Past Programs

Past programs have included the following:

The Quabbin Reservoir and its History, April 12, 2022, via Zoom

John Horrigan presented a chronology of the development of Boston’s water system, beginning with the discovery of the Great Spring on the Shawmut Peninsula — and including the construction of dams and pipelines that connected several ponds and lakes from Western Massachusetts to the growing population of Boston.

Evacuation Day, March 8, 2022, via Zoom

John Horrigan talked about Henry Knox moving 59 cannons 300 miles from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston by sled, oxen and wagons so that the artillery was mounted atop Dorchester Heights by early March. And then, on March 17, 1776, the British decided to abandon their hold on Boston and left the city!

Travel and the Automobile, February 8, 2022, via Zoom

Mary Maguire (Director of Public and Government Affairs at AAA) and John Paul (AAA’s “Car Doctor” talked about how AAA has changed over the years, offering new resources and travel opportunities. They also answered lots of car and travel questions as part of the talk.

Land Subsidence: What is is and what it means to our historic landscape, November 16, 2021, via Zoom

Dr. Estelle Chaussard is currently a senior research scientist and talked about the growing threats related to sea level rise, increased flooding and water sustainability — and what it means to all of us as we look at our homes and historic buildings. Estelle used Boston as her backdrop, given that the city has experienced, ameliorated and lived with these changes over the years.

The Fairbanks House: An “Above and Beyond” Tour,
October 12, 2021, via Zoom

Stuart Christie is a long-time Dedham, Massachusetts resident and an avid amateur historian. For the past eight years, Stuart has served as a volunteer docent at the Fairbanks House in Dedham, built in 1637. He is currently acting as the Director of Visitor Services for the Fairbanks House. This past year, Stuart created — and narrated — a virtual tour of the Fairbanks House — and recreated this adventure for us. It was a wonderful exploration of the people that lived there and the history of this home and times.

A Legacy of Colonialism via Literature from Those in Exile, March 9, 2021, via Zoom

Recently retired from teaching at Tufts University, Dr. Nancy Milner Kelly focused on today’s increasingly diverse world and how the pain of writers displaced from their respective homelands manifests itself in their writing. During this program, Nancy talked about the work of novelists and a poet who relocated from Asia and Latin America as well as Africa and Caribbean countries. Their works include images and themes of geographical, cultural, emotional, and linguistic exile. 

The 100th Anniversary of the “Spanish Flu”, February 9, 2021, via Zoom

Anthony M. Sammarco talked about the Boston of 1918 and the disease that decimated the world population at that time — relating it to today’s Covid-19 epidemic. On September 25, 1918, Mayor Andrew Peter’s Emergency Committee recommended that not just schools but all places of public amusement (e.g., theaters, movie houses, concert halls, lodges, concert halls, etc.) be closed indefinitely. Sounds similar to Covid-19!

1620: The First Year, Christopher Daley, January 12, 2021, via Zoom

On January 12, 2021, Christopher Daley shared his knowledge about the Pilgrims and their landing at Plymouth Rock. The examined the difficult voyage over the Atlantic, the trials and tribulations that the Pilgrims met when they first arrived in the New World, the help they received from the Wampanoag Nation and the building of the first colony.

Tracing Your Family History, Joy Marzolf, November 10, 2020, via Zoom

On November 10, 2020, Joy Marzolf took us on a virtual adventure through the past. Joy began by trying to learn about her mother’s early family history and ended up discovering more about her ancestors — and other local notables than she ever expected! Joy also talked about her methodology and the resources she uses.

13 Days in October/The Untold Cuban Missile Crisis, Michael Tougias, via Zoom

On October 13, 2020, noted author Michael Tougias talked about the strategic wisdom of John F. Kennedy and the U-2 aerial spy program during the Cuban Missile Crisis. His presentation included many photos and shared what was being considered during this crisis.

Historical Trends in the Stock Market, Skip Wells

On March 10, 2020, Mr. Harry (Skip) Wells was our speaker for: Historical Trends in the Stock Market — and What the Future Might Hold. Skip has lived in Westwood for more than 50 years and has been a Wall Street analyst and stock market aficionado since 1967. His titles have included: Wall Street Analyst, Director of Research, and Hedge Fund Manager. In Westwood, Skip has served as Chairman of the Finance Commission and the Long-Range Planning Committee.

Norfolk County Register of Deeds, William P. O’Donnell

On February 6, 2020, Norfolk County Register of Deeds, William P. O’Donnell spoke about the historical nature of the Norfolk County Registry and the efforts made to modernize and computerize the vast number of real estate records. He also reviewed the benefits of having a “Homestead” on your property and talked about how easy the process is. (This program was jointly sponsored by the Westwood Historical Commission and the Westwood Historical Society.)

The Last 50 Years in Westwood

On November 5, 2019, Jerry Cronin used photographs (and a lively commentary) to talk about the changes in Westwood’s government, housing, schools, churches, and businesses since the 1970s. Many audience members shared their own stories and added great context and information! Jerry worked for the Boston Globe, was on the staff at Westwood High School and a former President of the Historical Society. (One of his stories related to flagging down a Boston Edison truck the day after the Great Blizzard to get TO the Boston Globe as nothing else was running.)

The History of Chocolate

On October 8, 2019, John Pritchard talked about the History of Chocolate and Boston’s chocolate industry, based on his extensive experience with the Confectionary Division of NABISCO. John shared many stories of the various rival chocolate manufacturers — and had samples of chocolate at different stages of processing. One person in the audience shared a photo of her mother working for the Baker chocolate company — back in the day!

1800s School Days Program: Every May

Charles Donahue oversees our School Program each May. In preparation, the Fisher School is transformed into a historic classroom with antique school desks and chairs plus a dunce cap and stool. We welcome every Westwood third grade class to an 1800s School Day. Students dress in period clothing and bring an old-fashioned lunch (no plastic wrap allowed!). During the day, they step back in time to read from McGuffey’s Third Reader, use individual slates to complete problems from Warren Colburn’s 1847 arithmetic book, write with quill pens and ink, participate in a spelling bee and play old-fashioned games.

More than 20 volunteers assist Charles, including past and current school principals, school and town administrators.

Watch the video for some great clips from a past 1800s School Day, courtesy of the Westwood Media Center: .

For more about the 1800s School Days Program, click here.

The Irish Immigration to Boston

On March 12, 2019, Christopher Daley presented an in-depth program on the Irish immigrants who came to Boston. He shared wonderful photos and detail on how they influenced and impacted our history — from the mid-17th century through the 1950s. 

Our Own “Antiques Roadshow”

On February 26, 2019, Michael B. Grogan, President/Chief Auctioneer for Grogan & Company — and two of his colleagues — recounted many stories about the auction/antique business and how it has changed over the years. They then provided verbal appraisals for the paintings, jewelry and silver that people had brought to the program.

“Open Mic Night” 

A group of Westwood High School musicians and singers have been using the Fisher School for several “Open Mic Nights.” These shows had great attendance (50+) and were emceed by Claire Anderson.Various individuals and groups volunteered to sing, play ukelele, guitar, keyboard and saxophone. We enjoy being able to “lend” the Fisher School to other groups when possible. 

The Great New England Hurricane of 1938

On January 8, 2019, Sarah Sycz Jaworski, Community Engagement Assistant for Historic New England, talked about the massive hurricane that hit New England on September 21, 1938. The hurricane came as a surprise to New England residents – and was one of the most destructive storms in American history.

Westwood Artists Marketplace

On November 30 and December 1, 2018, Westwood Artists held their third annual December Marketplace at the Westwood Historical Society’s Fisher School. Westwood Artists is a coalition of visual artists and craft people working in many media types and all living in Westwood. Click here and here for photos from the event.

Rufus Porter’s Murals

On November 13, 2018, Sloane Awtrey, Research Intern for Decorative Arts, Arts of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts gave a wonderful presentation on Rufus Porter and his many pursuits during his long lifetime (including self-taught artist, inventor, publisher and adventurer). Most importantly, she described and showed many examples of the murals that Porter painted in six Westwood houses. Click here for a photo of Sloane Awtrey with Jonathan Fairbanks (“historian extraordinaire”).

William Martin, author of Back Bay

On October 9, 2018, William Martin talked about his intriguing book, Back Bay, a historical fiction novel that follows six generations of a Boston family through tales of mystery and intrigue. As Martin says: “Boston is a city where you feel history vibrating beneath your feet” – and this novel allows us to share the experience through the eyes of the fictional Pratt clan.

The Birth of the Boston Subway

On April 24, 2018, Doug Most shared the amazing story of the building of Boston’s MBTA system. Doug is the author of “The Race Underground: Boston, New York and the Incredible Rivalry” and he intrigued us with his stories of two brothers from one of the nation’s great families – Henry Melville Whitney of Boston and William Collins Whitney of New York – each pursuing the dream of digging America’s first subway.

History of Ceramics Program

On March 20, 2018, Nancy Carlisle presented a program on the history of ceramics in New England. Nancy is Senior Curator of Collections at Historic New England and gave us the history of ceramics dating back to ancient times. She had wonderful stories to tell about the ceramics that have been found in local historic homes and those that have been showcased in museum exhibitions.