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

41. the George and Sarah Hassam House (837 Great Plain Avenue)

Like the Holmes House (Site #40), the Hassam House was built aound 1895, during the residential expansion of the Great Plain in the late 19th century.

When the railroad came to Needham in 1853, it ran though the sparsely-populated Great Plain, bypassing the town center at Nehoiden St. and Central Ave. The ease of travel and freight transport that resulted quickly drew economic and residential activity into the Great Plain and away from the old center. The Great Plain rapidly became valuable as residential property and between 1860 and 1900 there was a boom in residential construction.

The Hassam house was built by the Holmes Brothers as part of their “Oakland Heights” development. They attracted buyers to Needham by highlighting the town’s “Constant Improvements, Electric Railways, Electric Lights, Pure Air and Town Water.” Purchasers were assured that each house would retain its value because no house within Oakland Heights “shall cost less than $3500 or be located within 50 feet of Great Plain Avenue,” and because “Proper Restriction Insures Good Neighbors.”

The Hassams purchased the house as its first owners in 1903. George Hassam owned a repair garage on Highland Avenue. In 1921 he testified in the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti about car number plates that were stolen from his garage and used on the getaway car during the Braintree robbery.

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