Wellesley Historical Society

1907 High School - History Mystery, March 2017

March 15, 2017 - Question

Wellesley has utilized many buildings at various locations to house its high school students over the years.  The building shown above was the High School from 1907-1938.  Do you know where it was located? Hint: it was located on the site of one of Wellesley’s current schools. Return on March 30th for the answer!

March 30, 2017 - Answer

Shortly after building a high school at 324 Washington Street in 1893, Wellesley realized that it would need a bigger building to accommodate increasing enrollment.  A new Wellesley Senior High School building, shown above, was built in 1907 on Kingsbury Street. The next High School was built on Rice Street and opened in 1938. Time was not kind to the Kingsbury Street facility; it stood abandoned for years and was taken down after World War II to make way for the Junior High School, now called the Wellesley Middle School.

For more information about the Wellesley High School at 324 Washington, now known as the Phillips Park apartments, click here to see our History Mystery Blog from June 2015.

Kathleen Fahey, Curator and Alden Ludlow, Contract Archivist

Maugus Club - History Mystery, January 2017

January 17, 2017 - Question

If you lived in Wellesley in the first half of the twentieth century, this building was an important part of the Abbott Road streetscape. Originally the old Bemis Estate, this building was purchased and used by a Wellesley club for over 50 years before it burned down in 1953.  Does anybody know what club was housed in this elegant building? Hint: that club is still active today! Return on January 31st to learn more. 

January 31, 2017 - Answer

Established in 1892, the Maugus Club (pictured above) was a social, reading, and exercise club. Charter members purchased the old Bemis Estate at 40 Abbott Road in 1895, and completed renovations of the clubhouse in 1896. The original building was completely destroyed by a fire on the evening of April 12, 1953, with firefighters from five surrounding towns fighting the blaze for almost eight hours. Preparations for a new building for the Maugus Club started immediately, and the present building was completed on the same site in 1956. The Maugus Club is still active today and features badminton and squash courts. 

Alden Ludlow, Contract Archivist

Christmas Card History Mystery

Question - December 15, 2016

A quick look at this Victorian greeting card from our collection and you might assume that it was designed for a spring holiday or special occasion.  But take a closer look and you’ll see that it is actually a Christmas card!  Many Christmas cards from the 1880s in our collection feature a spring theme with various flowers.  If you want to find out more about these flower-inspired Christmas cards, return on Dec. 22!

Answer - December 22, 2016

Victorian Christmas cards often depicted nature and feature a variety of flowers that bloom from spring through early fall.  These examples from 1882-1883 feature spring-blooming flowers including violets (pictured above), sweet-pea, daffodils and lily of the valley (pictured below).  While this may seem an odd choice for the wintry season, it helped to remind residents living by candlelight or gas-lit fixtures that sunnier days were ahead.  The winter solstice takes place near Christmas and marks the shortest day and longest night of the year.  Each new day after the solstice brings a little more sunlight to people living with the cold, dark reality of winters without electric lighting and efficient heating. 

Flowers also held special meaning in the 19th century and were used to convey specific sentiments and feelings.  Kate Greenaway’s “Language of Flowers” was first published in 1884 and helped codify and standardize the symbolic meaning of flowers that had been in use for centuries. According to Greenaway, blue violets signify “faithfulness,” daffodils express “regards,” lily of the valley connote the “return of happiness,” and sweet pea indicates “delicate pleasures.” 

No matter how you decide to interpret these flowery Christmas cards, we wish you a very happy holiday season!

Kathleen Fahey, Curator

Christmas cards, 1882-1883, from the Aiken Family Collection at the Wellesley Historical Society.

Ether Day - History Mystery, October 2016


Question - October 15, 2016

Every October, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) celebrates Ether Day. On this day, a Wellesley resident is recognized as being the first person to publicly demonstrate the use of ether for anesthesia during surgery at MGH on October 16, 1846.  This person lived in the home pictured above, appropriately named "Etherton Cottage.” Do you know the name of this noted Wellesley resident?  Return on Oct. 28th for the answer!

Answer - October 28, 2016

The name of the Wellesley resident who lived at Etherton Cottage was Dr. William Thomas Green Morton.  Surprisingly, Dr. Morton was a dentist, not a medical doctor, when he demonstrated the use of anesthesia.  Dr. Morton manufactured artificial teeth and did so in an outbuilding on his property.  In fact, it was his patients’ discomfort while having teeth pulled that led to his interest in anesthesia.

Dr. Morton lived at Etherton Cottage with his wife and five children when Wellesley was still part of Needham.  The property had extensive grounds with barns and outbuildings.  Morton farmed the land and raised Jersey cows, geese, hens and ducks. When William Morton died in 1868 the property passed to his wife and children.  His family sold the property to H.H. Hunnewell in 1878.  Shortly after Wellesley was incorporated in 1881, Mr. Hunnewell gifted the land to the town to build a town hall and library.  H.H. Hunnewell had Etherton Cottage moved to a nearby flat section of land, aptly named Morton Field, where it stood for about 40 years before it was torn down.  

Wellesley Town Hall still stands on the property formerly occupied by Etherton Cottage.  If you are ever up for a game of hide and seek, see if you can find the stone marker pictured below.  It is located at Town Hall and reads, “Here lived Dr. W.T.G. Morton, He gave to the world the use of ether in surgery A.D. 1846.”

For more information on Morton and his role in the discovery of anesthesia, please click on this PBS article: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/the-painful-story-behind-modern-anesthesia/

Ellen Murphy, Volunteer Research Assistant




The Sharps' War - History Mystery, September 2016

The Wellesley Historical Society is delighted to collaborate on this month’s History Mystery with the Unitarian Universalist Society of Wellesley Hills.  This post is written by UU member and history buff, Marc Shechtman. Photo courtesy of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Wellesley Hills and shows the church c.1930

Question - September 14, 2016

In 2006, the Israeli Holocaust Memorial, Yad Vasehem, honored two Wellesley citizens as “Righteous Among the Nations,” an award granted to “honor non-Jews who risked their lives, liberty or position to save Jews during the Holocaust.” Of the nearly 25,000 documented heroes who have been honored since the award was established in 1963, only five Americans have been declared such heroes, and two of them are from Wellesley!  Do you know the story behind our true local heroes? Hint: watch the Ken Burns documentary about them, Defying the Nazis, on your local PBS station on September 20 and return on September 28 to find out the answer.

Answer - September 28, 2016

Waitstill and Martha Sharp were awarded the honor of “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. In 1939 and again in 1940, Waitstill Sharp, Minister of the Unitarian Society of Wellesley Hills, and his wife Martha travelled to occupied France, Portugal, and Czechoslovakia on a relief mission that wound up smuggling dozens of Jewish and non-Jewish dissidents and refugees to England and America.

Waitstill Sharp was called to the Unitarian Society of Wellesley Hills in 1936 where he and his wife brought their concerns for social justice and international peace. He had entered the ministry in 1933, eight years after graduating from Harvard Law School. Martha had been a social worker in Chicago where she worked with the poor at Hull House. Despite grave misgivings about leaving their children, 7-year-old Hastings and 2-year old Martha “without any parental supervision or befriending,” the children were looked after by family friends and parishioners who agreed to live in the parsonage on Maugus Road. The church continued to operate with an active lay ministry support team.

The couple separated in 1944 when Waitstill left the Unitarian Society of Wellesley Hills for a position in Cairo with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (UNRRA). Martha returned to Portugal to run the Lisbon office of the Unitarian Service Committee and helped organize Aliyah programs of Hadassah, the women's Zionist organization with which she maintained close ties, becoming an international spokesman for the group. Waitstill Sharp died in 1984; Martha Sharp in 1999.

Their heroic story is told in the Ken Burns documentary Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War (2016) and a companion book with the same name by Artemis Joukowsky, their grandson. The film will be shown on October 5, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Wellesley Hills, 309 Washington Street, Wellesley Hills, Mass. Light refreshments will begin at 6:15 P.M. Following the screening, there will be a panel discussion with Artemis Joukowsky III, co-director of the film and grandson of the Sharps; Tom Andrews, President and CEO of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), the organization co-founded by the Sharps; and Catherine Chvany, one of the children rescued by the Sharps. For more information about this event, please visithttp://uuwellesley.org/defying-the-nazis/. Registration is requested at cvear@uusc.org

To learn more, please visit:
• www.defyingthenazis.org
• www.pbs.org/about/blogs/news/defying-the-nazis-the-sharps-war-a-new-film-by-ken-burns-and-artemis-joukowsky-to-air-on-pbs-september-20
• www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/righteous/index.asp


Problem Rock - History Mystery, August 2016

What's the Problem with 'Problem Rock?'

August 15, 2016 - Question

Have you ever noticed this formation of stone at the intersection of Grove Street and Dover Road in Wellesley? At first glance, it appears to be an interesting geological formation, but a plaque at the site deems it “Problem Rock.” This begs the question – what is the problem with Problem Rock? Come back on August 31 to find out the answer!

August 31, 2016 - Answer

On a peaceful summer afternoon in Wellesley, there is hardly anything that seems problematic about the stoic rock rising out of the Dover Road brush.

However, to a geologist’s eye, the boulder may indicate more of a problem. Its name goes back as early as 1961 when local geologist Katharine Fowler-Billings calls the massive puddingstone “Problem Rock” in her pamphlet “The Geological Story of Wellesley.” A 1975 Townsman article asserts that geology students at Wellesley College were the first ones who named the rock so. 

The problem with Problem Rock, according to Fowler-Billings is that it is nearly impossible to tell whether the rock is an outcropping or a smashed pinnacle. An outcropping is simply exposed bedrock; however, a smashed pinnacle is a term seldom used in geology, and as Fowler-Billings explains, the rock could have been part of a larger rock ledge off which it then fell. 
While its classification as outcropping or smashed pinnacle still remains a mystery to geologists, there still is a fair amount geologists do know about the rock and its make-up. For starters, it is a Roxbury Conglomerate, also called puddingstone for the conglomeration of pebbles that stick out of the rock like plums in a Christmas pudding. Puddingstone formed 250 million years ago in the Permian Period by “torrential streams,” as Fowler-Billings described them, that rushed down from mountains in the east (where the ocean is now) and deposited pebbles of quartzite or granite.

Because of the pristine example of puddingstone that Problem Rock represents, and for the puzzle its origin poses, its preservation was a special point of interest for The Hills Garden Club, Conservation Council, and Conservation Commission. In 1974 the rock became part of the first ever property gift to the Wellesley Conservation Commission, a gift from Ruth Howe Tyler Smith and her husband Everett Ware Smith, who formerly owned and lived on the land. In the following August 1975, the Hills Garden Club installed a granite marker to commemorate its donation to the town.

Regardless of its geological history, the rock and its name have gained a new meaning for local residents due to the treacherous junction where it is located. The rock sits right where Dover Road forms a V-shape with Grove Street, creating a tricky driving situation and has been the site of many a car accident, or at least near misses. Apparently this aspect of the “problem” with the rock didn’t go unnoticed to the residents of 1970’s Wellesley; In October 1974, the town changed the short cut-through from Grove onto Dover into a one way street because, as the Townsman describes, the narrow, two-way cut through could be a dangerous scene for a “heedless, arrogant or intoxicated driver.” (Townsman, October 3, 1974)

Olivia Gieger, Wellesley High School, class of 2017

Special thanks to Olivia for volunteering at the Wellesley Historical Society this summer and assisting with historical research, including this History Mystery and our upcoming historic house tour. 

Wellesley Hills Market - History Mystery, July 2016

Question - July 15, 2016

The Wellesley Hills Market at 251 Washington Street was a fixture in Wellesley for over fifty years, opening in 1925 and closing in 1982. The image above shows the market in 1959, when a pound of coffee cost only 59 cents (see advertisement below). This building was originally a home and was constructed before the market moved in. Can you guess which century this house was built in?  Come back on July 30 to learn more about this historic property.

Answer - July 30, 2016

According to a report compiled by the Wellesley Historical Commission, the building which once housed the Wellesley Hills Market was built in 1809 by William and Polly Hoog.  The federal-style, hip-roof colonial was originally built as a home, but an 1856 map of Needham shows that the Ware family turned it into a store.  Joseph and Sylvia Dobis bought the building in 1925 and the Wellesley Hills Market was run as a family business until Joseph’s death in 1982. The building was redeveloped in 1988 and new stores have since occupied the first and second floors. Today it is home to Fitness Together, ID Salon and Yama Japanese Cuisine. It’s hard to believe it is the same 1809 building, but if you walk by you can still see the hip roof peeking out above the renovation.

Kathleen Fahey, Curator 


251 Washington St. c.1915, before it became the Wellesley Hills Market compared to today.  Photo on left by Roger Pelissier.


Wellesley Hills Market Ad from the February 5, 1959 Townsman, page3.



Harmonica Man - History Mystery, June 2016


Question - June 15, 2016

Have you ever noticed this bench in Wellesley Square near the Post Office? Who is Bernie Zetlan and why was he known as the “Harmonica Man?”  Return on June 30th for the answer!

Answer - June 30, 2016

Known as the "Harmonica Man," Bernard Zetlan was a local senior who became a fixture in Wellesley Square in the 1970s-80s. When the weather was warm, he was frequently seen walking around the square playing his harmonica, and also earned a reputation for his kindness to local merchants and police officers. Bernard was born in Lynn, and served in France and Germany during World War II. He spent over 30 years in Wellesley, where he worked for his brother at Al’s Delicatessen.  He lived in Wellesley Square at the Wellesley Hotel, which was located in the Taylor Block, at the corner of Washington Street and Grove Street. He died on August 30, 1985 at the age of 76.

Tycho McManus, Volunteer Summer Research Assistant

Odd Jobs - History Mystery, April 2016


Question - April 15, 2016

Solomon Flagg III (1804-1892) was a longtime Wellesley resident in the 19th century and was well-known for his outstanding record of community service in the town. At various times, he held the positions of Town Clerk and Justice of the Peace, and served on the school committee for over 25 years. However, he also filled the post of Thythingman, Sealer of Bread, and Hogreave. While they may not be town offices today, they were common in the 1800s. Return on April 29 to find out more about these odd jobs!

Answer - April 29, 2016

A Tythingman was expected to uphold the morals of a community. According to Isaac Goodwin in the 1834 edition of Town Officer; or, Laws of Massachusetts Relative to the Duties of Municipal Officers, they regularly inspected establishments selling liquor, and reported on “idle and disorderly persons, profane swearers, or cursers, sabbath-breakers” (Goodwin, 348). Tythingmen also monitored and discouraged unnecessary travel on Sunday.

George Clarke, in Epitaphs from Graveyards in Wellesley (1900), notes that the Sealer of Bread was also known as the Surveyor of Bread or the Weigher of Bread. The post existed from 1772 to 1867 in the town of West Needham, which was incorporated as Wellesley in 1881. The Sealer of Bread regulated the weight of a loaf of bread and ensured that customers were getting the amount they paid for.

The Hogreave, or Hogreeve, rounded up stray domestic pigs and impounded them in a town pen until they were claimed by their owners. Wandering pigs could cause a great amount of damage to farms and gardens by rooting up the soil. While the position of Hogreave is outlined in Goodwin’s 1829 edition of Town Officer, he notes in his 1834 edition that impounding laws have changed and “that important functionary, the Hogreeve, has no longer a place in town elections” (Goodwin, iii).

Kathleen Fahey, Curator


Garden Road - History Mystery, March 2016

Question - March 15, 2016

As we catch glimpses of the purple crocuses around Wellesley, we are reminded that spring is just around the corner. Residents will soon begin to tend gardens and the town will be awash in the beautiful blooms of the season. One road in Wellesley, Garden Road, is aptly named for the spring season.  Do you know how this street got its name and when it first appeared on maps in Wellesley?  Return on March 31 for the answer!

Answer - March 31, 2016

Finding the history of a street is a bit like playing a game of detective.  A clearer understanding of when Garden Road came to exist is best understood after consulting primary documents such as town maps, directories, and annual reports.

A map of Wellesley from 1897 does not show Garden Road, but the street does exist on a 1919 map of the town. Garden Road first appears in the 1902 Town of Wellesley Annual Report and is listed as taxable property of Albion Clapp.  Does the name Albion Clapp sound familiar?  He was a major figure in Wellesley’s residential development in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Albion R. Clapp moved to Wellesley in 1867 after purchasing 15 acres of farmland from Dr. Isaac Ayling. By 1872, Albion R. Clapp had amassed 111 acres of land and started to develop the Cliff Estates on the property he owned . One of these streets was Garden Road.

Albion B. Clapp, son of Albion R. Clapp, noted in a 1956 Townsman interview that "Garden Road was thus named because it went through what was formerly the Ayling gardens.  Garden Place was the site of Father's extensive nursery, where he grew around 10,000 feet of trees and shrubs. . . When he built a new street, he always planted trees along it."

 Written by Ellen Murphy, Volunteer Research Assistant

Snowstorms of February 1969 - History Mystery, February 2016

Question - February 15, 2016

Mother Nature has surprised us this month with two snowstorms in close succession. So far, the snow total for Wellesley this February is 13.5 inches, a far cry from the 50.9 inches that fell in February 2015! While we all remember digging out last year and during the Blizzard of 1978, there is one more February that produced record amounts of snow for the Town of Wellesley.  In fact, there were so many snow days that February in Wellesley that April vacation was canceled for students! Do you recall the year that this record February snowfall happened?  Return on February 29th for the answer.

Answer - February 29, 2016

Three successive snowstorms battered the town of Wellesley during the month of February, 1969. Snow piled up during a span of three weeks, producing a total of 61 inches! Familiar headaches accompanied each snowfall such as loss of power, closed retail stores, lack of train service and closing of schools.

Students may have enjoyed the days off, but the cancelations proved too many. In addition to having off President’s Day, elementary students had an additional seven snow days and junior and senior high students amassed six snow days that February. Due to all the snow, the school committee voted to take away a day off on Good Friday and cancel April vacation for Wellesley students. Much to the dismay of the children and possibly their parents, school was in session from Tuesday, April 22nd to Saturday, April 27th. Not only did students lose their vacation, they had to go to school on a Saturday!

Mail service also faced disruptions from the snow, but especially in Wellesley. On Monday, February 24, 1969, Wellesley was set to be the first community in the Boston area to have all mail carriers cover their routes by truck. Prior to this change, mail carriers collected mail for their routes at a storage box and could walk or drive assigned routes. With the new technique, each carrier would drive a truck and keep mail for the route stored in the truck.

Officials from Boston were in Wellesley to inspect the new mail delivery method, but the storm proved too powerful. The trucks could not maneuver in the roads. Mail carriers were forced to deliver mail on foot for a few more days, but the new truck delivery system was in operation within the week.

Ellen Murphy, Volunteer Research Assistant

Townsman, Feb. 27, 1969, page 1.



The Blue Dragon Tea Room - History Mystery, January 2016

January 15, 2016 - Question

Do these cold winter days make you want to sit down with a hot cup of tea?  If so, you are in good company! Wellesley has been home to many tea rooms over the years, from stand-alone tea shops, to restaurants, to on-campus college establishments. In the 1920s, Wellesley tea shops often had whimsical names including The Bird Cage, The Blue Dragon, The Green Bough and The Oriole. The picture above depicts one of these creatively named tea rooms located in Wellesley Square– can you guess which one it is? Return on January 29th for the answer.

January 29, 2016 - Answer

The business pictured above is The Blue Dragon Tea Room, which was located at 60 Central Street in Wellesley between 1922 and 1935. True to its name, the tea room featured blue tables and chairs along with white china dishes printed with blue dragons. An article from The Townsman in 1922 noted that The Blue Dragon could accommodate over 100 guests in two dining rooms on the first floor and provided two guest bedrooms on the second floor.  An ad for The Blue Dragon in the Wellesley Historical Society collection notes that it was open daily and served luncheon, dinner and a la carte in addition to tea.   Run by Miss Snow and Mrs. Daniels, two former Wellesley College heads of houses, The Blue Dragon hoped to be popular with “college guests, automobile parties and summer visitors” (The Townsman 4/4/1922, page 1). 

Tea rooms were immensely popular in the first quarter of the twentieth century and were primarily run by women for women patrons.  The Blue Dragon faced fierce competition during the tea room craze in the 1920s and a search of The Townsman from 1922 found 11 tea rooms in Wellesley, not including the numerous church, club, and private teas noted in the society pages.  With the economic downturn of the Great Depression, there were far fewer tea rooms in Wellesley and by 1935 the Wellesley Inn and the Blue Dragon were the only tea rooms mentioned in The Townsman. 

The Blue Dragon closed its doors in 1935; the building was torn down and a new business block with 3 stores was erected on the site in 1936. Shoppers could now choose from a variety of stores including Touraine’s women’s wear, a tailor and a hardware shop. Although the stores and shops on Central Street have changed over the years, some things haven’t changed that much – a Starbucks Coffee shop is now located approximately where The Blue Dragon Tea Room once offered a warm drink on a cold day!

Kathleen Fahey, Curator

Wellesley Square Train Station - History Mystery, December 2015

December 15, 2015 - Question

Does this railroad station look familiar? Wellesley was fortunate enough to have several stops on the Boston & Worcester line (later renamed the Boston & Albany line) which now serves as the MBTA commuter rail. Can you guess if this historical image is of the Wellesley Farms, Wellesley Hills, or Wellesley Square stop? Bonus points if you can explain why the Christmas greetings are written on the front of the postcard instead of the back! Return on Dec. 30 for the answer.

December 30, 2015 - Answer

The railroad station depicted above is the former Wellesley Square train station which was taken down in 1962 and replaced with a post office (see image below). Built in 1889, the structure looks similar to two former mainline train stations in town because they were all designed in the Romanesque Revival style by architect H.H. Richardson or his successors, Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge. 

The Boston and Albany Railroad (B&A) decided to standardize and beautify the train stations along this line between 1881-1894 and over thirty new stations were built. To design the buildings and landscape the surrounding area, the B&A commissioned two nationally-known local professionals, architect H.H. Richardson and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.  H.H. Richardson was directly involved with the Wellesley Hills station before his death in 1886, but the Wellesley Square and Wellesley Farms stations were completed by Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, the successors of Richardson’s architectural firm. Although unoccupied, the Farms station still stands and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places while the Wellesley Hills station has been altered and repurposed as a commercial building.  A fourth station, the Newton Lower Falls stop located in Wellesley, was also completed by Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge; this structure was on a branch line of the B&A and was demolished in the 1940s. 

Wondering why the postcard pictured above has a message on the front along with an image of the Wellesley Square train station? This postcard was printed c.1905 and cards produced before 1907 were not allowed to have messages on the back of the card; only the address and postage was permitted. To personalize the card and add a greeting, people often wrote brief messages on the front of the postcard.  The Universal Postal Congress, followed by the U.S. Congress, approved “divided back” postcards for use in 1907; the cards had a separate area marked for correspondence on the back, divided from the area designated for the address.  The front could feature illustrations or photographs. The ability to send a card with an image and ample room for correspondence greatly increased the popularity of postcards and ushered in an era known as the “Golden Age of Post Cards.”

Kathleen Fahey, Curator

The Wellesley Square train station was taken down in 1962 to make way for a new post office which was opened in 1964.

Upham Elementary School - History Mystery, Nov 2015


November 16, 2015 - Question

Upham Elementary School opened its doors to students on January 2, 1957. The school was dedicated in June 1957 and named in memory of the late Ernest F. Upham. Mr. Upham served as the head of the History Department at Wellesley High School and died on February 9, 1957, the same year the elementary school opened.
Prior to the school’s dedication to Ernest Upham, the school went by another name.  Do you know the original name of Upham School?  Return on November 30th for the answer!

November 30, 2015 - Answer

Before it was known as the Upham School, the elementary school went by the name of the Wynnewood Road School.  The name was most likely derived from its location, since the school was built at the end of Wynnewood Road in Wellesley.
Town of Wellesley Annual Reports from 1955 and 1956 refer to the “Wynnewood Road School” in accounting and building committee reports.   The school was designed by the architectural firm James H. Ritchie and Associates of Boston and opened with seven classrooms educating children aged kindergarten through fifth grade.  As listed in the 1956 Town of Wellesley Annual Reports, the cost to build the new school was $508,500.  Quite a bargain by today’s standards!

Ellen Murphy, Volunteer Research Assistant

 A newspaper article from 1957 featuring the Wynnewood School, later named the Upham School.

Town Lockup - History Mystery, September 2015


September 15, 2015 - Question

These jail cells were used in Wellesley in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and were known as the “lockup.”  Does anybody know where they were located?  Hint – they were not located at the police station.

Return on September 30th for the answer!

September 30, 2015 - Answer

The Town of Wellesley lockup pictured above was located in the basement of the town Hall and library building, built during 1881-1886.  Although they are no longer in use, if you go into the basement you can still see where the cells were located!

The town hall lockup was utilized until 1950 when a police station was built at 485 Washington Street.  Before the construction of this station, the police shared space with other town departments or occupied older, repurposed town buildings, none of which had jail cells.  Organized in 1893, the Wellesley Police Department (WPD) had its first office space in 1903, in the fire station built in 1899 on Worcester Street in Wellesley Hills.  The WPD then moved into the old fire station on Church Street in 1929 after a new fire station was built down the block on Central Street.  The current police station was built in 1995 on the same location as the 1950 building. 

Due to the lockup’s distance from the police station, the board of selectmen appointed a “Keeper of the Lockup” every year and this post was often filled by the janitor of the town hall.  According to a Townsman article from 1929, the Keeper of the Lockup was expected to “take care of the prisoner, to feed him, to make him comfortable, to call competent medical attention if necessary. . . Unfortunately the cells are not close to the present or future station, but that condition has not hindered the conscientious and efficient performance of the lockup-keeper's duties” (Townsman, Jan 11, 1929, page 1).  Two longtime town hall janitors and Keepers of the Lockup were Theodore Hatch, whose wife, Martha, was appointed “Matron of Lockup,” and Owen Comiskey.  After the construction of the new police station in 1950, complete with a lockup, the board of selectmen continued the tradition and appointed a Keeper of the Lockup each year.  However, they decided to appoint the chief of police, rather than the janitor of the town hall, as Keeper of the Lockup!

Kathleen Fahey, Curator

1927/1945 Atlas of Wellesley featuring the Town Hall.  Note the location of the Lockup in the central portion of the building


Mica Lane - History Mystery, July 2015


July 15, 2015 Question

Mica Lane is a narrow street located off of Washington Street in Wellesley Lower Falls.  Have you ever wondered how Mica Lane got its name? Return on July 30th to find out!

July 30, 2015 - Answer

In 1869, Wellesley resident Albion R. Clapp purchased a piece of land along the Charles River that also abutted the Lower Falls spur track and railroad station.  This location was perfect for manufacturing and Clapp partnered with Charles E. Billings in 1872 to create Billings, Clapp & Co. This successful company produced drugs and chemicals that were displayed at the 1876 Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia, PA. The plot of land that Billings, Clapp & Co. occupied also included a right of way so that the factory would be accessible to Washington Street. This right of way is now known as Mica Lane.  See image below. 

Mica Lane’s name was undoubtedly taken from one of the many businesses that flourished on this plot of land.  In 1902, the land and buildings were sold to the American Mica Corporation which manufactured electrical insulation made of mica, a mineral known for its insulating properties.  In 1920, the factory was purchased by the Rounds Chocolate Company, then by Dagget’s Chocolates in 1925.  One has to wonder why is wasn’t called Chocolate Lane!  

By 1942, Ferdinand & Co. was producing marine adhesives on this site for the U.S. government during WWII. Acumeter Laboratories purchased the building in 1952 and remodeled in 1960.  Today the brick factory building that was erected in 1898-9 by Billings, Clapp & Co. is still standing at the end of Mica Lane and was converted from industrial use in 1982 to accommodate business offices.

Kathleen Fahey, Curator

This 1919 atlas of Wellesley shows Mica Lane labeled at "Private Way" and extends from Washington St. to the Charles River.  American Mica Co. is visible on the lower left corner.  The railroad spur track is now a walking path located next to Waterstone at Wellesley. 

Phillips School - History Mystery, June 2015

Wellesley High School graduates, class of 1897, in front of Wellesley High School.

June 15, 2015 - Question

On June 5, Wellesley High School celebrated the graduation of over 300 students. Let’s hope this year’s graduates looked more excited than this group from the Wellesley High School class of 1897! The students are seated in front of Wellesley’s first dedicated high school, built in 1893. Only in use as a high school until 1907, this building still exists today and has been repurposed over the years. Can you guess which building this is and its current use? Bonus points if you can identify the principal seen in profile! Return on June 30th to find out the answer! 

June 30, 2015 - Answer

The Wellesley High School pictured above and below was the first building in Wellesley designed to be a high school and is located at 324 Washington Street, at the corner of Seaward Road.  Previous high school students had to share school buildings with younger grades and even utilized multipurpose buildings such as Maugus Hall and Waban Hall.  Built in 1893  and designed by Harwell and Richardson, this school was quickly outgrown.  A new high school was built in 1907 on Kingsbury Street and the old 1893 high school building became an intermediate school.   Another building was added behind the intermediate school in 1910  and the entire complex was named the Alice L. Phillips School in 1912  after a beloved local teacher.  The Phillips School was converted to a junior high in 1919  and was in use until 1952.  After the new junior high was opened in 1952 on Kingsbury Street, the former Phillips School buildings held town offices for a time.   Although the 1910 building was torn down, the 1893 building on Washington Street remains and is now an apartment complex for senior citizens known as Phillips Park. 
The gentleman in profile is Seldon L. Brown, longtime principal and teacher at Wellesley High School from 1886 to1916.   Well-liked by the students, he was affectionately known as “Pa” Brown.

Kathleen Fahey, Curator of the Wellesley Historical Society

Wellesley High School, 1893-1907, Intermediate Building, 1907-1912, renamed Phillips School in 1912.  Image dates from 1893-1907. 

Diehl's Stable - History Mystery, April 2015

April 14, 2015 - Question

The building above was located on Central Street in Wellesley, Massachusetts.  Does anyone know exactly where it was located and what it was used for?  Return on April 28th for the answer!

April 28, 2015 - Answer

Patrick O’Connell built the livery stable pictured above in 1885 and sold it to Frederick Diehl Jr. about 5 years later (Fred Diehl was the brother of William Diehl, founder of F. Diehl & Sons, another Wellesley business).  The stable was located on Central Street at the corner of Crest Rd and up to 40 horses were kept in Diehl’s stable, including a pair of horses that serviced the old Fire Station 1 on Church St.  The Wellesley Fire Department didn’t acquire its first motorized vehicle until 1912 so horses pulled the fire apparatus and were on call day and night at Diehl’s stable. (See “Wellesley’s First Motorized Fire Engine, History Mystery Sept. 2014)  According to the remembrances of a Wellesley resident, “at the sound of the fire alarm [the horses] . . . would be released from their stalls at Diehl’s stable; the pair raced by themselves across Central St. . . . to Church St. next to Hose 1 House; there they backed into the double shafts of the hose wagon to be harnessed and hitched up!” (The Townsman April 4, 1963, page 17).

With the rise of the automobile, the need for Diehl’s stable decreased and it was razed in 1926.  A local developer purchased the property and opened the Colonial Building in 1927 which housed local businesses such as The Townsman newspaper, Wellesley Motors and the Colonial Filling Station.  Today this area continues to thrive as a busy commercial area and includes businesses such as Faber’s Rug Co. and Juniper Restaurant.  A newer building was constructed in the area of the old gas station and now serves up a different kind of fuel at Peet’s Coffee and Tea.

Kathleen Fahey, Curator

Academy of the Assumption - History Mystery, March 2015

March 16, 2015 - Question

The buildings pictured above were once part of a religious school in Wellesley. The buildings on the right no longer exist, but the building on the left has been enlarged and is now part of a college campus in Wellesley. Can you guess which college this building belongs to and what religious organization it once served?  Return on March 31st to find out the answer!

March 31, 2015 - Answer

The Gothic building on the left is currently part of the Massachusetts Bay Community College but originally served as the administration building for the Academy of the Assumption. The Academy of the Assumption was founded in 1893 by the Mother Seton Sisters of Charity of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and operated as a religious school for almost 80 years. The academy started as a boarding school for girls and expanded over the years to include boys and day students. The school was located at the intersection of Route 9 and Oakland Street in Wellesley, and the image above depicts the school in about 1931 as viewed from Route 9.
The house with a turret pictured on the far right was built in the early 19th century by J. S. Bird and later owned by the Scudder and Hollis families. This house was used as the main building for the academy when it opened in 1893 and it was commonly referred to as the “Scudder mansion” by the school and townsfolk. An 1888 atlas at the Wellesley Historical Society shows that the estate purchased by the academy also included several houses, barns, and outbuildings that are not visible in this image. The Academy of the Assumption decided to expand the school by building Seton Hall in 1895; this three-story building is visible to the left of the Scudder mansion. The Gothic-style administration building on the far left of the image was built in 1921 and is the only building from the 1931 image that is still standing today. The academy made two significant additions that connected to the administration building in 1953 and 1965, but put the property up for sale in 1971 due to financial difficulties and closed in 1972. 
The town of Wellesley considered purchasing the Academy of the Assumption property but the idea was ultimately voted down by Town Meeting in 1971. The land and existing buildings were purchased by the state for about $5.4 million in October of 1973 and became the new home of Massachusetts Bay Community College in November of 1973.

Artist Elizabeth Huntington - History Mystery, February 2015

February 14, 2015 - Question

Recognize this wintry Wellesley scene? Painted by Wellesley artist Elizabeth Huntington (1913–2001) in 1942, this image shows a popular intersection in town. Do you know its location? Return on February 28th for the answer and to learn more about this Wellesley artist!

February 28, 2015 - Answer

This oil painting depicts Wellesley Square at the corner of Washington Street and Grove Street with the Shattuck Block, painted yellow, featured prominently in the background. The Shattuck Block has undergone two renovations since 1942 and now displays a modern façade and houses A. M. DePrisco jewelers. Huntington captured a faithful portrait of Wellesley Square in 1942, as contemporaneous photos show that Fanny Farmer, Wellesley Fruit Company, First National Stores, and Clement Drug were all located exactly as they appear in this painting.  
Elizabeth “Betty” Huntington moved to Wellesley at the age of five in 1918 with her parents, Raymond Huntington and Elizabeth H. T. Huntington, who was also an accomplished artist. As a child Huntington studied under Mary Brewster Hazelton, another prominent Wellesley artist, and later trained at the Boston Museum School. She worked primarily in watercolor, tempera, and oil and was well-known for her still lifes of flowers and local genre scenes like the one pictured here. Wellesley Square shows Huntington’s interest in the naïf, or naïve, style with its sense of bustling activity, flattened perspective, and bright, saturated colors. Huntington also favored winter scenes because she noted that “snow shows off things in silhouette so sharply, like a Japanese print.” Elizabeth Huntington had a prolific career and completed over 3,000 paintings; her work was exhibited in galleries and museums. The Wellesley Historical Society is pleased to have six paintings by Huntington in its collection and would welcome any donations from the community.

Kathleen Fahey, Curator of the Wellesley Historical Society

Diehl's - History Mystery, January 2015

January 13, 2015 - Question

As you try to keep warm this winter, consider how early residents of Wellesley kept their houses comfortable 100 years ago.  Many would have heated their homes with a coal-fired boiler or furnace.  Coal was an important source of energy at the turn of the twentieth century, not just for home heating, but also for industry and transportation.  The image above shows a coal yard at a long-lived Wellesley business – can you name this company or its location?  Come back on January 28th for the answer!

January 28, 2015 - Answer

William Diehl brought F. Diehl and Son to Wellesley in 1876 and it continued to be a family-run business on Linden Street for over 100 years.  The image shows the F. Diehl and Son coal yard c.1900, which was served by a spur track from the adjacent Boston & Albany railroad.  Commonly known as "Diehl's," the company  sold a variety of products including coal, wood, ice, hay, building and masonry supplies, horse supplies and animal feed.  In later years, Diehl's occupied a large footprint on both sides of Linden Street and added oil, propane, hardware, and gardening supplies.  Diehl's finally closed its doors in the early 2000's and new businesses began move in and revitalize the area, now known as Linden Square.

Christmas Cards - History Mystery, December 2014

December 13, 2014 - Question

The Christmas card pictured above is from the collection of the Wellesley Historical Society and dates from c. 1920–1930. It was donated by the Fleming family as part of a significant collection of greeting cards. Christmas cards usually bring to mind religious images such as the Nativity or more secular scenes like snowmen and snow-covered landscapes. So what is a sailing ship doing on a Christmas card? Return on December 24th to find out the answer and to view additional image of sailing ships on Christmas cards from our collection.

December 24, 2014

The image of a ship appears on several c. 1920-1930 Christmas cards in the collection of the Wellesley Historical Society.  The sailing ship has a long tradition of symbolizing the Christian faith on many different levels.  The mast and anchor of a ship form the shape of a cross; this was a useful symbol during times of Christian persecution when the devout needed to avoid more overt symbolism.  The ship could also represent the ark of Noah or symbolize the safety of the mother church on the stormy seas of life.  The sailing ship could also serve a nostalgic purpose in the 1920’s and 30’s as life, and methods of transportation, became more mechanized and advanced.  To see additional images of sailing ships on Christmas cards from our collection, see below!

Kathleen Fahey, Curator



Wellesley High Football Team - November History Mystery

November 17, 2014 - Question

November brings Thanksgiving and a reprise of the nation’s oldest high school football rivalry.  The annual Wellesley-Needham football game began in 1882 at Hunnewell Park, now known as Morton Field, with Wellesley emerging as the winner with a score of 4-0.

Football uniforms and equipment were scarce or nonexistent in the early days and the image above depicts the Wellesley High School team of 1901-1902 with an unusual piece of equipment hanging from the necks of several players (circled).  Any ideas on what this piece of football equipment was called and what part of the body it protected?  Check back on November 28th for the answer!

November 27, 2014

The football equipment used by the Wellesley football players is called a nose guard.  The strap seen around the player’s neck in the photo was actually tied around the top of the head, the hard shield was placed over the nose and the player further secured the nose guard by placing a molded bite plate (found on the back) between their teeth.  Three small holes are also visible at the bottom of the nose guard to help players to breathe while wearing this equipment!  While the nose guard may have spared some players injury, it did not give the Wellesley players an advantage on the field; these Wellesley players tied with Needham in 1901, with a score of 0 - 0.

Kathleen Fahey, Curator


Halloween History Mystery - October 2014

October 14, 2014 - Question

On the Halloween evening of October 31, 1900 the bell of the Wellesley Congregational Church, also known as the Village Church, began to toll without a soul in sight!  Deacons, policemen and residents rushed to the scene but found the church in darkness and no one pulling the rope to the bell; however, the bell continued to toll through the evening!  Any ideas on how this spooky mystery was solved?  Return on Oct. 31st to learn the answer to this Halloween History Mystery! 

October 31, 2014 - Answer

Walter Lovewell admitted to this ingenious prank 50 years later to the staff of the Wellesley Townsman.  According to a resulting article, "Lovewell, . . . together with Jack Rothery and Wee Stanwood, had stretched a thin piano wire from the clapper of the bell to the house in which the Stanwoods lived, on the present site of the Morton Block, and, sitting in an upstairs room, the boys had pulled on the invisible piano wire at regular intervals to sound the bell and confuse the townspeople" (50 Year Old Mystery is Finally Solved, Townsman, Oct. 19th, 1950).  The Wellesley Village Church is located in the heart of Wellesley Square at the corner of Washington and Central Street and the boys had a short walk across the street to Wee Stanwood's house, located at the corner of Washington and Grove St.  As the Townsman article mentions, this area is now the Morton Block which houses Anderson's Jewelers and other retail stores. 

Don't recognize the image of the Wellesley Congregational Church pictured
above?  This wooden building was built in 1872 and destroyed by fire in 1916.  The brick building you see today is actually the forth edifice of the Wellesley Congregational Church, commonly known as the Village Church, and was built c.1918-1923.  Two earlier structures were built in 1774-1798 and 1835.

Kathleen Fahey, Curator

Wellesley's First Fire Engine - History Mystery, Sept. 2014

Sept. 14, 2014 - Question

These Wellesley fire men are pictured in front of the old Church Street Station, c.1912.  They are proudly posing in Wellesley's first motorized fire engine.  Even though the picture is in black & white, you probably envision the fire engine painted a classic red, but according to contemporary Townsman newspaper articles it was painted a different color!  Any ideas on what color Wellesley's first motorized fire engine was painted? 

Sept. 29, 2014 - Answer

Wellesley's first motorized fire apparatus was painted white!  The town appropriated $600 in March 1912 and the Seagrave auto was delivered on August 12, 1912.  This was a welcome addition to the town's horse-drawn apparatus and the Townsman reported that "some of the residents of the town had an opportunity of seeing the new combination fire auto in operation.  The coloring of white in place of the usual glaring red of the fire autos of neighboring towns gives a very pleasing effect. The entire force availed themselves of a chance to ride on its first try-out.” (Townsman Aug 16, 1912 p.6)  Auto fire engines were becoming more common after 1910 and Wellesley was among many towns in Massachusetts to purchase a motorized fire truck in 1912.

Kathleen Fahey, Curator

North 40 / Blossom St. - History Mystery, August 2014

August 14, 2014 - Question

This image is from an 1897 Wellesley atlas found in our Maps & Plans Collection.  Note the triangular section of land at the corner of Central St. and Blossom St.  Can anyone guess what this controversial plot of land is called today?  Extra credit if you know what name Blossom St. is known by today!  Check back on August 28th for the answer.

August 28, 2014 - Answer

The triangular section of land at the corner of Central St. and Blossom St. is currently referred to as the “North 40.” The plot is roughly 40 acres, owned by Wellesley College, and is located adjacent to the main campus along Central St./Rt.135.  Although currently unused by the College, it contains community gardens and walking trails that are available to the public. The property has become the subject of much contention in town due to Wellesley College’s current desire to sell the land.

Weston Rd. was known in the late 1800's and early 1900's as Blossom St. as you can see in the 1897 atlas image pictured above. Charles H. Mansfield, a former Blossom St. resident and Wellesley postmaster, reminisced in a Feb. 28, 1908 letter to the Townsman about how Weston Rd. received its alternate name:  
"There is a little story in connection with the way in which the street came to be called Blossom street.  My mother had quite a large flower garden which was her delight, and one morning a signboard, 'Blossom street,' was found to have been placed just below our house in the night time by some one,  who was never known, and the street was called Blossom street from that time."

Morse's Pond Ice House - History Mystery, July 2014

July 14, 2014 - Question

The above picture shows past generations enjoying a summer day at the beach on Morse's Pond. The land was purchased by the town in 1931 and opened as a beach in 1935. Does anyone know what purpose the pond served before it was the popular town landmark it is today?  Check back on July 28th for the answer!

July 28, 2014 - Answer

Before being designated as a public beach, Morse’s Pond was used as a location for ice harvesting in the winter. The pond was owned by the Russell Ice Company in 1888, and then by the Boston Ice Company in 1902. Ice house workers carved blocks of ice out of the pond and loaded them onto a large conveyor belt which brought them to the warehouse atop the pond’s bank (pictured below). Ice was stored in the warehouse through the summer, and it was loaded nightly onto rail cars as needed.The Boston Ice Company remained a profitable business for about 20 years, and at its peak in 1923, the ice house was assessed by the town at over $250,000. However, with the advent of refrigeration and the impending Depression, the Boston Ice Company quickly declined in value and eventually closed. In 1931, the land was bought by the town for only $3,000, and the initiative to convert it to a public beach began.

Convalescent Home for Children - History Mystery, June 2014

June 14, 2014 Question

Any idea where these children are headed in Wellesley, or what they have in common?

June 28, 2014 Answer

These children are traveling to The Convalescent Home for Children, a Wellesley institution that provided education, religious instruction and recreation for patients during their convalescence. Parents' visiting hours were between 2 and 4 p.m. on Saturdays! The Home was established in 1869 by Boston Children's Hospital in a small house in Wellesley and later moved to Forest Street near the Needham border, where it operated until 1959.  At its peak, the Home treated more than 250 sick children per year.  The former building is now Forest Hall, a residential building for Babson College.

Water Trough - History Mystery, May 2014

May 14, 2014 - Question

This image depicts the former Elm Park Hotel, c.1903-1908 at the intersection of Washington Street and Worcester Road in Wellesley Hills.  This triangular plot of land is now Elm Park and home to the Isaac Sprague Memorial Tower.  Note the ornate, cast-iron object that is prominently pictured in the center foreground of this photograph; any ideas on what this is? 

Come back and find the answer on May 28th!  Or attend our lecture entitled "Wellesley Then and Now" by Curator Kathleen Fahey at the Wellesley Public Library on Thursday, May 15th at 7PM.  This lecture is free and open to the public.  You'll learn about this object and much more about Wellesley's history!

May 28, 2014 Answer

The ornate, cast-iron object is a water trough for horses.  Water troughs were a public necessity to keep horses and carriages running efficiently before automobiles came to town.  There were at least three public water troughs in Wellesley, a granite trough in Wellesley Square and two identical cast-iron troughs in the Hills and Lower Falls. The town appropriated funds to keep the troughs full of water and continued to keep the troughs in operation after automobiles were more prevalent.  

In 1918 a series of Wellesley Townsman articles and letters to the editors debated whether or not to remove the troughs as some believed it was causing the spread of disease among horses.  Ultimately, it was generally agreed that the troughs did not spread disease and that “here in Wellesley if in no other place our patient, hard working horses can drink and be refreshed" (TM 3/29/1918).  It is unclear when all of the troughs were removed, but photographs and postcards in our collection indicate that the trough pictured above was removed before 1929 and replaced by a drinking fountain for residents.

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church - History Mystery, April 2014

April 15, 2014 - Question

In anticipation of Easter, here's a look back at one of Wellesley's oldest churches.  It's changed a great deal over the years!  Any guesses as to which it is?  Come back for the answer on April 29th.

April 29, 2014 - Answer

This is St. Andrews Episcopal Church circa 1894. The image was likely taken not long after the church was built. St Andrews has since enlarged and expanded several times, giving rise to the building we are familiar with today.

Did you notice the blue hue of this picture? It is actually a cyanotype, a photographic printing process introduced in 1842 that produces a cyan-blue print. Cyanotypes, popular well into the 20th century, were frequently used for copying architectural plans.

Ice Sculpture - History Mystery, March 2014

March 14, 2014 Question

As we slog our way through these closing weeks of winter, here's a fun reminder of the joyful side of snow. Do you recognize this Wellesley resident and her magnificent sculpture?  Look for the answer on March 26th.

March 26, 2014 Answer

This 1978 photograph shows artist Isabella Livingston (1919-1993) and her towering T. Rex ice sculpture in front of her Benvenue Street home.  Livingston, born in Wellesley and a resident much of her life, was famous for her spectacular annual ice sculptures, which included a dragon, a walrus and a unicorn.  Each 10 to 12 foot sculpture was modeled from scale drawings and required months of planning.

Fells School - History Mystery, February 2014

February 14, 2013 Question

Does this building look familiar?  Not only does it still stand today, but it's very much in use, as busy as ever. While the surroundings have clearly changed, you may recognize its distinctive shape and small size.  (Hint: Book and history lovers recently came to this beloved building's rescue.)"

February 28, 2013 Answer

This circa 1900 photograph shows what was then the Unionville School and is now the Fells Branch Library, located at 308 Weston Road.  The oldest public building in Wellesley, it has a proud history.  Originally named the Northwest School (1858-1876), it was renamed the Unionville School (1876-1907) and then became the Fells School (1903-1923).  In 1923 the current Hardy School was built to much fanfare, and when the children moved across the street, the little schoolhouse was converted to the branch library that we know today.

Linden Street Delicatessen - History Mystery, January 2014

Welcome to the Wellesley Historical Society's first History Mystery. This will be an ongoing series in which we pose an open-ended question related to our community's storied past. How does your local knowledge measure up?  For those who are stumped, answers will be revealed in two weeks.

Let the mysteries begin!

January 9, 2014  Question

Do you remember this man and the famous fare he served? Do you know which current local hotspot is this locale's successor? Look for the answer in two weeks!

January 23, 2014  Answer

If this picture brought to mind mozzarella and prosciutto and hot italian subs, then you were RIGHT!  This circa 1963 photograph shows Nino DiPirro, owner of the Linden Street Delicatessen, fondly known at the time as "Nino's."  The deli, just ten stools large, was as much of a town fixture then as it is now.  Originally opened in 1933 by the DiPirro family, the deli was taken over in 1979 by the LeBrun family, which still stands at the helm and keeps Wellesley residents well fed today.

Photo of the Linden Street Delicatessen, c. 1963 by Ulrike Welsch, from the archives of the Wellesley Historical Society