In Greater Boston, just outside I-95, Norwood is a town of just over 30,000 that recently celebrated its 150th anniversary.
In the 19th century, Norwood’s growth was fueled by the papermaking, printing and tanning industries, and there are still some mill buildings left over from that time, as well as the refined Tudor-style residence of tanning heir, Fred Holland Day.
This is now in the care of the Norwood Historical Society and opened to the public in summer for tours.
Norwood Center is set around a typical Town Common, and the townscape’s stone-built revivalist architecture makes it seem a little older than it is. In fact the common was only plotted in the 1910s, and the regal Town Hall is from 1928.
1. Norwood Center
Picture the ideal New England town center, and it may look a lot like Norwood, with its blend of dignified architecture, shopping, dining and community gatherings.
The Town Common, at the crux of local life, is headed by the magnificent Late Gothic Revival Town Hall (1928), with gables, dormers, mullioned windows and a handsome tower capped with pinnacles on each corner.
That tower holds the seventh-largest carillon in the country, with concerts given on Sunday afternoons in the summer.
The common is the setting for a summer farmers’ market on Tuesdays, as well as outdoor concerts (after the carillon) and the festivities of Norwood Day in September.
Within a few steps there’s dining for all palates, be it Japanese, Lebanese, Indian, white tablecloth Italian or diner favorites.
The Norwood Theatre next to the common books famous touring music acts, and there’s an old-fashioned candlepin bowling alley off the southeast corner at the Norwood Sports Center.
2. The Norwood Theatre
Turning heads on the east side of the Town Common is a movie palace reborn as a performing arts center.
The Norwood Theatre first opened in 1927, and was designed by local architect William G. Upham, with a design that melds Spanish Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance elements, complementing the Town Hall, St. Catherine’s and the United Church, also on the common.
The restored venue has served as a multidisciplinary performing arts center since 2012, with a capacity for 731, for touring music artists, live comedy, musicals, family entertainment and occasional movie screenings.
3. Endean Park
Norwood’s main public park mixes recreation facilities with large patches of undeveloped space for walks in the woods.
Most of Endean Park’s amenities are on the east side, next to Coakley Middle School, and include a pool open in summer, tennis courts, a playground, baseball fields and basketball courts.
On the west and north sides, interconnecting trails take you through secluded woods, and along the bank of Hawes Brook, which crosses the park’s northern section.
There’s a pond on the brook to the north, a community garden on the south side, and if you’d like a picnic you could pick up something from the Brookside Cafe across Washington St.
4. The Day House
In the summer months you can step inside one of Norwood’s finest 19th-century residences for a guided tour.
Owned by the Norwood Historical Society, the Day House (93 Day St), was built in 1859, and became the home of the noted photographer and publisher, Fred Holland Day (1864-1933), who was descended from two wealthy local tanning families.
In the early 1890s he gave the house a Tudor-style makeover, replacing Second Empire architecture with Arts and Crafts-style leaded windows, timber framing and tall chimney stacks.
Designed around a stately Great Hall, the building is replete with historic fittings, including fabric wall coverings, carpets, mahogany paneling, original fireplaces, paintwork and light fixtures, all combined with Day family possessions.
5. Signal Hill
Although this rugged hill just east of Norwood is only 188 feet, its ledges give you stupendous views of the region.
To the northeast is downtown Boston, and in the foreground stands Great Blue Hill. Signal Hill, once a craggy peninsula in a lake of glacial meltwater, sits within a 150-acre space managed by the Trustees of Reservations.
At the end of the last Ice Age, some 12,000 years ago, this is known to have been a seasonal camp for paleo-Americans, and an archeological site was uncovered during the construction of I-95, which passes by the east.
6. Blue Hill Helicopters
Much of eastern Norwood is taken up by the public Norwood Memorial Airport (OWD), which was initially a Naval Outlying Landing Field in WWII, becoming a civil airfield in 1946.
Given the airport’s proximity to Boston, it’s a base for flight schools that also offer tours of the skyline and harbor islands.
One is Blue Hill Helicopters, which runs a number of programs for private, professional and commercial pilots.
If you want to see Boston and the coastline from above there’s a large choice of packages, from a 30-minute flight around the skyline to sunset and night tours, a Cape Cod experience and a combined tour of downtown Boston and the Boston Harbor Islands.
7. Francis William Bird Park
Maintained by the Trustees of Reservations, Francis William Bird Park goes back to 1925 and was founded by paper-making industrialist Charles Sumner Bird, Sr. and his wife Anna in memory of their eldest son.
The exquisite landscape and waterscape was designed by John Nolen (1869-1937), who is remembered as a social reformer, convinced of the benefits of relaxation and outdoor recreation for urban residents.
The park is on 89 acres, and its three miles of trails take you through woodlands, over rolling meadows and manicured lawns, and past dainty water features. For recreation amenities there are four tennis courts, a basketball net and a tot lot.
8. Castle Island Brewing Company
This craft brewery was founded in 2015 and has two locations, in South Boston and right here in Norwood. The latter has a beer garden, open during the warmer months, with dogs permitted outside.
Beer-wise Castle Island’s strength lies in its hop-forward pale ales, and the core lineup features an IPA (Keeper), a Hazy IPA (Fiver), a DIPA (Hi-Def), an American Pale Ale (Candlepin), a lager (Lager) and Belgian-style Wit (White).
There’s a revolving choice of limited releases, and beer-friendly food is provided by Lombardo’s Kitchen, for flatbreads, sandwiches, wings, chips, cold cuts, hummus and the like.
9. Luke Adams Glass
This studio at the Norwood Space Center produces an amazing assortment of vivid glass items, from jewelry to miniatures, functional home items, seasonal decorations, miniatures and much more.
Even better, Luke Adams Glass also provides glassmaking experiences to the public. If you’re pushed for time you can come for a fused glass class, designing and making your own work of art cutting and placing various colored art pieces. This is then fused by firing it in the kiln at 1200-1300° for 24 hours.
To learn the art of glassblowing there’s a three-hour class, during which you’ll be coached step-by-step through two separate projects.
10. Norwood Sport Center
This purpose-built Art Deco candlepin bowling alley opened downtown in 1940. If you’re new to candlepin bowling, it’s a regional variant invented in Worcester, MA, in the 1880s.
The pins are long and narrow, and the ball fits in the palm of your hand. The Norwood Sport Center remains a popular sport for fun downtown, and has 32 lanes, 26 of which have bumpers available for youngsters.
There’s computer scoring here, and the alley caters to everything from casual games to parties and competitive league bowling.
11. McAleer Playground
This public space in the northwest of Norwood dates back to 1911 and is named after the popular local priest, Father McAleer, who died in 1939.
Something that puts the park on the map in summer is its pool, open throughout the school summer break, with adult open swim every day for an hour on weeknights.
McAleer Playground also has a softball field, multi-use sports fields, a children’s playground and can be the start of a peaceful walk: The Trail here connects with the Germany Brook Path, tracking that watercourse through the woods.
12. Monster Mini Golf
There’s year-round mini golf at this indoor center, with 18 holes, an arcade and party rooms.
In keeping with the chain, Monster Mini Golf is in the dark, and the course is sprinkled with spooky and quirky artwork, from evil clowns to skeletons, trolls and even a dragon or two.
Some of these are obstacles, integrated into the course, while others are pure decoration. Your round is soundtracked by W.I.R.D. Radio, Monster Mini Golf’s very own station, while the arcade has air hockey, classic game cabinets and redemption machines.
13. Launch Trampoline Park
This indoor trampoline park is a kind of fun center for people with energy to burn, and filled with attractions that will appeal to children and teenagers.
To list a few, there’s The Challenger ninja course, the Launch Pad air bag, the Battle Pit battle beam, the Slackline suspended over a foam pit, a basketball area for slam dunks, a dodgeball court, and the expansive Trampoline Courts, with wall-to-wall trampolines.
There’s an arcade here too, as well as Launch Eats, with comfort food from pizza to ice cream and slushies.
14. Winsmith Mill Market
Housed in an historic mill complex in Norwood is a collection of vintage and home design shops with more than 150 vendors.
The oldest buildings here, previously serving as a tannery, go back to the mid-19th century, and during the WWII Air Force bomber jackets were manufactured at this place.
In recent times a whole community of small businesses have moved in, and if you’re here to shop for vintage treasures and cutting-edge home design you’ve got six great options.
These are Out of the Closet, Chanel Shabby Rose, Shiplap & Chandeliers, White Dog Vintage, Remarkable Cleanouts, all of which are multi-vendor centers, while Artisan Home Designs is a contemporary design boutique and kitchen showroom.
15. Norwood Day
Usually in mid-September, Norwood Day is an event that grows with each year, now attracting as many as 20,000 people to the town for a weekend of fun.
On Friday evening things warm up with games and inflatables for kids, as well as an interactive DJ at Coakley Middle School.
Then on Saturday a parade makes its way along Washington St, from the library to Norwood Common.
On the common are 200+ tables representing local organizations and businesses, accompanied by amusement rides, live performances, gaming trucks, a water gun trailer and much more.