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This Day in Norwood History- September 22, 1938-First Baptist Church Steeple Blown Off by Hurricane of ’38

On September 21, 1938 New England was struck hard with the of ’38, also known as the . The Hurricane was expected to hit Florida but swerved to the right and headed Northeast up the Atlantic Coast. Instead of turning seaward again as was expected, it suddenly swung West into and New England. Hundreds of lives were lost and thousands of homes were destroyed.

Up to 6 inches of rain fell across the Western part of the state, which had received 4 inches of rain the previous week, causing widespread flooding. On the South Coast, the storm surge left Falmouth and New Bedford under 8 feet of , causing two-thirds of the boats in New Bedford harbor to sink. A 50-foot wave was spotted in Gloucester, and Blue Hill Observatory in Milton registered the strongest hurricane-related surface wind gust ever recorded in the United States –  sustained winds of 121 mph (195 km/h) and a peak gust of 186 mph (299 km/h).

Tens of thousands of trees were blown down, knocking out power and preventing travel. steeples, which stood taller than most trees and buildings around them, were partially or totally destroyed across the state.

Many houses and buildings in were damaged, including the First . At that time the church was located near 686 , the current site of Byblos restaurant and Burn Boot Camp.

First Baptist Church Norwood Ma

The fall of the church spire was captured in a series of photos taken by Bond st resident Edward Pothier.

First Baptist Church Norwood Ma

The steeple and belfry had been admired for eighty years before the storm but came down suddenly in the span of one afternoon.

First Baptist Church Norwood Ma

Photo: Thu, Sep 22, 1938 – 7 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com

First Baptist Church Norwood Ma
First Baptist Church Norwood Ma
The replacement spire, seen under here, was a different, smaller style than the original.
First Baptist Church Norwood Ma
The new, smaller spire. Notice the in the rear of the Church.

The of Norwood can trace its beginnings to July 19, 1858, when a was held at the home of to consider the advisability of forming the South Society, Baptist Church. At that meeting, and at one held July 28, plans were formulated for the new church society, with a committee appointed to procure supplies, for preaching services to be held in (one of the rooms in the building and also in in the old ).

On August 8th of that year, three public meetings were held and these services were conducted by the of Woonsocket, R.I.

Later Rev. Breed accepted a call to serve the new church as its pastor, commencing his duties on October 1, 1858.

First Baptist Church Norwood Ma James Breed

On October 13, 1858, thirty-five of the Church (now ) were admitted.

As early as December of 1858 a movement was started to erect a house of worship. Plans moved ahead rapidly and on June 7, 1859, the was laid for the church on Street. The area was known as “” in those days, named for the iron hook in front of ’ Tavern (Norwood house). “The Hook” is the center of Norwood today.

The service of took place on December 1, 1859. In later years an addition was built on the rear of the church. After the September 1938 hurricane toppled the steeple, it was rebuilt with a smaller spire.

Over the years the Church appointed several committees to study the possibility of further additions to the property. The Shattuck on the corner of Walpole and Bond became available and ground was broken on the new church on March 11, 1951, with the cornerstone laid on October 7th the same year. Services were held in the until the new Church building was dedicated with Dr. Everett C Herrick offering prayer on January 27, .

First Baptist Church Norwood Ma

The old church, which stood approximately opposite of on Washington street, was torn down to make room for a new block of stores.

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