A Brief Background of the Town

Welcome to Needham!

The Town of Needham is located just west of Route 128 and the City of Newton, and south of Route 9 and Wellesley. This location provides an ideal metrowest commuting location for anyone working in downtown Boston or on the 128 corridor that rings the city.

Needham was not always a convenient suburban town. In years past, it was principally recognized as the country getaway for well-to-do Bostonians living on Beacon Hill or Back Bay. Many large houses first built in the 1800s as country homes for the rich still survive.

Picture of Cemetary in Needham Because of its multicentury past, historical sites are sprinkled throughout Needham. The picture to the left shows a monument honoring war veterans in Needham Cemetery. Some of the headstones in this cemetery date back to the 1700s!

Needham is located on rocky uplands within a loop of the Charles River. Though the area was used for some grazing for livestock of neighboring towns and some land grants were made, the river served as an effective barrier and the town was slow to develop. Early settlers relied primarily on agriculture and grazing plus some winter lumbering with orchards and tanneries as supplements. Saw mills and grist mills were opened by a number of settlers along the Charles through the 18th century.

Extension of the railroad and land speculation encouraged settlement, and the town saw the growth of industrial employment and production at the same time during the mid-19th century. Needham manufacturers made knit goods, underwear, hats, shoes and silk, although attempts to cultivate silk worms were short-lived.

Land speculation, housing development and knitted underwear continued to be the foundation of Needham's economy into the 20th century, with the famous William Carter Corporation prominent in the children's knitwear industry.

The construction of Route 128 in 1931 opened portions of the town to development as part of the hi-tech highway in the post-World War II electronic industrial boom. Modern Needham remains a pleasant heavily suburban community with good access to Boston for commuters and a significant number of local job slots.

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