Needham Historical Society

Many Rivers to Cross...

If it seems to you that the Charles River is everywhere you go in Needham, you’d be right. Needham is in a loop, and nearly every exit from town requires you to cross a bridge. In fact, unless you are going to Wellesley via Great Plain Avenue, it is relatively difficult to leave Needham without crossing water. And it was worse when we still owned Wellesley.

There are now nine bridges out of Needham. Two are named after the roads that run over them; the rest are named for the families that once owned the land (and who were often responsible for the upkeep of the bridge). Can you name them all?

Cook’s Bridge – Central Ave to Newton Upper Falls (first built 1720)
Highland Ave Bridge, to Newton (1875)
Kendrick’s Bridge – Kendrick St to Newton (1716)
Lyon’s Bridge – Greendale Ave to Dedham (1740)
Dedham Ave Bridge to Dedham (1873)
Day’s Bridge – Chestnut St to Dover (1750)
Newell’s Bridge – Central Ave to Dover (1795)
Fisher’s Bridge – South St. to Dover (before 1763)
Pierce’s Bridge – Charles River St. to Dover / South Natick (1851)

But wait! – there’s one more. The one of the earliest crossings into Needham does not have a name – in fact, you probably never even notice it. The other end of Great Plain Avenue crosses into Dedham without even a “Welcome to ” sign. The road runs alongside a still and peaceful stretch of the Charles. The town line was originally formed by an ancient canal, known once as the Great (or Long) Ditch, dug in the 17th century to help drain the Broad Meadows. The Ditch runs under the road (the “bridge” is more like a little culvert) and away to the north, rejoining the Charles in West Roxbury, near Millennium Park. (All that marshy stuff you see from the train between Hersey and WRox stations is the Broad Meadows). If you look at an aerial map, you will see that the Meadows is crossed by numerous ditches, all part of a drainage system hand-dug in the 1600s. But I digress, as usual.

Copyright 2008, Needham Historical Society