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Dedham is an historic suburban industrial town on the principal southern corridor of metropolitan Boston, and is the site of the earliest surviving framed house in New England, the handsome 1737 Fairbanks House. The 10.7 square mile community received its grant as a town from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636, placing it among the oldest communities in the state. Its colonial agricultural economy was expanded by industry only after the town, in 1639, built one of the earliest water power canals connecting the Charles River with a tributary of the Neponset River and creating sufficient water power for grist and fulling mills. The character and future of the community changed drastically when it became the county seat for Norfolk County and the court house was built in 1796. As local historians pointed out, this brought in lawyers and officials, trained, educated and ambitious men who changed the face of the community by investing in and supporting industrial development. Woolen mills were developed in Dedham and innovations such as power broadlooms were introduced. By 1830 there were two woolen mills, two cotton mills, four sawmills and five factories staffed by Irish and German immigrants who made up 27% of the Dedham population. Everything from pianos to furniture was made in Dedham, including famous Dedham crackleware pottery. The town shows a rich and diverse architectural face to the world, with its monumental granite court house of Greek Revival design, its Victorian prison, its limestone Neoclassical Registry of Deeds, Romanesque Revival public library and Renaissance and Georgian Revival schools. In addition, Dedham has a remarkably well preserved town center, with many handsome, historic houses of which the community is very proud. (Seal supplied by community. Narrative based on information provided by the Massachusetts Historical Commission)
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