Joel Baker house, circa 1900, when it was still situated on Washington Street (Norwood Historical Society collection)

Joel M. Baker bought this house lot in 1854 from Joseph Day. It contained about a third of an acre and ran from Washington Street up the hill to Bullard Street. Baker built had local architect/builder, Tyler Thayer construct this Italianate style house in 1855. This house originally sat on the corner of Vernon & Washington. Around 1910, when the center was re-done, the house and barn was moved to the back of it’s original lot and turned to face Vernon Street. The house appears on 1858, 1876 & 1888 maps of South Dedham/Norwood and they show a large stable/barn attached to the back of the house. Photographs of the house when it was still on Washington Street show it had a large front porch, which was removed at sometime between 1964 and 1990.

            Elements of the Joel Baker Italianate Style house: (most are gone, covered by siding)

  • Arched windows at attic
    • 6/6 double hung windows
    • appears to have wood quoining at corners
    • eave details
Joel Baker (1808-1878) (Norwood Historical Society collection)

Joel Metcalf Baker was born 1808 in West Dedham (now Westwood) and was the son of Obed Baker and Betsey Metcalf.  He ran a successful express business, his route ran from Boston to Dedham. Baker also was involved with real estate in South Dedham, working with business partners Joseph Day and Lyman Smith, he sub-divided much of the Bullard Farm area into smaller house lots and held many mortgages to those who lived here. Baker also contributed almost $13,000 towards the construction of the Baptist Church, which eventually was built on Washington Street across from Baker’s house. Baker married about 1830 to Elizabeth Noyes (1807-1881) in Dedham. She was the daughter of Nathaniel Noyes and Catherine Dean. Joel and Elizabeth became the parents of three children: Francis Metcalf (1833-1898); Henry Bradford (1835-1897); and Ellen Elizabeth (1837-1917). Baker died in 1878 and is buried in the old Westwood Cemetery. The house remained in the family for the next 25 years, as Henry Bradford Baker and his wife owned the home.

Alfred Noyes Ambrose (1866-1924)

Alfred Noyes Ambrose became the next owner of this home in 1906. He had the house moved to the back of the lot for the construction of a new town center. A 1909 Sanborn map shows the house on Vernon, and in between the house and the new stores on Washington Street, Ambrose built an office/publishing facility for his Norwood Messenger in the property’s barm. Today it is a parking lot. Alfred Noyes Ambrose was born 1866 in West Newbury Massachusetts. He was the son of David L. Ambrose and Caroline Noyes. He moved to Norwood with his brothers Willard and Edward and together they started a newspaper in Norwood. Ambrose served on Norwood’s School Committee, was part of a group of concerned citizens that formed the Norwood Hospital Corporation which oversaw the modernization of the hospital. Ambrose married around 1902 to Estelle M Baker (1873-1955) in Norwood. She was the daughter of Lewis Baker and Sarah Turner. Alfred and Estelle had one child, Carl W (1904-1930). Ambrose died in 1924 and is buried in the Highland Cemetery.

The Joel M. Baker house today. (photo by LLKearney)

In 1929, Estelle Ambrose sold 12 Vernon Street to Carl Anderson who converted it into an inn. However, the 1930 Census notes that Mary Chase was the owner. From the late 1930s and well into the 1990s the property was called The Verne Inn, and was an upscale boarding house. The owners were Ernest and Ellen Fisher. In the 1940s, they added a catering business, Fisher Caterers, which operated out of the Verne Inn, and they were able to host functions in their banquets room. In 1956 the Fisher’s estate sold the property to Therald Carlton Eastman and R.H. Johnson, who restored the property and opened a Funeral Home here in 1957. A newspaper article announcing the grand opening of the funeral parlor includes a picture of the house, which in 1957 still had its front porch and two chimneys. In 1964, The Eastman Funeral Service, Inc., sold their share of the property to the R.H. Johnson Trust. In 1990 it was bought by business partners, Robert Hansen and Robert N Donahue, who renovated the property, turning it into what appears to be a multi-family building. The building was recently painted in the fall of 2022, which helps to highlight some of the remaining visable Italianate features.

Newspaper clipping of the newly renovated Eastman Funeral home (1957). The house still has much of it’s Itanianate features including the front porch.

Article on this house can be seen in “This Day in Norwood” series, here:

Related:  Savin Avenue: The Neighborhood Expands

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