Workmen's Hall Norwood
99.5 Wilson St. Norwood, MA 02062
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In the years between 1850 and 1865 a group of German and Austrian immigrants were attracted to Norwood by the tanneries. Most of these men and their families settled in the southwestern area of Tiot, on and around Wilson Street. Thus was born a new long-lived Germantown inhabited by families such as the Eppichs, Baldufs, and Verderbers.
Similar to the Irish, these immigrants created a tightly knit community of their own. In 1889, they organized Turnverein, an athletic club, to promote the health and physical activity of it's members. So in 1893 this group built the Turnhall for it's meetings, gymnastics, and German instruction. The Turnverein disbanded in 1908, but the hall remained and in 1915, renamed Winslow Hall, it functioned as a neighborhood civic center in conjunction with the Norwood Civic Association. In 1927, it became Runeberg Hall when it was pruchased by Lodge 211 of the International Order of Runeberg, a Swede-Finn mutual benefit and temperance organization. Runeberg Hall sponsored picnics, musical events, and dances, and also became a favorite site for wedding receptions, birthday parties, and testimonials.
Meanwhile, the Germans moved across Wilson Street and built a second hall, the headquarters of the Workmen's Sick and Death Benefit Fund. This society was organized sometime between 1895 and 1898, and built Arbeiter Hall in 1901. Membership dues provided assistance to the sick, widowed, or aged in the neighborhood during a time when Social Security did not exist and few businesses offered insurance or medical benefits. Workmen's Hall, as it became known, also sponsored festivities and entertainments that filled the area with music, laughter, good food, and camaraderie.
When anti-German sentiments ran high with the onset of World War I, the mutual benefit association changed the name officially to Workmen's Hall to demonstate their allegiance to the United States. In 1955, Workmen's Hall on Wilson Street went up in flames and had to be rebuilt. Which is the very building you visit in Norwood today.
History Of The Workmen's Hall:
From: Norwood A History by Patricia J. Fanning