Before Norwood was Norwood, the George H. Morse House was here. It s the oldest house in the community, and the family that lived there helped shape the town during its early years.
“(The Morse House) is part of the Morse family,” said Morse House Restoration Committee historian Bill Pudsey. “Without the Morse family, you wouldn’t have South Norwood. They were critical to the development of this area.
The George H. Morse House was built circa 1868, four years before Norwood became a town. The house itself has a 144-year history, but the property is even older. Before the George H. Morse House was built at the 1285 Washington St. site, the Ezra Morse House was located there, built circa 1678. The Morse family lived there until the George H. Morse House was built, at which point, the Ezra Morse House was tom down.
“(This site) is the original homestead in Norwood. This was the original property settled by Ezra Morse, and seven generations of his family lived here on Morse Hill, ending with George Morse, who was one of our first selectmen,” Morse House Restoration Committee member Dale Day said.
For the past 12 years, Day and members of the Morse House Restoration Committee have solicited donations and renovated the historic home on Washington Street.
The committee’s efforts continue to this day. The latest repair to the George H. Morse House fixed the rear deck.
“It’s an emergency exit from the second floor, is basically what it is,” Day said.
This exit allows groups to hold small meetings on the second floor of the Morse House in South Norwood. Currently, several groups, such as the South Norwood Committee and Norwood Town Republican Committee, meet at the house, Day explained.
“The only other thing that has to be done is we need to get the call boxes installed, Day said and explained that there are no phone lines at the home. These call boxes will connect the house to emergency services, allowing people to contact the police should the need arise. Once this is done, the committee will be able to fully open the house to the public for major events.
History of the House and Family
The Morse family played an important role in Norwood’s early days. George Morse served as the town’s first assessor when Norwood was incorporated in 1872. He was elected to the Board of Selectmen in the town’s first public election in 1877, and served on the board until 1893.
The house remained with the Morse family until 1913, when it was sold to the Walpole Family Trust. The home then served as a single family home until the late 1920s, and in 1933, it was sold to the town for $1, under the stipulation that it be used by the inhabitants of Norwood. The Morse House was converted into a multifamily home, and numerous families lived there until 1996.
The Morse House Restoration Committee now works to ensure the house can continue to be used by residents.
“That’s what we’ve tried to do: restore it for use by the community, Day said.
Pudsey said the house is a historical asset, one that allows residents to glimpse into the past.
“It inspires history. When people come here, they learn things they never knew about Norwood, the town, and its people,” he said.
Those interested in visiting and learning more about the Morse House can attend one of the upcoming open houses. The Morse House will be open on Sunday, Sept. 9 from 1 to 4 p.m. and Thursday, Sept. 13 from 7 to 9 P-m
12 years of renovation
Discussions to restore the Morse House began in September 2000, and a restoration plan was created by summer 2001.
A lot of work needed to be done: The roof was in disrepair, several rooms needed to be rebuilt due to water damage and the house had no heat, no water, and no electricity service.
“The big thing we encountered that we absolutely had to do was the roof. The roof was not in good shape,” Day said.
At that point, Richard Maloof, then-president of CertainTeed, donated a new roof, including all labor, for the home. It was installed in 2003.
“It would have taken years to do that on our own, without their assistance,” Day said. “The roof was key. We would not have been able to make the house safe without the new roof.”
Also in 2003, the house was rewired by electrician John Gear. The Dominic Fruci family donated all the electric supplies necessary to bring the wiring in the house up to date and up to code.
“Getting the house rewired gave us the ability to work more hours there, because we have no electricity previously,” Day said, adding the work brought them up to code.
Other businesses to provide support for the house included Shaun Ready of Ready Pest Control, who inspected the house and treated it, and Vic Babel of Babel’s Paint and Decorating Store, who donated all the paint necessary for work on the house.
Further repairs were based on funds available. In the years since the house has had a new furnace installed, been re-wallpapered, had plumbing installed, chimneys repointed, wood gutters and downspouts added, a handicapped entrance created, kitchen cabinets and counters added, the basement stairway and walls repaired and new light fixtures installed.
Restoration Wish List
Though the main renovation work is almost complete, there are still some wish list items the Morse House Restoration Committee would like to add to the house. Day said the committee wants to purchase a pillow stone for the end of the Morse House driveway. The stone will be engraved to read “Ezra Morse Homestead 1678.” The committee would also like to purchase a door for the “summer kitchen area in the Morse House garage, lights for the Morse House sign and glass showcases to display the museum exhibit items they have.
“These are the things that will finish the property and make it what we’ve wanted it to be since day one,” Day said.
TRANSCRIPT BULLETIN – Brad Cole
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