The Town of Needham was settled in 1680 and is located on rocky uplands within a loop of the Charles River, almost isolated from the surrounding countryside. Though the area was used for some grazing by Dedham residents and some land grants were made, the river served as an effective barrier and the town was slow to develop. Early settlers relied primarily on agriculture and grazing plus some winter lumbering with orchards and tanneries as supplements. Saw mills and grist mills were opened by a number of settlers along the Charles through the 18th century.
Extension of the railroad and land speculation encouraged settlement, and the town saw the growth of industrial employment and production at the same time during the mid-19th century. Needham manufacturers made knit goods, underwear, hats, shoes and silk, although attempts to cultivate silk worms were short-lived.
Land speculation, housing development and knitted underwear continued to be the foundation of Needham's economy into the 20th century, with the famous William Carter Corporation prominent in the children's knitwear industry. The construction of Route 128 in 1931 opened portions of the town to development as part of the hi-tech highway in the post-World War II electronic industrial boom. Modern Needham remains a pleasant heavily suburban community with good access to Boston for commuters and a significant number of local job slots.
Eastern Massachusetts, bordered by Wellesley on the west and northwest, Newton on the north and northeast, the West Roxbury section of Boston on the east, Dedham on the southeast and south, and Westwood and Dover on the south. Needham is 10 miles southwest of Boston, 29 miles east of Worcester, and about 208 miles from New York City.
Total Area: 12.70 sq. miles Land Area: 12.61 sq. miles Population: 28,886 (2010) Density Population: 2,292 per sq. mile
Climate (National Climatic Data Center) (Blue Hill Station):
Normal temperature in January: 25.3°F
Normal temperature in July.: 71.2°F
Normal annual precipitation: 49.0"
Form of Government:Board of Selectmen, Town Manager, Representative Town Meeting
Year Incorporated as a town: 1711
Needham is situated in the Greater Boston Area, which has excellent rail, air, and highway facilities. State Route 128 and Interstate Route 495 divide the region into inner and outer zones, which are connected by numerous "spokes" providing direct access to the airport, port, and intermodal facilities of Boston.
Principal highways are State Routes 128 (the inner belt around Boston) and 135, and Interstate Route 95, which shares the same roadway as State Route 128.
Commuter rail service is available to Back Bay Station and South Station, Boston, from Needham Heights (travel time to BBS 37-38 min.; 14 MBTA parking spaces), Needham Center (travel time 33-34 min.; 36 MBTA parking spaces), Needham Junction (travel time 27-30 min.; 170 spaces), and Hersey (travel time 24-27 min.; 322 spaces). The Bay Colony Railroad provides freight rail service in Needham. Contact number: (781) 380-3556. Amtrak train service is available a few miles down Route 128 at University Ave. in Westwood.
Needham is a member of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). The MBTA provides fixed route service between Needham Junction and Watertown Square.