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Located in the rocky uplands of the Charles River, Wellesley developed slowly, becoming an affluent suburb in the second half of the nineteenth century. Although part of the Dedham grant of 1636, Wellesley experienced settlement from several directions—Newton to the east, Watertown to the north, Sudbury to the west, as well as Dedham to the south. A major early axis developed along the line of future Washington Street from the industries at the Lower Falls of the Charles River (later important for paper manufacture) to modest mills near Lake Waban (first developed by Native Americans from Natick). The Boston to Worcester turnpike (1810, Route 9) and the Boston & Worcester Railroad (1834) kept the area connected to larger communities. Although land speculators anticipated a suburban building boom in the 1850s, little began for two more decades. The establishment of Wellesley College (WL11; 1868) and Dana Hall School (WL10; 1881) made Wellesley a center for female education. Increased commuter service on the railroad in the 1880s and extension of the streetcar railway along Washington and Central streets in the 1890s opened the community as a bedroom extension of Boston. Intense residential expansion occurred in the 1920s and continued into the 1960s, when the population achieved its current level.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan

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