Incorporated in 1881, Wellesley had once been a small farming community that was a part of Needham and consisted of four separate villages: West Needham (now Wellesley Square), Grantville (now Wellesley Hills), the Fells, and Lower Falls. The transition of the town into its modern form actually began over 150 years agofollowing the arrival of the railroad.Almost immediately thereafter, wealthy businessmen from Bostonbegan to establish large country estates here. Soon these men became involved in Town affairs and used their wealth and influence to shape their half of Needham into the community that they desired, creating a significant discord with East Needham. By the late 1800s,the western half of Needham successfully petitioned the Massachusetts Legislature for independence. On April 6, 1881, Wellesley was incorporated.
Over the ensuing decades, this new town grew steadily, becoming one of the most desirable suburban communities outside of Boston. This growth, however, acceleratedgreatly in the 1920s and 1930s following the advent of the automobile, which allowed residents to commute more easily to the city.
Wellesley is now a medium-sized, ethnically diverse, and historical town with over 28,000 residents, mostly professionals living in owner-occupied, single-family, three to four bedroom homes. There are also upscale apartment complexes and duplexes. It is a town consisting of “urban sophisticates” and families with children who enjoy the stability of the area and the cultural offerings.
Wellesley has easy access to the MBTA, as well as to the Mass Pike and Route 128/95, making it a desirable place to live for families and commuters.
Additionally, Wellesley is a college town and is home to Wellesley College, Babson College, and Massachusetts Bay Community College. Olin College lies adjacent to Babson College in Needham.
Wellesley Hills is a broad region encompassing most of central and east-central Wellesley. The geographic and commercial center of Wellesley Hills is located at the intersection of Route 9 and Washington Street (Route 16). To the north of Route 9 is the original part of the Cliff Estates (developed between the 1880s and 1930s). South of Washington Street includes the historic Belvedere Estates and the heart of the Country Club neighborhood.
The Cliff Estates includes most of the area north of Route 9 to the west of Cliff Road. Initial development of the Cliff Estates began in the 1880s by Albion Clapp, a resident at the base of Cliff Road who owned several hundred acres of land stretching all the way to the Weston border. Development accelerated in the 1920s and 1930s as the Cliff Estates established itself as one of metro-Boston’s most desirable neighborhoods, a title it continues to hold to this day.
Located to the north of the Cliff Estates west of Cliff Road (adjacent to the Weston border), the Peirce Estates was initially developed in the early 1960s on land that had once been owned by Edward R. Peirce, a wealthy wool merchant. (Peirce’s own mansion – now known as the Henderson House — was located just over the border in Weston.) One of the distinguishing features of the Peirce Estates is that it offers larger lots than in the Cliff Estates due to zoning restrictions requiring at least 30,000 square feet of land.
Located in the northwest corner of Wellesley, the Fells was one of the last large-scale areas of the town to be developed into residential neighborhoods. Up through the 1920s, this section of Wellesley remained almost entirely farmland. That, however, changed as the establishment of Wellesley as a commuters’ suburb required the need for more housing. The homes originally constructed in the Fells were mostly smaller Colonials, Capes, and Bungalows. Many of these houses have since been replaced by expansive new construction. The Fells offers numerous recreational opportunities given its proximity to Boulder Brook Reservation and Morses Pond.
College Heights is located between Wellesley Square and the Fells and is bounded by Linden Street and Weston Road. Its development began in the 1870s and 1880s following the opening in 1875 of nearby Wellesley College. Over the ensuing decades, many of the residences in this neighborhood were constructed for members of the College community. The remaining lots were mostly developed in the 1920s and 1930s. This neighborhood offers convenient access to the Wellesley Square and Linden Square shopping districts, as well as to the Wellesley MBTA station.
The Dana Hall neighborhood encompasses a large residential area in the southwest corner of Wellesley. At the heart of this neighborhood is the all-female Dana Hall preparatory school, established in 1881 by the founder of Wellesley College in a large roominghouse on land owned by Charles B. Dana. (The campus was originally located at the northern edge of Grove Street near Wellesley Square until the 1950s, when the school was moved further south to its current campus.) In addition, Tenacre Country Day School lies adjacent to Dana Hall. The homes in this neighborhood vary considerably, from pre-1900 cottages to sprawling new construction.
One of Wellesley’s most historic neighborhoods, the Belvedere Estates is located in the heart of Wellesley Hills. Largely developed by the children of prominent judge and politician Josiah Abbott, this neighborhood consists almost entirely of large Victorian, Colonial, and Arts & Crafts style homes that were constructed between 1890 and 1930. (Many of its streets are named for members of the Abbott family.) At the southern edge of the neighborhood lies the Wellesley Country Club and Babson College.
The region bounded by Route 9 and Linden Street (east of Kingsbury Street) is one of the most centrally located neighborhoods in Wellesley with easy access to the Middle School, High School, and the shopping districts at Linden Square, Wellesley Square and Wellesley Hills Square. This neighborhood was originally the site of several of Wellesley’s largest mansions that dated back to the mid-1800s. Beginning in the 1930s, these estates were carved up and on theses lots medium-sized Colonials and Capes were constructed. (The two Sprague mansions still exist on Windemere Lane and Upwey Road.) There are also a large number of pre-20th Century homes along Linden, Rockland, and Kingsbury Streets.
Located in the northeastern corner of the town, Wellesley Farms offers a diverse selection of housing from moderately-sized Colonials constructed in the 1920s and 1930s to some of the town’s largest and most desirable properties. In addition, there are a significant number of older mansions spread throughout the area. This neighborhood is also highly convenient for commuters given its easy accessibility to the Mass Pike, Route 128, and the MBTA commuter line.
Historically, Lower Falls was first region of Wellesley settled by European colonists. Given the large drop in the elevation of the Charles River – hence, the name ‘Lower Falls’ — this area became the site of industrial activity as early as the first decade of the 1700s. By the mid-1800s, this village had become one of the largest paper manufacturers in the entire country. By the mid-20th Century, however, most of the factories had closed and Lower Falls began a long period of redevelopment. Today, the area is largely the site of commercial activity and office buildings. There are still, however, a significant number of pre-1900 homes at its western edge near St. John’s Church, as well as on the other side of the Charles River in Newton Lower Falls.
Bounded between Walnut Street and Route 9, Poets’ Corner consists of a series of roads names for some of America’s most famous poets and writers, including Tennyson, Whittier, Kipling, and Emerson. Development began in 1919 and continued through the 1920s and 1930s. The neighborhood consists of homes of a wide variety of architectural styles from large Colonials to Capes to Tudors.
The Standish & Sheridan Estates are two separate subdivisions that were laid out in the late 1930s and 1940s between Oakland Street and Route 9. Most of the original homes were Capes – many of them designed by renowened architect Royal Barry Wills – and moderately-sized Colonials. Separating the two neighborhoods is one of Wellesley’s most treasured natural and recreational assets: Longfellow Pond and the Town Forest.
Constructed in 1923, Hardy Elementary School was the first modern schoolhouse in the Fells (having replaced the one-room Fells Schoolhouse — now the Fells Branch Library). Originally known simply as the Fells School, it was renamed a year after its opening for John D. Hardy, a prominent Town official who had chaired the building committee for the schoolhouse and passed away soon after its completion.
Located on Oak Street, Sprague Elementary School primarily serves the student population residing in central Wellesley. The schoolhouse was built in 1924 and was named for Isaac Sprague, one of Wellesley’s leading developers and Town officials during the first three decades of the 20th Century. In particular, Sprague was instrumental in the design and construction of almost every building or structure in Wellesley constructed of fieldstone during the 1920s, including the Wellesley Hills Branch Library, the Central Street fire station, the Route 9 underpass over Route 16, the Sprague Memorial Clock Tower, as well as Sprague Elementary School. Closed since 1975, this schoolhouse underwent a gut renovation and addition immediately prior to its reopening in 2002.
Hunnewell Elementary School is the third such school of that name in Wellesley. (The other two were on Central Street near Weston Road, the first one opening in 1870 following the gift of $10,000 from Wellesley’s greatest benefactor, Horatio Hollis Hunnewell.) The current Hunnewell School was constructed in 1938 and is located on Cameron Street near Wellesley Square adjacent to the Wellesley Free Library and Fuller Brook Park. This school serves students living in the southwestern section of the town.
Bates Elementary School is one of two elementary schools in the Fells. Constructed in 1954, this schoolhouse was named for Katharine Lee Bates, one of Wellesley’s most notable residents. A Wellesley College Professor of English from 1889 until 1925, Bates is most well known for writing the hymn, America the Beautiful, following a visit to Pike’s Peak in Colorado. (The music for the hymn was later provided by another Wellesley resident, Dr. Parke Hewins.) Bates Elementary School underwent a significant renovation and addition in 2003.
Constructed in 1954, Fiske Elementary School on Hastings Street serves the student population living in the southern and southeastern sections of Wellesley, including the Country Club area and the Standish/Sheridan Estates. This schoolhouse replaced the original Fiske School that had been located since 1892 on Cedar Street (on the site of Ouellet Park). It was named for Capt. Joseph Emery Fiske, a Civil War hero and one of Wellesley’s most distinguished citizens who led the fight for Wellesley’s separation from Needham in 1881.
Located on Wynnewood Road, Upham Elementary primarily serves students living in the Cliff Estates. It was named for Ernest F. Upham, a Wellesley High School history teacher and resident of the town who passed away just prior to the completion of the elementary school in 1957. It currently has the smallest enrollment of the seven elementary schools in Wellesley.
Located on Cedar Street near Walnut Street, Schofield Elementary opened in 1964 on the site of the Schofield playing fields, named two decades earlier for Dr. Otho L. Schofield, a physician in Wellesley during the early 1900s. This school serves students living in the northeastern section of Wellesley, including Poets’ Corner, Lower Falls, and much of Wellesley Farms.