Happy Terquasquicentennial, Dedham!

Posted September 8, 2011 by Jim Parr
Categories: History/Mystery

According to Wikipedia, Terquasquicentennial is a word that means 375th anniversary. Maybe.
Whatever it’s called, all of Shiretown will be celebrating this Saturday at the Endicott Estate starting at noon. Check out the Facebook page and be sure to come on by!
http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=145732555508180
There will be historic trolley tours with a script written by yours truly! I will also be signing copies of my book and sharing fun and wacky stories, so be sure to drop by my tent. I hope to see lots of friends, old and new on Saturday, September 10 (which is a pretty important date in Dedham history- see my post of May 18, 2010 called “A Tragic Anniversary”).

An old Dedham barn…

Posted August 23, 2011 by Jim Parr
Categories: JP's Dedham, Lost Dedham

These three shots were taken in 1981 for a photography class I was taking at Bridgewater State College. At the time I took the photos, the brick building that stands on top of the hill was the S.M.A. Fathers’ Queen of Apostle Seminary. The barn once stood on the George Nickerson estate on Common St., on property now owned by Northeastern University. Nickerson was the brother of Albert Nickerson, who built the castle at his “Riverdale” estate, which has been home to Noble and Greenough since 1922.
The barn, which was red, stood behind the seminary. There was also a run-down log cabin in the woods of the Wilson Mountain Reservation.


The grainy quality of this picture was not my attempt at being artsy. The negatives were stored in my basement for years, and this one got stuck to its glassine envelope.


This is the artsy picture. Kind of Stephen King like…

1889 Dedham Directory Part 2

Posted August 16, 2011 by Jim Parr
Categories: History/Mystery, Lost Dedham

Reading through the 1889 Dedham Directory gives you a pretty good picture of life in Shiretown in the late 19th century. The population at the time was 6,641, including those living in West Dedham who would become residents of Westwood in 1897 when that town seceded. Dedham also had about twice the land area that it does now.

For a small town, it offered just about everything you needed for your home, your business, and your social life. All of the following products were produced in town in 1889: boots, cabinets, chocolate, carriages, cigars, dresses, harnesses, slippers, suspenders, soap, tools, watches, and whips. The directory lists 10 blacksmiths, 6 boarding houses, 5 hotels, 2 ice dealers, 17 grocers, 7 physicians and surgeons, 4 lawyers, 17 dressmakers and 1 dentist. Remarkably, this town of under 10,000 residents had 7 post offices! Almost all of these were located inside railroad depots or grocers.
The listing of residents includes occupations as well as addresses. In 1889, a great number of Dedhamites either worked in the mills or for the Old Colony Railroad.


Those are pretty big raisins! Walnut Hill was the name given to the area surrounding the intersection of High St. and Walnut St. in East Dedham.


Penniman Square was the name given to the intersection of Mt. Vernon St.and Auburn St. (Whiting Avenue)

1889 Dedham Directory

Posted August 6, 2011 by Jim Parr
Categories: History/Mystery, Lost Dedham

Here are a few ads from the 1889 Dedham Directory. The directory lists Dedham residents, businesses, town officers, and organizations. It also has a brief history of the town, and pages of these great ads.


Wardle’s is the oldest continuous business in Dedham. It opened in 1858 as B.F. Smith’s Apothecary, and was taken over by Harry L. Wardle in 1882.


Maybe the pianos are played by cows?


Talk about going out in style…


The Walley family still operates a business in Dedham, Walley Insurance on High Street. President Frank Walley III assures me that he doesn’t pay so much attention to interfering and overreaching anymore. At least not in his business.

Need a little “R and R?” Try jury duty…

Posted May 10, 2011 by Jim Parr
Categories: History/Mystery

The Millen Brothers/Abraham Faber murder/robbery trial was one of the most sensational criminal cases of the 1930’s, if not of the 20th century. The basic facts of the trial are related in my book and in shorter form in a post from last June entitled “An Execution in Charlestown.”

The trial of the three men accused of robbing a Needham bank and killing two policemen began in April, 1934, just a few months after the shocking crime. The jury was sequestered, and just as in the Sacco/Vanzetti trial the previous decade, they were lodged in the court house, sleeping on cots in one of the larger, unused court rooms. Their shower facilities were in the basement of the jail in which the accused were being held.

Perhaps the intensity of the trial testimony and the less than four-star accommodations prompted court officials to provide the men with a wide variety of leisure activities when the trial was not in session. These activities were recorded in some detail by Juror #11, foreman Ted Davis of Norwood, who had the “diary” privately printed after the trial was over. Along with the trip to Nauset Beach as described above and pictured below, other jury excursions and entertainments included:

* 3 Red Sox games and 1 Braves game
* A bus tour of the Mohawk Trail
* Taking in a polo match at the Dedham Polo Club
* Bowling, horseshoes, sing-alongs, long walks around Dedham
* Trips to Martha’s Vineyard, the Peabody Museum, Cohasset, Scituate and Plymouth

On June 9 the jury returned a verdict of guilty and, according to Davis’ diary “made for home as quickly as possible.” Jury Foreman Davis had an extra treat during his 2 month stint when he was allowed to see his new-born daughter in the hospital (accompanied by two Deputy Sheriffs) on May 29.

In the photographs below, Deputy Sheriff Norris Pinault (in white shirt) cavorts with jurors at Nauset Beach in Orleans. Thanks to Norris Shook, grandson of Deputy Pinault for providing me with the photos, the news article, and the diary kept by Ted Davis.

East Dedham Firehouse Tower…Gone With the Wind!

Posted May 5, 2011 by Jim Parr
Categories: Dedham Then and Now, History/Mystery, Lost Dedham

It was Hurricane Carol that took out the 80-foot bell tower, in dramatic and dangerous fashion on August 31, 1954. Lifted by a particularly strong gust, the tower tore loose from the building and sailed across the fire station, crashing into the house next door, where Mrs. Louise Guerrio was feeding her one year old son Joseph at the time. Miraculously, neither Mrs. Guerrio nor her son were hurt. A portion of the tower fell across Bussey St., crushing 3 cars and damaging the house at #219.

The steeple of the Old North Church and a WBZ radio tower were also toppled by the hurricane, which was more powerful and more devastating than the famous 1938 storm.

Here is a picture of the firehouse from the early twentieth century:

This is how I remember the firehouse looking when I was a kid:

Thanks to Firefighter Charlie Boncek for letting me use these images.

Where’d the tower go?

Posted May 3, 2011 by Jim Parr
Categories: ...all the old familiar places, Dedham Then and Now, History/Mystery

The firehouse on Bussey St. in East Dedham recently got a makeover, but even with its new siding it is clear that something seems to be missing on the right hand side. That something is the bell tower which can be seen in this drawing from a 1933 map of the town:

The question is… where’d the tower go?
FIND OUT LATER THIS WEEK!