Pondville: A Small Area of Town with Big History

Grace Allen
Issue Date: 
February, 2020
Article Body: 

Part of a series of articles examining Norfolk’s history during this sesquicentennial anniversary year.
Norfolk is comprised of over 15 square miles, but it’s the small southeast corner of town that arguably has contributed the most to the town’s history.
Pondville, once known as Pond Village or the Pond Settlement, was populated by the Pond family and its descendants, starting in the 1730s. But it was a thriving community even before then, dating back to the late 1600s. Norfolk may have become an official town in 1870, but this small area was well established much earlier, and went on to have its own post office, school, railroad station, and more.
The area, a “town within a town,” was known for its agriculture and dairy farms, and later, ducks. Its boundaries were somewhat fluid, but it’s generally accepted that Pondville is now bordered by Dedham Street and continuing southeast to the Walpole, Foxboro and Wrentham town lines.
Following is a snapshot of historically important parts of Pondville. For much more detailed information and fascinating history of the area, set in the context of our nation’s narrative, read “Pondville: My Home and Neighborhood, My Personal Search for Its History.” Written by Norfolk resident Elizabeth Whitney, the book is available from the Norfolk Public Library.
Befitting a community with families, the area had its own school. The Pondville School sat at the corner of Hill St. and Valley St., and was likely established in the early 1800s and continued in operation until 1893, when one-room, multi-age schoolhouses were closing. Pondville students then began attending the Centre School, a “graded” school, in Norfolk. All that remains of the Pondville School is a stone wall.
Post Office
Pondville had its own post office, established around 1891, another example of a town within a town. It was located in the basement of a private home on Valley St. and closed in 1910. The building fell into disrepair and was empty in recent years, but the remnants of the post office remained in the basement, including a wrought iron cage in which the postmaster sat. The former post office was demolished a few years ago to make way for condominiums.
Home for the Aged
An historic, majestic mansion once stood on Old Pond Street, which runs off Valley St., built by Lucas Pond in 1825. In 1900, Lucas’ son Virgil donated the mansion to the King’s Daughters and Sons, an interdenominational service organization. The group used the 20-room mansion as a home for the elderly until 1933, when the trustees decided to move to a bigger, better-equipped home in Wrentham, now known as the Pond Home.
The now-empty Pondville mansion was then purchased by Baptists and renamed the Pond Homestead Baptist Camp, a church-sponsored camp for Baptist children and their parents. The building eventually fell into disrepair, and in 1979 was destroyed by fire. All that remains is the hole where the cellar once stood, and a stone wall.
In 1900, on one of the oldest settled spots in Norfolk, dating back to the 1600s, a chapel was built. It was across from the Pondville home for the elderly, and was named the Cressy Memorial Chapel (the Cressy family married into the Pond family). The chapel was used by the residents of the Pond Home for the Aged, as well as all the residents of the Pondville area. The unique building on Valley Street is constructed of field rock in a Gothic revival style. It is now a private home.
Pondville State Hospital, located on Dedham St. (Rt. 1A) is now empty. In its heyday, it was an important cancer facility. It was built in 1914 on the former Pond farm for the treatment of alcoholics and drug addicts, and was known as the Norfolk State Hospital. At the end of WW1, the hospital was leased to the Federal Government for use as a rehabilitation hospital for veterans. In 1927, it reopened as a cancer treatment facility. There were 147 inpatient beds, an outpatient clinic, two operating rooms, an x-ray machine, and a radium emanation plant. The complex included a nursing school and dormitory, and eventually a research facility.
Train Station
In the late 1800s, Pondville got its own railroad stop. A mere 5 minutes walk from the Home for the Aged (which used this fact in its advertising brochures), the Pondville Station on Everett St. was located on the Wrentham branch of the Old Colony Railroad. Complete with oil lamp lighting, the station included a waiting room and a baggage area. Passenger service ended in 1938, and freight service ended in the late 1960s.
Probably the most historic piece of Norfolk history still stands today. The Pondville Cemetery, located on Everett St., was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. Established in 1757, it is the final resting place of many of the original inhabitants of Norfolk, including the Pond family. There are several unmarked graves, so local historians believe burials occurred there prior to the 1700s.
A Duck Restaurant
Newcomers to the area may be amused to learn that Wrentham was once known as a fine dining destination—serving ducks. The Weber Duck Farm raised ducks in Pondville and in later years, ran a restaurant in Wrentham (at the time, the location was considered part of Pondville). Jacob Weber established his duck farm in the late 1800s and raised thousands of ducks each year. The White Peking ducks were in high demand, shipped out of the Pondville train station to locations all over New England. Many Pondville families regularly ate duck for dinner.
In the early 1920s, the Weber family started serving duck dinners (“We Raise the Ducks We Serve”) at its new Weber Duck Farm and Inn, and the crowds came, many traveling 1.5 hours from Boston via automobile to the Dedham St. (Rt. 1A) establishment. An orchestra entertained the mostly-privileged guests, and many debutante parties, society gatherings, and even the post Harvard-Yale football game get-togethers occurred at the restaurant. But by 1949, the inn and restaurant fell into decline and was sold and used as an auction house. In 1958, the facility burned to the ground and all that remains is a stone column hidden by trees, marking the former driveway, across the street from the Serenity Hill Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.