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

The Moseley-May-Bourne Building

From the 1870’s through the early 1900s, the Moseley-May-Bourne Building was the primary public building in the Great Plain (the name changed whenever it changed owners).  It was built in 1874 as the Great Plain was developing into the town center. It housed a general store and other retail establishments on its first floor, and the upper floors were used for meeting halls and offices.  In 1881, after Wellesley split from Needham, its second floor was used as the town offices; this lasted for 20 years, until the Town Hall was built in 1902.  The upstairs meeting hall was later the site of Needham’s first cinema.


The Moseley Building (c. 1880). (Click images to enlarge)

When the train line came through Needham in 1853, it bypassed the old center at the intersection of Nehoiden Street and Central Avenue.  In the 20 years that followed, businesses moved away from the old center and toward the new train line. By the end of the 1870s, the Great Plain was the new center of town, as it remains today. The Moseley Building was the first major business block in the new center.



This view of Great Plain Avenue (above, circa 1880) and the Moseley Building shows how few buildings there were in downtown Needham at this time. This man is standing in front of the future site of Harvey’s Hardware.  Large commercial blocks such as this one housed stores and small businesses on the street level, and usually larger rooms and meeting spaces on the upper floors.



Crossman’s General Store sold and delivered a wide variety of foods, hardware, and other household goods.


Needham-born artist N. C. Wyeth used the Moseley Building as the setting for his sketch Election Night (in the Country) (c. 1900).


Great Plain Avenue in 1911. The Moseley Building is on the right.


The interior of Charles Woodruff’s General Store on the first floor of the Moseley Building, circa 1900.