North of the Town Square is Nahatan Street. Running directionally east to west, it was originally laid out in the early 1800s, to be the main road between Medfield and South Dedham. Today, where it crosses Washington Street, is most certainly the main intersection in town. The street is home to several important Norwood town buildings and sites.

The Norwood Memorial Municipal Building (photo George Curtis)

Norwood Memorial Municipal Building:  As George Willett continued his plans for a business district and Town Square, and made Market St, Central Street and extended it, the talk and desire for a building to house the municipal offices of the town and be a centerpiece for the new (1924) town square became prominent. A building commission was set up headed by Francis Foley who hired William Upham to design the building wanting it to be a showcase to honor all veterans from all wars from the town.   Norwood has had participants in wars all the way back to the Revolutionary War. William Upham was a Norwood man and had worked with George Willet and Arthur Schurcliff to design the initial plan for the new town. It included not only the new business district but residential streets and tree lines roads. William Upham graduated from Norwood High School in 1899, and has also designed the Masonic Temple, Odd fellows Block, the Callahan Block, the Norwood Theatre, the Norwood 1934 Post Office, and other residential houses in Norwood.  Mr. Upham based his design on buildings from colleges in England and other parts of the United States. The Building Committee and Town officers’ broke ground and the cornerstone was laid in November of 1927. The project was under the supervision of Milton White of the Edward F Miner Building Company.  The original cost was $127,000.00 with an additional $62,000.00 being approved by Town meeting. Walter Tilton gave $50,000.00 for the carillon which is still played today. The canon is from WWI and was made at the German Krupps Works. It apparently did fire at dedication. In 1980 there was a move to have it removed by some townspeople from in front, but the BOS headed by Walter Dempsey blocked it. It does not fire now.  The Norwood Memorial Municipal Building was dedicated with much fanfare and dignitaries on November 11, 1928, on the ten-year anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended WWI.

The Old Lock-up (photo GoogleEarth)

Norwood Lockup:  Is located behind the Municipal Building in their parking lot. Built in 1879, it was mostly used as a place to hold tramps and men under the influence by the Constables. Norwood did not have a formal police force until 1903.  It was a cold small-roomed building and at one time a couple of “guests” were so cold they lite their mattress and blanket on fire to stay warm.  Plus, people were always escaping, just climbing out the windows so after the Town Memorial Hall was built it received a spruce up in 1928 and bars on the windows.  It was last in use as a lockup in the 1960s, and only as a holding cell until prisoners could be transferred to the Dedham jail. When the police/fire station was built in the 1960s the building was used as storage and during the 1980s the town Youth Coordinator had offices there. It is now used as storage.

Fire Station/OCC:  The Fire Station was built in 1907. Prior to that, before Norwood was Norwood and still South Dedham, they had two fire stations, Station 7 was located near the Hook where St Catherine’s Cushing Hall is located on Washington St, the second, Station 1, at the end of Walnut Ave on Washington St. it was to service the lower section of South Dedham. Both were poorly equipped with basically bucket brigades and hand pumps on wheels. The 1907 firehouse had horse-drawn firefighting equipment and tanks and eventually motorized engines. The second floor was used as police station initially. It remained Norwood’s only fire station until 1961 when the new police/fire building was built on what was Dunn’s Pond on Nahatan St. Initially the “New” police/fire station flooded constantly because Dunn’s was a bog/pond, but subsequent renovations and improvements have solved the flooding issue.  In 1965 a group of students petitioned the Selectman to convert the building into a teen center. The request was denied, and the building was used for storage. In the 70s it was converted to an upscale restaurant, Carla’s, and when they left it was taken over and renovated into the Olde Colonial Café (OCC) which is right here right now. This section of town was called Cemetery Street, or Graveyard Way. George Willett opened it up and redirected it to become a continuation of Central Street. Over the years the houses were torn down and it was the location of The South Shore Bank, The Hancock Bank, and the Dedham Savings Bank. It also housed a catering company and in the 50’s early 60’s a prototype model Bomb Shelter, where the OCC garden space is.

Firehouse No. 7 (Norwood Historical Society collection)

The fire station No. #7 and its 4th of July bell ringing was a festering reason for the South Dedham community, along with the denial of building their own high school, of the town folks petitioning to break away from Dedham and form their own town.  The story goes, that every 4th of July morning the men of Fire Station #7 would get up and ring the bell to welcome the holiday. For some unexplained reason in 1868the Selectman of Dedham voted to not allow the ringing of the bell. Fire Captain Edward Twitchwell had not received official notice, but had it on good authority that yes indeed, the selectman had voted not to allow the bell ringing.  On July 2, he discussed it with the men in Company 7 who were grumbling about Dedham’s authority over South Dedham, Frank Fales mentioned that he knew for a fact that Sam Pond, who was South Dedham’s representative to the Dedham Selectman, had not been at the meeting because of a sick horse.  Well, George Metcalf, the fire company steward and bell ringer decided to find out id this was true. He sat on the porch of the South Dedham Hotel watching as people went Village Hall to gather their mail from Postmaster William Gay’s circular postal mail sorter. He saw Sam Pond go in and went over to ask about the sick horse. Sam confirmed that he and his son had been up all night with the sick horse and had not been at the meeting in Dedham. So George said, well we will ring the bells tomorrow on the 4th and Sam said of course. He did not know about the “no” vote and still no official paperwork or notice had come to the Station.  On the morning of July 4th George Metcalf went to Station #7 and began ringing the bells. Meanwhile Samuel Howard who was the village constable knew of the no-ring order and was woken from his sleep hearing the bells ringing. He lived on or near Howard St. grabbed some shows and ran down to the station and found George happily and defiantly ringing the bells.  He ordered George to stop, and George did not. A scuffle to grab the rope from his hands ensued.  Sam pulled down the rope and George with it and thought the matter settled. But George climbed the ladder to the bell tower, locked the trap door, and continued ringing the bells. Sam gave up and went home. Then three days later Fire Company #7 sent a letter to the Dedham Selectman insisting the constable Howard be dismissed because of this altercation. They had circulated the petition among the citizens. At their next meeting the Selectmen voted not to dismiss Sam Howard, who resigned before the vote, and this did not sit well with Fire Company No. 7 or the citizens of the village.  In September of 1868 the Dedham Selectmen sent an invitation to Fire Company No. 7 to be part of the dedication of the new Dedham Memorial Hall. South Dedham’s Fire Captain called a meeting to vote on the attendance at this dedication and all voted “no.” Dedham took this as the slight it was meant to be and the citizens had number one reason to separate and form their own town. The final issue was in 1870 when Francis O Winslow on behalf of the South Dedham Village requested to the Dedham Selectman to start a high school in town. The request for the school was denied and that was the second reason to further the separation from Dedham. Norwood was incorporated in 1872.

The Civic Center (photo George Curtis)

Civic center: Dedicated in 1930 it was built to compliment the Municipal building. It was home of the National Guard Company G.  It was two storied with a large basement. It provided space for Norwood dances, practices for drum and bugle corps, the Norwood Debonnaires, and other community events as well as being an active National Guard base, During the Blizzard of 1978 it was the command center for the region, especially route 128 saw hundreds of cars trapped and people stranded. They were brought to the Armory and housed there,  along with the Guild elementary school (guild medical building) until roads could be cleared. In 1981 the old Civic buildings were sold to the Norwood Hospital and Senator John Kinnally initiated buying the Armory as a replacement for the Civic center. The National Guard was a bit hesitant to sell the building, and a legislative action was initiated by Representative Greg Sullivan of Norwood and a Boston City Councilor who was a former aide to Senator Joseph Timmilty by the name of Thomas Menino.  The bill passed and the building was bought for $1. It contained a gymnasium, game rooms and a senior center and a RMV office. It opened as the Civic center in 1984.

Related:  Pfc. Ralph Emerson Shackley

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