Building 19

Building 19 was a chain of unique warehouse style New England discount stores that offered “good stuff cheap” for over 50 years before being forced into bankruptcy in 2013.

The store sold a wide variety of items obtained in fire sales, closeouts, bankruptcies, overstocks and customs seizures. They also sold items with small defects, “seconds” at large discounts.

The first store opened in 1965 in the Hingham Shipyard, where the warehouse buildings were numbered. Too cheap to replace the “Building 19” sign, owner Jerry Ellis instead used the building number as the business name and it stuck.

After opening a second store, Building 19 1/2 in Burlington, Ellis opened the Norwood store located in a 65,000 square foot building at 1450 Providence Highway and designated it Building 19 3/4.

Ellis used humor in signs inside the store as well as in sale circulars. The circulars had a comic book quality to them thanks to the artwork of Scituate cartoonist Mat Brown.


Signs both in and outside the store poked fun at the company, their products and sometimes even the customers.

Ellis proudly called Building 19 “America’s Laziest and Messiest Department Store.”

Part of the stores appeal was that you never knew what new thing you’d find on the shelves.


For husbands who were impatiently waiting for their wives, there was the “official husbands bench”.

The company gave away free coffee in cups that warned customers not to make fun of the taste because “someday you’ll be old and weak yourself!”.

WalMart, Target and other big retailers as well as online shopping led to a decline in sales and after a decade of struggling, the company closed all the Building 19 stores in 2013.

In 2014, the Norwood and the Burlington stores were the final two locations to close after a short period of time as rug wholesalers.

The Norwood location was purchased in 2016 by GRE Norwood LLC and turned into Extra Space Storage.

Owner Jerry Ellis died on November 11, 2017. His daughter has written a paperback all about him and the company called Good Stuff Cheap!: The Story of Jerry Ellis and Building #19, Inc”.



History of the Plimpton Press

Herbert M. Plimpton was born in Walpole and trained as a compositor, pressman and binder in a time when book making was largely a labor intensive process completed by hand.

In 1882 Herbert and his brother Howard founded the Plimpton Press in Boston with around 25 employees. Hebert was an advocate of using machinery in the book manufacturing process to reduce labor costs and save time long before the rest of the industry. The Plimpton Press is credited as being the first plant in the world to use folding machines, cover making machines, modern sewing machines, and the first rounding and backing machines. They also invented the first gathering machine.

Plimpton himself had been trained as a compositor and press-man, although his talent was truly in the line of book -binding, which he learned in New York City.

The Norwood Business Association convinced Plimpton to move his press work and binding operations to Norwood in 1897. He selected a piece of land on the East side of the railroad tracks between Lenox and Nahatan St. The location was so successful he closed the Boston plant in 1904,  added an addition to his Norwood plant and moved the rest of his business to Norwood. The new annex was dedicated on December 21, 1904 in a grand ceremony. All of his employees, town officers, many townspeople and a number of prominent publishers who were customers of the Plimpton Press attended the informal gathering which served almost as an introduction of his workforce to the town and his customers. Howard died in 1899, and in 1904 Herbert renamed the company H.M. Plimpton & Company. In 1913, he incorporated the business as the Plimpton Press.

Plimpton was active in town affairs and joined the Norwood Business Association. In September of 1918, the influenza outbreak was beginning to spread through town and Plimpton was one of six leading citizens chosen for an Epidemic Committee and was named it’s chairman. He married Frances Winslow, daughter of George S. Winslow and niece of Francis O. Winslow, former partners in the Winslow Brothers tannery. He was one of the wealthiest and most influential men in town. The Press held social events, promoted local sports teams and published a company newsletter for many years.

In 1920 the bindery part of the plant was capable of producing 50,000 volumes a day and by 1936 the press employed over 600 men and women. At the height of it’s production capabilities in the 1950’s, the plant work force had doubled to over 1200 employees and profits were high. It was considered one of the best places to work in the entire town and it was common for workers to stay employed there for 20 to 30 years.

Like the competing press in town, the Norwood Press, the Plimpton Press began by producing school textbooks. Eventually to offset the seasonal nature of textbook printing, the press expanded into religious books, fiction and deluxe editions of classic novels.

The Plimpton Press was purchased by McCall Printing Company of New York in 1964. In 1970 New York based investing firm Murray Traub Acquiring Corp bought the Press before eventually closing it in October of 1973.

By the 1990’s, the site was used as warehouse space for various companies including a moving and storage company.

In 2014, a proposal for a development would have placed 238 units at the Plimpton Press site, with a total of 50 condos and 188 apartments. There would have been around 10,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor of the buildings, and Lenox Street would have been reopened. Norwood Town Meeting members voted 93-70 in favor of the project but it fell short of the required two-thirds majority for zoning changes and the developers backed out.

This proposed development at the Plimpton site failed to pass at Norwood Town Meeting.


Instead, a new developer, Avalon Bay, came in with a 40B proposal. According to their website,  Avalon Norwood will offer one-, two-, and three- bedroom apartments and townhomes for lease.

Demolition of Building #3 and #4 began on May 7, 2018. Buildings 1 and 2 are scheduled for demolition starting in July.

For photos of the demolition and new construction at the Plimpton site, click here.


Norwood Airport Aerial View Then and Now

The view of Norwood Airport from 1953 shows how relatively undeveloped the area still was.  Center right of the photo shows that the airport itself was much smaller, with most of the airport buildings close to the bend of access road.


The wooded area in the center of the photo houses many of the planes and helicopters in hangers today.

Toward the bottom of the photo in the center is the intersection of Neponset Street and Route 1. Today you have to use the Pendergast circle rotary (right side of the 2018 photo) to access the other side of Neponset street one section of Neponset is a dead end street.


Norwood Airport Proposed Plan…/eb903bb44ed54b528ff7b55c292886a3

Use the above link to see the notes and zoom in on the map.

This is a proposed 1930 plan to build the Massachusetts Air Terminal and Arena (MATA) along the Norwood and Canton border. Interest in aviation was great enough after Charles Lindbergh visited in 1927 that investors were able to gather up $130,000 in private funding in the midst of the Great Depression to buy up the 1298 acres of land. It was said to be the largest single piece of land ever purchased by a private company in Massachusetts history. The location was prime real estate- just off the new US Route 1 in Norwood and adjacent to a mile and a half of railway lines in wetlands that were marked for industrial development. In addition to 8 runways, hangars and blimp docking bays, there would be an aviation club and a dedicated fire station. The area containing the arena would have a sports stadium, athletic complex, tennis club, 9 hole golf course with country club and various athletic fields. This was to be a major transportation center with a “world class” airport, ready to handle the future transatlantic air travel that the developers saw as the next big thing. On June 26, 1931 Canton opened the first airfield of the project, just East of present day I-95. At that time, the airport was the 3rd largest in the state. Several times when weather conditions in Boston made landing at Logan unsafe, flights were diverted to Cnaton airport and passengers were shuttled to Boston via Canton Junction. On August 19 of 1936, the German airship Hindenberg visited Canton. Less than a year later on May 6, 1937 it passed over the airport at around 300 ft, low enough that people on the ground could see the passengers. By 7:30 that same night, the Hindenberg burst into a flames attempting to moor in Lakehurst, NJ, killing 13 passengers and 22 crew members. A 1940 survery recommended moving the airport to the Norwood side of the Neponset river. During WWII Canton Airport came into competition with Bedford airport for government contracts and expansion funding. Bedford won the competition (and has a military base there today) partly because the town of Canton was slow to modernize their airport. in 1946, Wiggins Airways moved to the present day site and still operates the airport in Norwood today. The Canton airport closed sometime between 1957 and 1959 and was later used as a junkyard before being bought by the MDC for sewer piping. Today the Canton site has been developed into a park.

Norwood Armory Then And Now

The State Armory was built in 1929 and designed to be similar in style to the Town Hall, built one block over to the West one year earlier. Norwood resident and then Governor Frank Allen spent five years trying to get the project off the ground and was instrumental in getting it completed. Governor Allen  presided over it’s groundbreaking and dedication in 1930. The building housed Massachusetts National Guard units for many years. The town of Norwood also put the building to use during elections as a polling location and used the auditorium for public events.


In 1984 the State of Massachusetts sold the building to the town for $1. Since then the town has used the building as the Civic Center. In the 1980’s the RMV had an office in the building and after major flooding to the Public Safety Building in 1998, a branch of the Norwood Police Department was temporarily housed there.

The Civic Center in 1983

The Norwood Recreation Department runs dozens of programs from the Civic Center today, from sports to arts and crafts to programs for the community. The facility also has a gym, mean and women’s locker room (both contain a sauna with showers), multipurpose workout rooms for classes, meeting rooms and office space. The facility has a full kitchen and a full arts and crafts room, and the gym is available for special events. Norwood is truly fortunate to have such a great facility with such a dedicated staff.