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Christian Hill: An Architectural Study

Portion of an 1852 map showing the undeveloped area of Christian Hill (Source: N. Smith & H.F. Walling “Map of the Town of Dedham, 1852)

When Norwood was established in 1872, the Christian Hill neighborhood had been a flourishing neighborhood for about twenty years. Early maps show a thickly settled area to the west of the “Hook” or South Norwood Village. It was South Dedham’s first thickly settled upscale residential area. Conveniently located near so many businesses that provided jobs for the working-class families in the neighborhood. In the Hook there were multiple shops and services. Plus there were two churches, Universalist and Baptist, a third, the First Congregationalist came to the neighborhood in the late 1800s, a primary school was located where today’s post office is, a new high school was built on the corner of Beacon and Day Streets, and before the century was over a fancy new library was added to the neighborhood. In 1860, Village Hall was built in the Hook. On the first floor it was home to several shops and small businesses, and on the second floor was a large hall, which over the years was host to many social gatherings and organizational meetings. It quickly became the heart of the community. Basically, everything was located a short walking distance from the Christian Hill neighborhood.

Worker cottages on Nahatan Street. Pictured here is the Newman Sumner House, the Jabez Sumner house and the Cortus Lincoln House

This neighborhood began to be developed in the early 1850s, when Joseph Day and George B. Talbot began selling small parcels of land. Day owned and operated a tannery in Boston and Talbot was a merchant, who operated a store in Boston, but somehow these business men saw a need for modest homes in South Dedham for a growing influx of workers and their families. Over the next twenty-five years, Day and Talbot were in some manor behind the development of the Christian Hill neighborhood – they sold empty parcels of land, or built spec homes, or provided the mortgage for many who lived here. It is interesting to note, that this thickly settled area were all small house lots. In larger populated areas, in town living was not new, but is was new to the village of South Dedham, and it illustrates how South Dedham was beginning to move away from subsistence farming. People who lived here might have a small kitchen garden, but the majority of their food came from shops that carried groceries, or from farmers who delivered food directly to their customers – such as a milkman who delivered dairy products.

Paul Ellis (1781-1871), owned and operated a successful inn in the Hook

The many of people who settled in this neighborhood were the people who could trace their ancestors directly to the original settlers of Dedham. Joel & Francis Baker; William S & Ebenezer F Gay, Ebenezer, Joseph & Lewis Day, Lyman, Charles & John Smith, Isaac & Francis Colburn, Otis & Oliver Morse, Elijah Wheelock (Jr & Sr); and Paul Ellis all descended from men who were listed as freeman in Dedham before 1647. Others who settled here could trace their ancestors back to original settlers of Watertown, Dorchester and Taunton, It should be noted, that many of those who have early genealogy in Massachusetts are the wealthy families who lived on Christian Hill and built the large fancy homes. With the exception of the few Irishman who settled here, these neighbors were Protestant, being members of the Universalist, Baptist and Congregational Churches.

It is through this shared history and religious background that makes Christian Hill one of Norwood’s Ethnic Neighborhoods – In fact, it is their first ethnic neighborhood. Today, just like when it was originally settled, it remains an upscale neighborhood.

Links to:

South Dedham Furniture Building

Development of Area

Builders & Developers

House Styles

Back to Norwood Neighborhoods Exhibit main page –>

House Styles Found in the Christian Hill Neighborhood

House Styles Found in the Christian Hill Neighborhood

One might expect to find a large variety style of homes in any neighborhood in a New England town. After all the area was settled in the 1600s. At one time Christian Hill had a couple of early federal style…

Italianate

Italianate

The Italianate style was prevalent from 1840 to 1880, and like the Greek Revival, frequently has pedimented gables on columns at the front entry and is defined by simple but bold mouldings and decorative pilasters.  However their low-pitched roofs could…

99 Day Street – The James A. Hartshorn House

99 Day Street – The James A. Hartshorn House

James A. Hartshorn house circa 1990 (Source: MACRIS database.) This house Italianate style with stick style elements was built by merchant, James A. Hartshorn around 1881. Originally this house lot was part of Tyler Thayer house lot. Thayer’s lot was…

75 Day Street – The Joseph & Hannah (Rhoades) Day House

75 Day Street – The Joseph & Hannah (Rhoades) Day House

The Joseph Day house, circa 1990 (Source: MACRIS database) Joseph Day had Tyler Thayer build this Italianate style house in 1855 for him and his family. The house can be seen in 1858, 1876 & 1888 maps. The house originally…

12 Vernon Street – The Joel Metcalf Baker House

12 Vernon Street – The Joel Metcalf Baker House

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…

120 Vernon Street – The Daniel P.  Pond House

120 Vernon Street – The Daniel P.  Pond House

The Daniel P. Pond house circa 1990 (Source: MACRIS database) Daniel P Pond bought this empty house lot in 1861 from Joseph Day, Lyman Smith and Joel M Baker, and he built his Italianate house in 1861. The builder is…

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