NEEDHAM

Town of Needham MA

Needham is a town in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States. A suburb of Boston, its population was 28,886 at the 2010 census. It is home to the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, an engineering school.

Early settlement

Needham was first settled in 1680 with the purchase of a tract of land measuring 4 miles (6.4 km) by 5 miles (8.0 km) from Chief Nehoiden for the sum of 10 pounds, 40 acres (160,000 m2) of land, and 40 shillings worth of corn. It was officially incorporated in 1711. Originally part of the Dedham Grant, Needham split from Dedham and was named after the village of Needham Market in Suffolk, England, a neighbor of the English town of Dedham. By the 1770s settlers in the western part of the town who had to travel a long distance to the meeting house on what is now Central Avenue sought to form a second parish in the town. Opposition to this desire created conflict, and in 1774 a mysterious fire destroyed the extant meeting house. Some time afterwards the West Parish was formed.

Growth and industry

In 1857 the City of Boston began a project to fill in the Back Bay with landfill by filling the tidewater flats of the Charles River. The fill to reclaim the bay from the water was obtained from Needham, Massachusetts from the area of present-day Route 128. The firm of Goss and Munson, railroad contractors, built 6 miles (9.7 km) of railroad from Needham and their 35-car trains made 16 trips a day to Back Bay.[1] The filling of present-day Back Bay was completed by 1882; filling reached Kenmore Square in 1890, and finished in the Fens in 1900. The project was the largest of a number of land reclamation projects, beginning in 1820, which, over the course of time, more than doubled the size of the original Boston peninsula.

In 1865, Evan Raskin established a knitting mill company in Needham Heights that would eventually become a major manufacturer and leading brand of children’s apparel in the United States. The site of Mill #1 currently houses the Avery Manor assisted living center, while Mill #2 stood along the shores of Rosemary Lake. By the 1960s, the company owned seven mills in Massachusetts and the south. The Carter family sold the business in 1990, after which Carter’s, Inc. moved its headquarters to Atlanta, Georgia.[2]

In the late 1860s William Emerson Baker moved to Needham. A notably wealthy man due to his having improved the mechanical sewing machine, Baker assembled a parcel of land exceeding 800 acres (3.2 km2) and named it Ridge Hill Farm.[2] He built two man made lakes on his property, including Sabrina lake near present-day Locust Lane. Baker turned part of his property into an amusement park with exotic animals, subterranean tunnels, trick floors and mirrors. In 1888 he built a sizable hotel, near the intersection of present-day Whitman Road and Charles River Street, called the Hotel Wellesley which had a capacity of over 300 guests. The hotel burned to the ground on December 19, 1891.[3]

In 1891, George Walker, Boston owner of a lithograph company, and Gustavos Gordon, scientist, formed Walker-Gordon Laboratories to develop processes for the prevention of contamination of milk and to answer the call by enlightened physicians for better babies’ milk formulas. This plant was located in the Charles River Village section of Needham with another large facility in New Jersey. The scientific dairy production facilities of the Walker-Gordon Dairy Farm were widely advertised and utilized modern advancements in the handling of milk products.[4]