Archive for the ‘Lost Dedham’ category

Red Sox Home Opener 2011

April 8, 2011

In honor of today’s game, I present an excerpt from my book Dedham: Historic and Heroic Tales from Shiretown describing a little known episode in the history of baseball. Go Sox!

Dedham or Cooperstown?
Imagine you are in the bleachers at Fenway Park watching a playoff game between the Red Sox and their longtime rivals, the New York Yankees. It’s a close game, with Boston leading 59–55 and nobody out. The Sox have a man on second base. The New York twelve are spread out on the rectangle, waiting for the home team striker to take his knocks. Here’s the pitch—it’s a long fly ball, caught by the Yankee outfielder; he catches it and hurls it toward home, plugging the Sox runner square in the back. “You’re out!” hollers the referee, and the Yankees run off the field to take their knocks.

Had a group of local baseball club presidents meeting in Dedham in 1858 gotten their way, scenes such as this one would be played out on ball fields around the country each summer, and Dedham would be known today as the birthplace of modern baseball. On May 13, 1858, the Phoenix House hosted a convention of the Massachusetts Association of Base Ball Players, which came to the High Street hotel to draft a set of rules and regulations for the “Massachusetts” version of the popular sport.


The Phoenix stood on the corner of Washington and High Streets, where the K. of C. building is today. It burned down in 1880.

Representatives from ten local ball clubs, including three from Boston and one from Dedham, worked all morning on drafting a constitution before breaking for a bountiful lunch supplied by Phoenix landlord J.D. Howe. According to Article I of the constitution adopted that day, the purpose of the association was to “improve and foster the Massachusetts game of baseball and the cultivation of kindly feelings among the different members of Base Ball Clubs in this state.” While B.F. Gould of Boston’s Tri-Mountain Club demonstrated “kindly feelings” as he addressed his fellow presidents that day, he made it clear that his club would be withdrawing from the association in order to play the game under the rival “New York” rules.

The seventeen rules adopted by the association that day describe a game more like English rounders. The field of play was rectangular, unlike the diamond shape of modern baseball. Each team was allowed only one out per at-bat. Runners did not have to be tagged in order to be called out—a fielder could strike or “plug” the runner with the ball in order to make an out. The game ended when one team scored one hundred runs.
The New York game, introduced by the Knickerbocker club in the 1840s, was much closer to modern baseball. There was a great rivalry between proponents of the two versions of the game, and for a while after the convention the Massachusetts game was becoming more popular than the New York game. But the New York rules were easier to follow and made for a more exciting game, and as the city itself emerged as the center of trade and industry in America, the New York game became the standard. The Civil War helped to spread the popularity of the New York game, and in 1871, the establishment of the first professional league, operating under New York rules, signaled the end of the Massachusetts game. The only rules from the Dedham Convention that exist in modern baseball are the overhand pitch and the called strike.
After their long day’s schedule of meetings, the gentlemen who had gathered at the Phoenix naturally celebrated their hard work with a ballgame, which was well attended by townspeople.

Dedham Town Forest Part 3

March 27, 2011

WARNING! If you go into the Town Forest, do a very thorough TICK CHECK when you come out. I found one of the little buggers clinging to my stomach the day after my adventure. I went to the doctor and I’m taking all the precautions one should to prevent Lyme disease, but what an annoying ending to an otherwise enjoyable day.
So here are some of the interesting features of the Town Forest:

Stone Walls
Plenty of meandering stone walls, indicating that this land was once farmed, perhaps as far back as the 1700’s. More research into who once owned the land to come.

An Access Road

This gravel access road runs from the northbound lanes of 128 to the southbound lanes. It is gated, but the gates were open, so I suppose some foolhardy motorist could actually pull in here from the fast lane of 128.

Large Rock formations

These rock formations explain why the area is referred to on old maps as “Ye Rockes.” It also explains why 128 had to be routed around the area, creating this large forested island in the middle of the highway.

A weird stage/altar/picnic table/foundation thing

Your guess is as good as mine. Any theories?

The remains of an exercise trail
In 1977, fellow DHS senior John MacDonald set up an exercise course in the forest for his Eagle Scout project. Several of the signs can still be found nailed to trees; a little rusty, some with bullet holes, others bent to interesting angles.

Despite its unusual location, I think the Dedham Town Forest is a great place for people to hike and explore. Perhaps another prospective Eagle Scout could take it on as a project- establishing trails, promoting its existence, and, if possible, wiping out the tick population!

Dedham Town Forest Part 2

March 21, 2011


© Damianos Photography
Here I am entering the town forest. Yes, that is Route 128 North to my right; the southbound lane is to my left just out of view. So that means… the town forest is on the median strip?

Yes it is. The gate I am entering is located on the newly reconstructed Washington Street overpass, across from Mary Hartigan’s…etc. The land was taken by the state in the 1950’s when Rte. 128 was built. In 1972, State Representative Charlie McGowan completed legislation that deeded the land back to the town. He hoped that trails would be developed on the property and that residents would use it for hiking and picnicking.
My feeling is that it never really caught on as a recreational area, and my friend Jim believes that some people found a more nefarious use for the isolated spot (see comment on yesterday’s post).

The fence runs about a thousand feet down a narrow corridor, and the land then opens up into a much wider woods. Even with the trees still bare, once you are inside the woods you don’t really see the highway; but you can certainly hear it. Check out the satellite view on Google maps (which does label it as the Dedham Town Forest). It really is a pretty big piece of land, extending all the way to Rte 109. So the next time someone tells you to “go play in traffic,” you’ll know where to go.

Next post: What I found in the Town Forest, and what found me…

Happy Spring!

March 20, 2011

Today I celebrated the Vernal Equinox by hiking in the Dedham Town Forest for a few hours. This 71 acre woods has rolling hills, old stone walls, vernal pools, rocky outcrops and a meandering stream. It is located in the most unlikely of places; you probably drive by it all the time and don’t even realize it’s there. DO YOU KNOW HOW TO GET TO THE DEDHAM TOWN FOREST? More details to follow…

Dedham, 1895

March 19, 2011

This is a very cool photograph, taken from the top of the court-house on High Street, looking east. Many of the buildings in this view are long gone, such as Memorial Hall and the train station, both built of Dedham granite quarried nearby. Sticking out of the trees in the background just right of center is the water tower that stood on Walnut St. until recently.

St. Mary’s Church is quite an imposing structure, seen in the back left. The large white building to the left of the church was the estate of Thomas Barrows, who once ran the operations of the Norfolk Manufacturing Company at the Stone Mill in East Dedham. The Barrows home was torn down in 1959 and became the large St. Mary’s parking lot. The stone wall that once bordered the estate (also made of Dedham granite) can still be seen along High St.

Zoom in on the photo and see what other interesting things you can find; you might find yourself lost in old Shiretown for hours!

Circle the Wagons!

July 3, 2010


Transcript, 1963

I’m pretty sure that Dedham is the only town in the U.S. with a town ordinance that reads like this:

“No person shall set fire to or burn, or cause to be moved through any way or street of the Town, any waste material, paper, wood or any inflammable substance on any wagon, cart, buggy, push–cart or on any vehicle, with the intention of setting fire to or burning same on any way or street of the Town.”

The bylaw was adopted in 1959 in response to the resurrection of a dangerous, unique, and beloved Dedham tradition- the burning of old farm wagons in Oakdale Square on either “the night before” of July 3rd, or the night of the 4th itself. Beginning some time in the early 20th century (my research found the oldest recorded reference to be 1922) thousands of people would gather in the square to witness the event. In the 20’s and 30’s, police and fire officials merely watched and made sure nobody got hurt. The spectacle usually began at midnight when some brave youth would climb the roof of the Good Shepherd Church and ring the bell.

The wagons came from local farms in Dedham and surrounding towns. As authentic farm wagons became scarcer, teenagers would make their own and hide them in back yards and garages until the big night. In 1938, no wagons were found or made, so an old outhouse had to do. Usually the fires got so intense the windows of the stores in the square would crack and the tar underneath would melt. The last Oakdale Square burning was in 1963, when revellers threw rocks and full cans of beer at police and firefighters when they arrived on the scene. After that the burnings disappeared for a few years before the tradition was revived in the Manor. After an explosion and the melting a vinyl-sided house in 1990, police chief Dennis Teehan finally put an end to the burnings.


Transcript, 1957

I remember hearing about the wagon burnings when I was a kid, but I never witnessed one. Every time I have been out promoting my book, dozens of people have come up to me and shared fond memories of this one-of-a-kind tradition. Maybe you have some more tales to add to the collection? Pass them along, and have a Glorious Fourth!

Memorial Hall

May 30, 2010


From a turn of the 20th century postcard. This intersection was known as Memorial Square.


May, 2010

Memorial Hall was dedicated on September 28, 1868, as a lasting monument to the bravery of the forty-seven “sons of Dedham” who perished in the Rebellion, or Civil War as it is known today. It was made of Dedham granite, quarried just down the road in what is now Westwood. There were shops on the ground floor, with town offices and a large auditorium upstairs. Marble tablets bearing the names of the honored dead were placed in the vestibule. In his dedicatory remarks, hsitorian Erastus Worthington pronounced “Let this our Memorial Hall receive a benediction from us all today, God keep it ever from the lightning strike and the consuming fire.” The building was unceremoniously taken down in the spring of 1962, and the current police station built on the site. A new town hall was built on Bryant Street, and the marble tablets from Memorial Hall were placed in the lobby of the new building.

Dedham Square as it was… and might have been

May 28, 2010

In 1947 the Dedham Planning Board did a comprehensive study of the town and its issues regarding traffic, development, land use, etc.. The published study included dozens of aerial photographs of the town, including this one of Dedham Square:

In this picture, Memorial Hall is still standing at the corner of Washington and High- it will come down 15 years later. Most of the train station has been torn down, leaving only the tower. The railroad bridge that once spanned East St. at High St. is seen in the top right hand corner of the photo. The trolleys are gone from Washington St. but the tracks are still visible. The Knights of Columbus Building hasn’t received its brick makeover yet. There are several other smaller buildings along Washington Street and Eastern Ave. that have since disappeared, but the general appearance of the square is the same today. If the recommendations of the Planning Board had been followed, the square might have looked like this:

An interesting proposal that makes the square much less pedestrian friendly than it is today; the Dedham Institution for Savings and the K of C Building or now pretty much on an island. And I wonder what the monument in front of the bank might have been- it actually looks like a cross. Notice too, how traffic hasn’t really increased much. But Dedham did follow through on one aspect of the plan that had been a top priority for many years- the construction of a new town hall. It’s too bad that the historic Dedham granite 1868 Memorial Hall had to be sacrificed to achieve that. More on that building to come on this Memorial Day weekend.

A “new” Frosty’s pic!

May 22, 2010

I came across this picture today in a book about building Rte. 128. The caption states that the road in the background is old Rte 128; the year is 1955. The dump track has just passed the large ice cream cone shaped sign for Frosty’s; the store is to the left of the sign. This confirms my thoughts that the 1963 ad from my earlier posting was for the grand re-opening, after the original Frosty’s had to be moved due to highway construction.

The Italian Kitchen

May 21, 2010

I don’t ever remember being inside this restaurant, but I know we would order take-out pizza from here when I was a kid. The Italian Kitchen opened in 1934, and this first ad is from a 1936 Transcript booklet published during the town’s 300th anniversary celebration. The second ad appeared in the Transcript in 1986. The two ads are strikingly similar considering they were printed 50 years apart.

Here’s a post card from the 1940’s, which is pretty much how I remember the place. The second pic shows the empty lot as it looks today, next to Gilbert’s package Store on the “Providence Pike.”