Needham History Center & Museum Needham History Center & Museum, Needham Massachusetts 02492

19. Four Victorian Houses (1167 – 1197 Great Plain Avenue)

The four houses, shown on the Birds-Eye Map of Needham, 1887

  • 1167 Great Plain Avenue, the Edward Proctor House, 1875
  • 1175 Great Plain Avenue, the Dr. Albert Kingsbury House, 1873
  • 1189 Great Plain Avenue, the Peady Mills House, 1875
  • 1197 Great Plain Avenue, the Timothy Otis Fuller House, 1875

These beautiful houses signify the start of Needham’s transformation from a farming town to a residential suburb. Before 1850, most residents were farmers or craftspeople, or small merchants whose businesses catered to a largely farming population. The most common house style was the flat-fronted center-entry colonial (such as the houses of Amos Fuller, Site  #14 and Luther Morse, Site #13) – a style that remained unchanged in town for more than a century.

When the train came in 1853, the new railroad line was denied permission to connect with the old town center on Central Avenue, so it ran to the sparsely-occupied Great Plain instead. By 1854, within one year, speculators had bought up Great Plain land and divided it into house lots. Easy access to Boston and more distant towns not only provided new markets for Needham produce, but also brought in new residents, ideas and fashions. A rising class of merchants and professionals who were not tied to the farming economy began to build in the Great Plain to be nearer the railway. Within the next 20 years, numerous elegant residences in the more “modern” Victorian styles were built on the roads that radiated out from the station – especially Maple Street, Great Plain Avenue and Dedham Avenue – as the Great Plain became the new focus of economic and community activity.

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