Poised between Lake Quannapowitt (source of the Saugus River) and Crystal Lake, Wakefield was destined to become a water-powered industrial center. Lynn Village, formed from the 1639 Lynn grant, became part of the independent town of Reading in 1644; the name of this section was changed to Wakefield in 1868. An alternative to subsistence agriculture, shoemaking was introduced in the village as early as 1677. By 1805 Thomas Emerson became the leader of this industry, now dominant in the village. The Boston & Maine Railroad's arrival in 1845 spurred further industrial growth and shifted the civic and commercial core from the colonial common to the railroad depot/industrial area. Cyrus Wakefield arrived in the same year as the railroad and rapidly became the town's leading industrialist. His Boston and Maine Foundry (1854) produced the country's first enameled bathtubs, and his Wakefield Rattan Company (1856) added furniture production to the local economy. Nevertheless, shoemaking remained the major industry, changing from cottage to factory production by 1870, and would remain important until World War II.
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