Stoneham - A Rich History
Adapted from “Stoneham, MA: 400 Years of History”, by Marina Memmo, Stoneham Historical Society
Stoneham was incorporated as a town in 1725. Prior to that, it was part of Charlestown and known as “Charlestown End” for nearly 100 years.
Stoneham Town Seal
The images depicted on the Seal – the goat, the pegging hammer and the shoe itself - pay homage to the vital role of the town’s shoe-making industry. The berries and leaves perhaps illustrate local plants necessary to the leather-tanning process.
In 1806, the Medford to Andover Turnpike (Main Street) was built, and the town’s center shifted from Pleasant and Summer Streets to its present location. Grocers, tavern owners, carpenters and shoemakers soon began to open shops in the area around Central Square.
Shoemakers of Stoneham
Wall mounted sculpture by William Zorach
Terra Cotta Relief, United States Post Office Stoneham, Massachusetts. Three men diligently working away constructing shoes. Around them are the tools of their trade: knives, awls, lasting hammers, thread, leather, wooden lasts, pincers, stirrups and lapstones.
In the next few decades Stoneham was transformed from a rural farming community into a small manufacturing center recognized for its leather and shoe making industries. In 1837, Stoneham earned its reputation as a “Shoe Town” when its workforce of 297 men and 180 women produced 380,000 pairs of shoes, the largest output in Middlesex County.
Throughout the 19th century, Stoneham’s industrial base continued to expand. Hand labor in shoe factories was replaced by machinery in large establishments such as that of John Hill & Co., the first manufacturer to use horse and then steam power to operate machinery. By 1850, more than half of the businesses in Stoneham were shoe making enterprises. Related businesses in the leather industry such as the Tidd Tannery, also flourished.
The Shoe Shop- Doucette Ten Footer is a historic wooden building at 36 William Street, on the premises of the Stoneham Historical Society. In April, 1984, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. A ten footer was a small shoe shop structure built in New England during the 18th and 19th centuries. Usually measuring 10 feet by 10 feet, Ten Footers were forerunners to the large shoe factories that developed later in the 19th century.
During the 20th century, shoe manufacturing in Stoneham gave way to new types of industry. The E. L. Patch Pharmaceutical Company was a major employer of the town in the first half of the century. Other business enterprises, such as the Shawmut Motor Company, heralded the new age of the automobile, and cars would soon replace trains and trolleys as the preferred means of transportation. The extension of Interstate 93 during the 1960s completed Stoneham’s transformation into a residential suburb of Boston.