Dedham Names Needham Street Landing in Honor of Three Civic Pride Members

The Dedham Civic Pride Committee has, at long last, come full circle on the old Needham Street “pump house” mystery.


Readers may recall how the windowless, concrete building on the bank of the Charles River, believed to have been built in the 1940's  and enlarged in the 60's, had become a favorite site for the area’s graffiti artists.

Needham Street, one of Dedham’s most beautiful entrance roads, was
despoiled by the often vulgar graffiti, and represented an unfortunate greeting to visitors and passers-by.

No one, neither private party nor government agency was willing to admit ownership. Civic Pride members Bob Mendes and Bill Call began the hunt for the owner in the summer of 2002. The Assessors’ Office had no record of its ownership. The Building Department had no record of its construction.

Tony Freitas was added to the project group, which then talked in turn with the
Army Corps of Engineers, the Metropolitan District Commission, the Dedham-Westwood Water District, the Needham Water Department and N-Star Gas, all of whom appeared to be possible owners.

Visits to the Dedham Historical Society and the Registry of Deeds proved interesting but fruitless. The Dedham DPW engineering group found plans for the layout of Needham Street from both the 1920's and 1963. It was discovered that the Electric Trolley Rail Line which had existed from 1899 through 1919 followed Needham Street into downtown Needham from Boston, raising the possibility that there might have been a previous building on the site which was part of that system. This was never confirmed.

In 2003, several Civic Pride members accompanied the Dedham Building Commissioner to open the building. Upon entry, all that was found was a building shell with several sets of metal shelving, an old portable gas space heater, and a wall-mounted telephone, but nothing to suggest who might have been responsible for its construction.

The phone still had a phone number label, which was traced back to Commonwealth Gas Company. Personnel at Commonwealth’s successor, N-Star Gas, performed further research and found employees who believed that they  had rented space there (no records could be found) from American Water Works. 

Finally, a letter dated March 23, 2006 to Town Administrator Bill Keegan from Town Counsel Jeanne McKnight provided the legal opinion that the building was the property of Norfolk County.

Pursuant to an agreement between the County and the Town, the Dedham DPW demolished the building in November, 2006, ending what may have been one of the lengthiest mysteries in the Town of Dedham.

Through the combined efforts of the DDPW and The Environmental Contracting Company in 2007/2008, the area was cleared, cleaned, a small parking area created with pavers, and the natural habitat allowed to return.

A stone bench and cast-iron rack were installed. Pathways leading to the water’s edge were created. Now, it is a rare day that the area is not used by canoeists, kayakers, and others just seeking a peaceful site for relaxing or eating lunch. 

In the summer of 2012, the Board of Selectmen authorized the naming of the area to honor those Civic Pride members responsible for the now 10-year project.

As can be seen on the newly installed sign, the Mendes-Call-Freitas Landing is available for the permanent enjoyment of all residents and visitors.

Gemma Martin October 23, 2012 at 11:23 AM
Bob, Bill and Tony did a fabulous job and this is a well deserved honor.


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