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Dedham, Massachusetts
Town of Dedham
First Church and Parish
First Church and Parish
Flag of Dedham, Massachusetts
Official seal of Dedham, Massachusetts
Location in Norfolk County in Massachusetts
Location in Norfolk County in Massachusetts
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Norfolk
Settled 1635
Incorporated 1636
Named for Dedham, United Kingdom
 • Type Representative town meeting
 • Total 10.6 sq mi (27.6 km2)
 • Land 10.5 sq mi (27.1 km2)
 • Water 0.2 sq mi (0.5 km2)
120 ft (37 m)
 • Total 25,364
 • Density 2,415.62/sq mi (935.94/km2)
 • White alone 79.4%
 • Black or African American alone 6.24%
 • American Indian and Alaska Native alone 0.23%
 • Asian 3.79%
 • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone 0.02%
 • Some Other Race alone 0.3%
 • Two or more races 6.45%
Hispanic or Latino
 • Hispanic or Latino 8.38%
 • Not Hispanic or Latino 91.62%
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP code
02026 (02027 for P.O. Boxes)
Area code(s) 781 / 339
FIPS code 25-16495
GNIS feature ID 0618318

Dedham ( DED-əm) is a town in and the county seat of Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 25,364 at the 2020 census. It is located on Boston's southwest border. On the northwest it is bordered by Needham, on the southwest by Westwood, and on the southeast by Canton. The town was first settled by European colonists in 1635.


Settled in 1635 by people from Roxbury and Watertown, Dedham was incorporated in 1636. It became the county seat of Norfolk County when the county was formed from parts of Suffolk County on March 26, 1793. When the Town was originally incorporated, the residents wanted to name it Contentment. The Massachusetts General Court overruled them and named the town after Dedham, Essex in England, where some of the original inhabitants were born. The boundaries of the town at the time stretched to the Rhode Island border.

At the first public meeting on August 15, 1636, eighteen men signed the town covenant. They swore that they would "in the fear and reverence of our Almighty God, mutually and severally promise amongst ourselves and each to profess and practice one truth according to that most perfect rule, the foundation whereof is ever lasting love."

They also agreed that "we shall by all means labor to keep off from us all such as are contrary minded, and receive only such unto us as may be probably of one heart with us, [and such] as that we either know or may well and truly be informed to walk in a peaceable conversation with all meekness of spirit, [this] for the edification of each other in the knowledge and faith of the Lord Jesus…" The covenant also stipulated that if differences were to arise between townsmen, they would seek arbitration for resolution and each would pay his fair share for the common good.

In November 1798, David Brown led a group in Dedham protesting the federal government; they set up a liberty pole, as people had before the American Revolution. It carried the words, "No Stamp Act, No Sedition Act, No Alien Bills, No Land Tax, downfall to the Tyrants of America; peace and retirement to the President; Long Live the Vice President," referring to then-President John Adams and Vice President Thomas Jefferson. Brown was arrested in Andover but because he could not afford the $4,000 bail, he was taken to Salem for trial. Brown was tried in June 1799. Although he wanted to plead guilty, Justice Samuel Chase urged him to name those who had helped him or subscribed to his writings in exchange for freedom. Brown refused, was fined $480, and sentenced to eighteen months in prison. It was the most severe sentence up to then imposed under the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Dedham is home to the Fairbanks House, the oldest surviving timber-frame house in the United States, scientifically dated to 1637. On January 1, 1643, by unanimous vote, Dedham authorized the first taxpayer-funded public school, "the seed of American education." Its first schoolmaster, Rev. Ralph Wheelock, a Clare College graduate, was paid 20 pounds annually to instruct the youth of the community. Descendants of these students would become presidents of Dartmouth College, Yale University and Harvard University.

The first man-made canal in North America, Mother Brook, was created in Dedham in 1639. It linked the Charles River to the Neponset River. Although both are slow-moving rivers, they are at different elevations. The difference in elevation made the canal's current swift enough to power several local mills.

In 1818, though citizens were still taxed for the support of ministers and other "public teachers of religion", Dedham set a precedent toward the separation of church and state. Residents selected a minister different than that chosen by the church selectmen; their right of selection was confirmed by the Supreme Judicial Court. The shift in power to the congregation led to the rise of the Congregational Churches.

The local Endicott Estate burned to the ground in 1904 after the local volunteer fire department, responding to three separate fires burning simultaneously, reached the Endicott fire last. By the time they arrived, only ashes remained. It is said that the estate's owner, Henry Bradford Endicott (also founder of the Endicott Johnson Corporation) took the burning of the homestead as a divine command to rebuild (which he did). The rebuilt Endicott Estate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The estate and surrounding grounds are open to the public, upholding Henry's stepdaughter Katherine's wish to use the house and property for "educational, civic, social and recreational purposes."

In 1921, the historic Sacco and Vanzetti trial was held in the Norfolk County Courthouse in Dedham.

Dedham Pottery is a cherished class of antiques, characterized by a distinctive crackle glaze, blue-and-white color scheme, and a frequent motif of rabbits and other animals. Dedham is sometimes called the "mother of towns" because 14 present-day communities were included within its original broad borders.


Dedham is located at 42°14′40″N 71°9′55″W / 42.24444°N 71.16528°W / 42.24444; -71.16528 (42.244609, −71.165531). On the northeast corner of High Street and Court Street the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey, now the U.S. National Geodetic Survey, has placed a small medallion into a granite block showing an elevation of 112.288 feet.

Dedham is made up of a number of neighborhoods:

  • In the geographical center of town is Oakdale. It is roughly confined by East Street to the west, Cedar Street to the south and east, and Whiting Ave to the north. The houses in the area around Woodleigh Road, which was declared to be one of the best streets in Greater Boston, have many homes designed by Henry Bailey Alden, who also designed the Endicott Estate. Nearby the subdivision consisting of Morse Avenue, Fulton Street, and Edison Avenue, is named Whiting Park.
  • Riverdale is an island surrounded by the Charles River and Long Ditch.
  • Greenlodge runs along the axis of Greenlodge Street and the area between Greenlodge Street and East Street.
  • The Manor comprises the neighborhood south of Sprague Street.
  • East Dedham falls between Mother Brook and the Boston line.
  • Precinct One, or Upper Dedham, is in the northwest corner of the town, between High Street and Common Street and the Westwood and Needham lines.
  • Ashcroft is the neighborhood between Cedar Street and Sprague Street. It includes Paul Park and the Capen School.
  • Fairbanks is the neighborhood between East Street and Wigwam Pond.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 10.6 square miles (27 km2), of which, 10.4 square miles (27 km2) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) of it (1.79%) is water.


Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1800 1,973 —    
1830 3,057 +54.9%
1850 4,447 +45.5%
1860 6,330 +42.3%
1865 7,198 +13.7%
1870 7,342 +2.0%
1880 6,233 −15.1%
1890 7,123 +14.3%
1900 7,457 +4.7%
1910 9,284 +24.5%
1920 10,782 +16.1%
1930 15,136 +40.4%
1940 15,508 +2.5%
1950 18,487 +19.2%
1960 23,869 +29.1%
1970 26,938 +12.9%
1980 25,298 −6.1%
1990 23,782 −6.0%
2000 23,464 −1.3%
2010 24,729 +5.4%
2020 25,364 +2.6%
* = population estimate.
Source: United States Census records and Population Estimates Program data.

As of the census of 2000, there were 23,464 people, 8,654 households, and 6,144 families residing in the town. The population density was 2,244.6 people per square mile (866.9/km2). There were 8,908 housing units at an average density of 852.2 per square mile (329.1/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 94.51% White, 1.54% Black or African American, 0.16% Native American, 1.87% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.80% from other races, and 1.08% from two or more races. 2.42% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 8,654 households, of which 30.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them. 56.3% were married couples living together, 11.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.0% were non-families. 23.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.61 and the average family size was 3.14.

Dedham's population was spread out, with 22.2% under the age of 18, 5.8% from 18 to 24, 31.1% from 25 to 44, 24.2% from 45 to 64, and 16.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 93.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.0 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $61,699, and the median income for a family was $72,330. Males had a median income of $46,216 versus $35,682 for females. The per capita income for the town was $28,199. About 3.2% of families and 4.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.9% of those under age 18 and 6.5% of those age 65 or over.


Religious affiliation in Dedham, MA, 1980–2010
Religion 1980 1990 2000 2010
Catholic 50.14% 54.67% 58.58% 52.97%
Mainline Protestant 13.34% 7.3% 6.18% 4.93%
Evangelical Protestant .85% 1.88% 1.45% 1.69%
Orthodox Christian n/a n/a 1.16% .53%
Other 1.27% 6.88% 7.13% 4.56%
Unaffiliated 34.39% 29.28% 25.52% 35.33%

Seal and flag

Dedham flag
The Town of Dedham's flag

The town's seal was originally designed by a member of the Dedham Historical Society. In the center is a crest containing the Old Avery Oak. When the tree was finally felled the gavel used by the Moderator at Town Meeting was carved out of it. Above the tree are the scales of justice, representing Dedham as the county seat and home to Norfolk County's courts. On the left of the tree are agricultural instruments and on the right is a factory, showing Dedham's history first as a town of farmers and then a one with a number of mills and factories, particularly along Mother Brook. Below the tree is a banner with the word "Contentment," the name of the original plantation.

The town flag is red with the seal prominent and in the center. In the lower left corner is part of the Avery Oak and in the lower right is part of the Fairbanks House. It hangs in the selectmen's chambers at town hall and in the Great Hall of the Massachusetts State House.

Places of worship

Christian science
The former First Church of Christ, Scientist building in Dedham.
Place of worship Denomination Size Founded
First Church and Parish Unitarian Universalist 1638 (Split in 1818)
Allin Congregational Church United Church of Christ 1638 (Split in 1818)
St. Paul's Episcopal Church The Episcopal Church 1758
Fellowship Bible Church Nondenominational

prev. Baptist

St. Mary of the Assumption Church Roman Catholic 2,329 families 1866
Church of the Good Shepherd The Episcopal Church 1877
St. Luke's Lutheran Church Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 1893
St. John of Damascus Church Orthodox Christian Church 1907
St. Susanna Church Roman Catholic 1960
Calvary Baptist Church Independent Baptist
Dedham Temple Seventh-day Adventist
The Link Church Assemblies of God
Former places of worship
Place of worship Denomination Founded Closed
First Church of Christ, Scientist Church of Christ, Scientist 1939 2000s

Boston United Hand in Hand Cemetery is located on Lower East Street straddling the West Roxbury line. Dating back to 1875, the original plot was full by 1896 but subsequently expanded multiple times. There are graves as recent as 1980 in the West Roxbury portion; the Dedham portion is still active. Chestnut Hill's Congregation Mishka Tefila currently owns the property.

Community organizations

Dedham is home to a number of community organizations, including

  • The Dedham Combined Veterans Council
  • The American Legion Post 18
  • The Disabled American Veterans Chapter 42
  • The USS Jacob Jones (DD-61) Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2017
  • The AMVETS Post 1636
  • The Knights of Columbus
  • The Rotary Club
  • The Moose Club
  • The Italian – American Citizens Club of Dedham
  • The Boy Scouts of America
  • The Friends of the Dedham Public Library
  • The Dedham Junior Women's Club
  • The Dedham Square Circle
  • The Dedham Community House
  • The James Joyce Ramble
  • The Dedham Historical Society
  • The Society in Dedham for Apprehending Horse Thieves

Boy Scouts Troop 3

Troop 3 of the Boy Scouts of America was founded on March 5, 1917 by Charles H. Stackpole, a 52-year-old Methodist clergyman who served as the troop's first Scoutmaster. As of 2017, Peter Low was Scoutmaster. It is currently chartered at the Church of the Good Shepard in Oakdale Square.

Points of interest

Fish sculpture at Mill Pond Park
Mill Pond Park
  • The American Legion Post 18
  • Dedham Historical Society and Museum
  • Dedham Public Library
  • Fairbanks House
  • Legacy Place, outdoor shopping center.
  • MIT Endicott House
  • Moseley’s on the Charles, the oldest continuous-running ballroom in the country
  • Mother Brook (first man-made waterway in the United States)
  • Noble & Greenough School
  • Norfolk County Correctional Center, situated in the median of Route 128.
  • Ursuline Academy and Convent
  • Flag Day Parade: The Flag Day Parade began in 1967, and quickly became one of Dedham's most beloved traditions. In 2017, for the 50th anniversary, the parade is being moved from the traditional June 14, Flag Day, to June 17th. This is to accommodate the fireworks at Memorial Park that will be part of the celebration.


Commuter rail service from Boston's South Station is provided by the MBTA with stops at Endicott and Dedham Corporate Center on its Franklin Line. Also MBTA bus route 34 Dedham Line to Forest Hills serves Washington Street. Bus route 34E Walpole Center to Forest Hills serves Washington Street, Dedham Square, and the Dedham Mall. Bus route 35 Dedham Mall to Forest Hills serves Washington Street.


Dedham has been featured on both television and film screens.

  • William Desmond Taylor's 1919 silent film Anne of Green Gables was filmed in Dedham. It was the favorite role of star Mary Miles Minter, but no copies of the film are known to have survived. The film also starred Paul Kelly.
  • The 1973 film The Friends of Eddie Coyle was partially filmed in Dedham and starred Robert Mitchum, Peter Boyle, and Alex Rocco.
  • In the 1980s, the Endicott Estate was featured in an episode of Spenser: For Hire.
  • The 1982 film Pieces was filmed mainly in Madrid, but also included the same Dedham Square robbed in 'Eddie Coyle.'
  • The Endicott Estate was also featured in the 2000 film The Perfect Storm.
  • The award-winning 2000 film State and Main was filmed in Dedham, and Alec Baldwin's character slept in the Endicott Estate.
  • In a 2004 episode of The Practice, viewers learned that Alan Shore grew up in the town, and numerous references to the Sacco and Vanzetti trial were also made. Images of Dedham Square, the Dedham Historical Society building and the courthouses were shot on location. In addition, "extremely rare" interior and exterior photos of the courthouses from the turn of the 20th century were shown.
  • The 2010 thriller Shutter Island was partially filmed in Dedham.
  • The 2014 film The Judge was filmed partly in Dedham Square.
  • Kathryn Bigelow's 2017 film, Detroit, utilized the Dedham District Court as a filming location.
  • The film I Care a Lot was filmed at the Norfolk County Courthouse and Norfolk County Registry of Deeds.


Public education

The Dedham Public Schools operates seven schools and is known for the first implementation of a tax supported, free public school system, now used nationally.

  • Dedham High School
  • Dedham Middle School
  • Avery Elementary School
  • Oakdale Elementary School
  • Greenlodge Elementary School
  • Riverdale Elementary School
  • Dr. Thomas J. Curren Early Childhood Education Center

Private education

In addition, there are several private schools in the town, including:

  • Noble and Greenough School, a private, co-educational day and boarding school for students in grades 7–12
  • Dedham Country Day School, a private, co-educational, day school for students in pre-kindergarten to eighth grade
  • Ursuline Academy, an independent college preparatory day school for young women in grades 7–12.
  • The Rashi School, a Reform Jewish elementary and middle school.
  • Little Sprouts Early Education and Childcare, a preschool and kindergarten.

Former schools

  • Ames School, a former public elementary school named after distinguished Dedham resident Fisher Ames.
  • Charles J. Capen School, operated from 1931 to 1981, now home to the Dr. Thomas J. Curren Early Childhood Education Center
  • St. Mary of the Assumption School, a former Catholic elementary school that operated as a part of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish until 1975.
  • The Quincy School, a former public elementary school that operated until 1982.
  • The Dexter School, a former public elementary school now operating as a private preschool and kindergarten, Little Sprouts Early Education and Childcare, Dedham location.

Higher education

  • Queen of Apostles Seminary, a former Catholic minor seminary run by the Society of African Missions, closed in the 1980s
  • Northeastern University Dedham Campus, a satellite campus located in the Queen of Apostles Seminary's former building

Notable people


  • Buck Danner, infielder for the Philadelphia Athletics
  • Pete Hamilton, NASCAR driver
  • Bill Hunnefield, infielder for Chicago White Sox (1926–1930), Cleveland Indians (1931), Boston Braves (1931) and New York Giants (1931)
  • John Frederick Kiley outfielder for the Washington Nationals (1884) and Boston Beaneaters (1891)
  • Lefty Mills, early American one-armed baseball player
  • Sarah Parsons, member of the 2006 Winter Olympics women's hockey team
  • Freddy Roach, professional boxer
  • Warren Cummings Smith, alpine skier in the 2014 Winter Olympics men's giant slalom and slalom

Arts and literature

  • Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, lived and worked for seven weeks during 1851 as a domestic helper in Dedham
  • Tim Costello (1945–2009), labor and anti-globalization advocate and author
  • Jacques d'Amboise, ballet dancer and choreographer
  • George Derby, humorist
  • Alvan Fisher, artist
  • Reuben Guild, librarian and author
  • Lilian Westcott Hale, artist
  • Connie Hines, television actress
  • Peter H. Reynolds, children's author and illustrator
  • Anita Shreve, author
  • Richard Trethewey, plumber on This Old House



  • Eliphalet Adams (1677–1753), clergyman and missionary to the Native Americans
  • John Allin, patriarch of New England and signatory to the covenant
  • Charles A. Finn, oldest priest in the United States and son of the oldest resident of Dedham


  • Weaver W. Adams, chess master
  • Nathaniel Ames, almanac-maker and physician
  • Faxon Atherton, businessman and namesake of Atherton, California
  • Jonathan Fairbanks, builder of the Fairbanks House
  • Temple Grandin, professor of animal science, inventor and autism advocate
  • Samuel Foster Haven, archaeologist and anthropologist
  • Eli Sagan (1927–2015), clothing manufacturer, lecturer and author in cultural anthropology and political activist who served on the national finance committee for George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign, a role that earned him a spot on Richard Nixon's Enemies List in 1973
  • Tommy Vietor, National Security Council spokesperson, podcast host of Pod Save America

See also

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