Berwick has also given the town an excellent clubhouse, largely for the use of his employees. It cost about $40,000, and has a fine library, reading rooms, concert hall and athletic appointments.
There was nothing in the traditions of Norwood to attract a printing business to the place and the success of the whole affair is due to J. Stearns Cushing and “Jim” Berwick.
Boosting a Factory.
A new personality has come to the front in Norwood, however, during the past decade in George F. Willet, a young man from Walpole, who married a daughter of George S. Winslow. Mr Willett took hold of the tannery and gave it a boost, and now manufactures 60 percent of the sheepskins used in New England in the boot and shoe industry.
Mr Willet, who is only 39 years old and who came to Norwood without a dollar, is one of the largest wool brokers in the United States, and he is head of a company controlling 17 different mills. He is also interested in a dye manufacturing concern and in a printing machine company.
The old paper mills of Isaac Ellis disappeared from Norwood some years ago, but the Bird paper mills on the East Walpole line have flourished and give employment to some 900 people, most of whom live in Norwood.
Then there is the Hollingsworth & Vose paper mills, employing about 300 hands on wrapping papers principally. Another comparatively new enterprise is that of pancake innersoles made from scraps of sheepskin.
A new business which is coming to the town this summer and will employ eventually about 500 hands is the manufacture of brake shoes, which will occupy a portion of the old car shops.
Cost of Development.
In order to get a good fire department, good schools, an adequate sewerage system and a lighting plant it incurred a rather large debt a few years ago and jumped the taxes from $18.40 in 1907 to $25.50 in 1908. But they are coming down to about $20.50 this year. It took some courage to do this, but nobody in Norwood got scared and everybody now sees it was wise. The total indebtedness of the town is $349,296.47. It has a sinking fund of $37,753.53, and it has something to show in the way of civic assets and civic improvements for every cent it has spent. The valuation of the town is figured at $6,100,660.
The town has a splendid library, the gift of Miss Sarah Bond Morrill, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George H. Morrill. It is Romanesque in style, built of granite, with a red-tiled roof. It has grown more and more popular since it was dedicated in 1902 and, like all such up-to-date institutions, is beginning to make itself felt as a power and adjunct to the educational system of the town.
There are some excellent schools in Norwood, but it needs a new high school. There is some talk of adding a “vocational school’’ to the public school system. in which boys in shops can be given courses in the trades in which they are engaged, much the same as in Germany and at Fitchburg and Leominster in this state.
Municipal Lighting Plant.
The municipal lighting plant, which was finished a year ago last September cost some $80,000. Already 35 miles of streets are lighted by the new plant and the people are generally taking the light in their houses. Some of the manufacturing plants are also taking power from the plant.
Norwood has a very good fire department. except that it doesn’t get much practice. There were only eight box alarms last year and in no case was the fire serious. The new central fire station cost $30,000.
The sewerage system has been very nearly completed. It empties into filter beds, which are said to work perfectly. AH of the manufacturing establishments will be connected with this system in the course of another year. It cost about $196,000. The filter beds cover 6 1/2 acres.
A new Catholic church is approaching completion in the center of the town and on the opposite corner of the same street is the Universalist church. There are also large congregations of Baptists. Methodists and Congregationalists. There are about 1000 Finns and Poles in the town and every one of them is regarded as a ’desirable citizen’. They are hard workers and well-liked.
May Be a City Soon.
The town is about equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, but there are a great many independents, especially in town affairs. The town hasn’t much of a town hall, but it will
probably have a new city hall before it lays out any money on a town hall. If it keeps on the pace it has been traveling the past five years it will have enough population to make a city in another five years.
There are some splendid residences in Norwood—in fact some of them should be designated as estates—but the bulk of the houses are ‘‘homes” for a good, healthy, middle class of people. They are neat, and the roads and streets are neat and the whole place has an air of being up-to-date. There is good electric car connections with all the surrounding towns and with Boston.
Norwood is touched by two lines of steam cars—the Midland division of the New York. New Haven & Hartford, and the Wrentham branch of the Providence division of the same system. It is 15 miles from Boston.
There is nothing the matter with Norwood.
By A. J. PHILPOTT.
By Marguerite Krupp, Originally published in the 1972 Norwood Centennial Magazine The Indians who lived near the Great Blue Hill…