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

The Gazette – May/June 2013


    The Gazette – May/June 2013

    In This Issue…

    • Ye Olde Editor has Rocks in his Head
    • Join our new History Book Group!
    • Report of the 2103 Annual Meeting
    • The 2013 Annual Fund Drive

    Hiftorically Speaking



    Stone River, Andy Goldsworthy, 2002

    “A stone is ingrained with geological and historical memories.” – Andy Goldsworthy, Scottish sculptor


    Since leaving Needham and settling in Northfield, Massachusetts, (where I am now a member of the Northfield Historical Commission) – and with the coming of  Spring weather – I plan to begin my wanderings through the forests of Western New England, just as I once did some fifty years ago in the woods around Needham.  I fondly remember roving through our Town’s forests and Ridge Hill Reservation and my fascination with the boulders, stone heaps, rocks, quarries, and remnants of stone walls that so frequently crossed my path through the woods. I usually walked with my eyes on the ground in hopes of finding an Indian arrowhead or stone tool…like those in the wonderful collection to be found in our Needham Historical Society and made by the Indians who trod the forests that once covered Needham.  In my earlier years, I became a rock-climber and a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club because of my fascination with New England’s stone walls, caves, balancing stones, chambers, and megaliths. My usual destination in those days was the Quincy Quarries, where I learned to climb the rock walls of New England.

    Despite the appeal of hugging a rock face, I never lost my fascination for the large boulders, stone structures, walls, and rock piles I encountered in the woods almost everywhere I went. As I walked along the trails through the woods to yet another climbing-cliff, I couldn’t help but notice the jumbles of rocks everywhere, and I wondered about their origins. I soon came to learn that far from being a haphazard jumble there was history behind virtually every stone and rock pile I encountered. Parenthetically, there are all sorts of theories as to their origins – excepting the stone walls – especially that of the stone shelters and balancing rocks … including prehistoric men, Irish monks, and Viking tourists.  [But never to Native Americans or European colonists – why is that?–Gloria]  I recommend a trip to Mystery Hill in North Salem, NH and then you decide for yourself “who did it?”

    When the first settlers, who were mostly farmers, arrived in Dedham and Needham (and Northfield and New England in general), they found a farmer’s dream – a land that consisted of the richest and darkest humus created by thousands of years of falling and decaying trees and other vegetation, plus thousands upon thousands of old, huge trees. These colonists set to work removing the trees and tilling the land – but their plows and New England’s harsh winters almost immediately exposed the rocks underneath, requiring their removal and assignment to uses other than filling holes in the soil. These uses included not only stone walls to mark borders, but also to define lanes to guide livestock, create cold-rooms for storing foodstuffs, make foundations for homes, or even act as monuments – whether to mark graves or special sites worthy of spiritual or historic remembrance.

    Undoubtedly, you are familiar with the size and shape of the majority of New England’s rocks, so it must be obvious that it took both strength and great effort to lift and place most of them, whether in walls or roofs, or doorsteps.

    Most New England stone walls were built in the years between 1750–1850. It has been estimated that once there were more than 250,000 miles of stone walls in the northeast, with most in New England. And about half of these still remain, although not as finished as they once were, because many have lost a few rocks over the centuries. The remains of an old stone wall continues to serve a purpose by stabilizing the surrounding soils and sheltering all manner of wild creatures. The next time you’re traveling through the back roads of Norfolk County – or almost everywhere in New England – be on the lookout for large boulders and heaps of stone or remnants of stone walls. You could be looking at America’s ancient history.

        — Bob Hall, Ye Olde Editor



    Cave at Mystery Hill (“America’s Stonehenge”), Salem, NH


    Join our History Book Group!

    Jan Drake and Susan Anderson have organized a Needham Historical Society Book Group. The Group will have its first meeting on Tuesday, September 24, at 10 a.m. at the Historical Society. All who enjoy reading books based on history are welcome!

    Our first book is  The Whistling Season  by Ivan Doig. At this first meeting we will also choose selections for the upcoming months from recommendations by those present. You are invited to bring one or two suggestions for future books. Criteria for future reads are any work that is based on history and is available in paperback and/or e-reader.

    Come join us on September 24th to discuss the Ivan Doig book and help set our reading agenda for future reads!


    Report on the 2013 Annual Meeting

    The Needham Historical Society’s 98th Annual Meeting took place on May 9th at the Needham Golf Club. 72 Members and guests attended. The guest speaker was local author/essayist Carlo Rotella, who spoke about “Philip the Fossil vs Good Will Hunting: History and Fantasy in the Massachusetts Movie Boom.”

    Directors Chaim (Mike) Rosenberg, Steve Theall, and Joan Wasserman, and Trustee Michael Nathanson left the Board. New additions to the Board are Director Kathy D’Addesio and Trustee Paul Tillotson.

    This was a year of growth. Our new website and email are helping us get the word out to a wider audience. We are building a lively nation-wide community of Needhamites Past and Present through our Facebook page. The History Walk was expanded to include a Needham Heights loop. And when Chocolate and Champagne Went Country, twice as many people joined us for the party! We are looking forward to some new community partnerships, including projects with Own Your Piece/Peace, Olin College, and North Hill.


    Report of the Treasurer – David Drake, Treasurer

    The Treasurer reports that for FY 2012, annual income totaled $88,851. Income was derived from membership dues, the Annual Fund Drive, fundraising events, rent for use of the facility, general contributions, sponsorship donations, gift and book sales, grants, and a portion of the annual income from the endowment fund.

    Annual expenses for FY 2012 totaled $80,983. Primary expenses were for administration, member-related activities, utilities, maintenance and insurance of the facility at 1147 Central Avenue, and the salary of the Executive Director.


    Report of the Nominating Committee -by Alison Borrelli, Nominating Committee Chair

    The following slate of Officers and Directors was elected at the Annual meeting:

    Officers, 2013 – 2014 – Susan Welby, President; Alison Borrelli, Vice President; David Drake, Treasurer; Marcy Busch, Secretary; Mark Gluesing, Imm. Past President; Polly Attridge, Archivist (2013-2015).

    Directors, 2011-2014 – Connie Barr, Carol Boulris, Edward de Lemos, Maryruth Perras, Steven Sauter.

    Directors, 2012-2015 Susan Duncan, Robert Heald,  Deborah Jacob,  James Mahoney, Gina McClellan, Sally Toran.

    Directors, 2013-2016 – Kathy D’Addesio, Rick Davis, Claire Fusaro, Moe Handel, Michael Niden, Greg Petrini.

    Trustees (term ends) – Mark Whalen (2014), Thomas Green (2015), Paul Tillotson (2016).


    Guest Speaker, Carlo Rotella

    Carlo Rotella is Director of the American Studies Program, Professor of English, and Director of the Lowell Humanities Series at Boston College. His books include Playing in Time: Essays, Profiles, and Other True Stories, Cut Time: An Education at the Fights, and Good With Their Hands: Boxers, Bluesmen, and Other Characters from the Rust Belt. He has held a Guggenheim Fellowship and received the Whiting Writers Award, the L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award, The American Scholar’s prizes for Best Essay and Best Work by a Younger Writer, and U.S. Speaker and Specialist Grants from the State Department to lecture in China and Bosnia. He writes for the NY Times Magazine, and is a columnist for the Boston Globe and a commentator on WGBH. His work has also appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, American Quarterly, The American Scholar, The Believer, and The Best American Essays.


    President’s Remarks – Susan Welby

    Good Evening everyone and thank you all for joining us for the Needham Historical Society’s Annual Meeting. I would like to acknowledge a few special attendees here tonight: Two members of the Board of Selectmen:  Moe Handel and Matt Borrelli; and three members of the Needham School Committee, Connie Barr, Michael Greis, and Kim Marie Nichols.

    This year, like so many in the past, we have been extremely busy at the Society. School House Days, programs and exhibits, as well as facility rentals have generated a lot of foot traffic through our doors. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the phrase “Wow! This place is really cool I had no idea you had so much to offer here.”

    As a Society we strive to be an educational resource to the citizens of Needham and we are committed to preserving and sharing Needham’s unique legacy. To do this we require a lot of hard work and dedication from a lot of people. The society is blessed to have a very capable and hard working Executive Director, Gloria Greis, as well as a dedicated Board of Directors and Executive Committee.

    The Society is also very lucky to have so many that give so much of their time and money to help us achieve our goal. We depend on the sponsorship of very generous businesses in town, like The Needham Bank and Provider Insurance, and they do not disappoint. We also depend upon the many wonderful people who are members and renew their memberships each year.

    Events are also very important to the Society because they help to make the society more visible to the general public. This year our Chocolate and Champagne Party went Country and it proved to be quite the night! I want to thank Gina McClellan and Marcy Busch who showed true leadership by pulling together a large number of hardworking and dedicated people to make the night a really memorable event.

    Another event that generates a lot of recognition for the Society is Needham’s Walk Through History held in the Fall. This past year we added a new Hub in Needham Heights. The Walk allows people to explore Needham’s history by visiting over 40 landmarks highlighted on a map that directs them to descriptive placards and to docents at various hubs to hear about historical events and places. Without the hard work and determination of Mark Gluesing, this event would not be possible.

    Getting the word out to people about the Society and what we do requires a tremendous amount of publicity in a variety of ways and can pose a challenge. But with a lot of creativity and determination by our own Alison Borrelli, we were able to increase our exposure through Social Media sites. Alison has worked closely with Gloria over the past several months to determine ways to improve how we advertise the Society. Both Gloria and Alison have proven to be a great team, and the number of likes on Facebook and other sites increases by the day.

    In a few minutes I will ask Alison Borrelli to present the Report of the Nominating Committee and ask for a vote on the slate of new Board Members and Trustees, but before I do that, there are a few people who have been a part of our Board of Directors and Trustees who will not be continuing in these roles next year, and I would like to recognize them and thank them for their service to the Society.

    Michael Nathanson – served both as a Board Member and a Trustee. In addition to his financial expertise, Michael was the one who first proposed the idea of a Walk Through History. He felt that by giving people an opportunity to learn about historic places and events in town by actually visiting the various locations to read write-ups and see pictures it would increase the Society’s exposure in the Community and help us to achieve our mission. The feedback from participants in the walk has proven that Michael’s idea was a good one.

    Chaim “Mike” Rosenberg – served on the Board of Directors. Mike contributed as a Historian and has presented a variety of programs about Needham’s History for the Society. He also teamed up with Gloria to write a book about the Knitters of Needham, which is for sale at the Society.

    Steve Theall – served on the Board of Directors. Steve contributed in a variety of ways with his expertise in Education as well as bringing his wealth of management expertise to the Society. He helped to identify people for the Board with the variety of skills necessary to help the Society achieve its Mission. He also helped us move our Annual Dinner venue from the Sheraton to here at The Golf Club, a move we will be forever grateful for.

    Joan Wasserman – served on the Board of Directors. Joan served on a variety of committees and was a tireless worker in each capacity she served. She found out that her employer would donate a certain sum of money to organizations that she volunteered for depending upon hours and level of service. She always tried to maximize her involvement so that we got the most from her employers. Most of you will remember Joan as the one who manned the Chocolate Fountain at the Chocolate and Champagne events held at the Society.

    We all appreciate the many years of service that each of these individuals provided to the Society and we wish them well in their new endeavors. Thank you Michael, Mike, Steve and Joan.


    Executive Director’s Remarks – Gloria Greis

    Looking back at my comments from previous years, I notice that every other year I tell you about new projects and how busy we were. And in the between years, I tell you about a quiet year spent consolidating our gains. This was a between year. Not that there wasn’t plenty of activity – but it was dedicated to cultivation and improvement. We basically mulched around the roots and pruned the twigs, and enjoyed the harvest.

    Last year, we launched a redesigned website, and (thanks to our Social Media Queen, VP Alison Borrelli), a Constant Contact email account, and a Facebook page. As a result, this year, we have a greatly expanded retail income, a mailing list that extends beyond our membership, and 460 Facebook friends. And now if we could get them all to repost everything to everyone, that would be a combined network of 124,000 people! We even have some Pins.

    Last year, we co-produced a new movie (Big Little Town) and a new book (The Knitters of Needham). We beefed up our Heirloom Shop, and added a new Pansy ornament to our collection. This year, helped by online sales, our retail income is on a pace to double last year’s.

    We shook up our History Walk a little, adding a Needham Heights loop and some online content. We shook up the Chocolate Party a lot – moving it to the Town Hall, and shifting away from Champagne to beer, BBQ and live music – and doubled our attendance.


    Proposed Own Your Peace sculpture, Ted Clausen

    But I think the project that most inspired me this year, is actually one that does not even belong to us. I am referring to the public sculpture being sponsored by Own Your Peace. The panels, as you see, will be covered with words – real words that originated in this community. The words are intended to engage the viewer, and to convey the sense of hope, perspective, and community that knit us together, especially in times of stress. Most of the quotes will be modern, taken from students and adults in town. Some, however, will come from our history, and that’s where we come in.

    I had the great pleasure of meeting with Ted Clausen, the sculptor who is designing this piece, and the very impressive high school students who work on the project with him. They asked me to provide texts from Needham’s history that would be relevant to the themes of hope, commitment, and community. Together we have been going over documents – sermons, letters, memoirs – that reflect the town’s response to its challenges, from epidemic to warfare, and its ongoing definition of communal responsibility.

    In 1811, the Revered Stephen Palmer preached his great Century Sermon, at the close of the town’s first 100 years. He used as his text Deuteronomy 32:7 – “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.” Our past and our future run along an unbroken line. To know where we are going, Palmer is saying, we must know where we’ve been.

    Including historical words as part of the sculpture demonstrates that we’ve all, at one time or another, been to the same places. So we’re not on our own if we need help going forward.

    Why do I love this? Because projects like this are exactly what we are here for. When the Society redesigned its mission and plan in 2001, at the top of the to-do list was to take our resources and our knowledge outside of our house, and to make an appreciation of our history a part of the current life of our community. If we are just here for a few local history buffs, then we are neglecting our larger mission, and ignoring the reason that we preserve all this stuff in the first place.

    Like Stephen Palmer, Ted and his students, and we, know that words have power. Words that we have kept, and are compelled to share. Preserved on our fragile bits of paper, and centuries old, they still have something to say to us.

    Ask thy elders, and they will tell thee.


    We’re All In This Together!

    The 2013 Annual Fund Appeal

    Needham is justly proud of its strong sense of community – and thanks to your support, the Needham Historical Society can do its part. So whenever we can, we offer you our programs at no charge, so everyone can join in –

    • Needham’s Walk through History,
    • the 1850s Schoolhouse Day,
    • exhibits, lectures, workshops, films, research
    • partnerships with community groups

    It is your outstanding generosity and support that makes all these activities possible. We receive no funding from the town or the state – we rely ENTIRELY on tax-deductible donations from our members and friends. Your support of the Annual Appeal is a major source of our activity and strength.

    You can donate ONLINE or by mail. So please, stick by us, and be as generous as you can. Thanks!