For a flower, I like the name Pansy, or pensée, best of any. 

(Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 27 January 1841)

There is so much going on here this month!

"Remember Me to All the Friends"

The Civil War Letters of George Harwood, MA 36th.

A lunch and book talk with author Janet Drake

Join us on March 29th at 12:00 pm, at the Needham History Center.

Lunch is on us, but reservations are required!

To reserve, call Gloria at 781-455-8860 or Program information HERE.

Signs of Spring~

  • I see robins on the History Center lawn (Check!)
  • The daffodils start appearing in my garden (Check!)
  • There is more mud in the yard than snow (Check!)
  • PANSY DAY is almost here! CHECK!

Join us on April 8th from 10 am to 3 pm on the lawn of the History Center for the 40th Annual Pansy Day! We will have pansies and hanging baskets - all ready to give for Easter, or just to bring some delightful Springtime into your life. We will also have our annual Heirloom Shop blowout sale in the Schoolhouse. Last year, the pansies sold out early, so don't wait! Come celebrate Spring, Needham history, and Needham's Official Flower!

Denys Zirngiebel (inset) and his greenhouses on South Street. Zirngiebel ran a wide-ranging flower and nursery business out of his South Street property, but the giant Swiss Pansy was his most famous and widespread product.

Why Pansies?

How did Pansies get to be the symbol of Needham?


Although farming in Needham is mostly in the past, Needham once had a busy agricultural economy. Dairies were the most common type of farm in Needham, and many operated well into the 20th century. Smaller farms grew garden crops such as carrots and beets. Another important product was flowers, which were sold to the city flower markets. Pansies were one of the flowers grown in Needham, and were shipped daily to Boston and beyond, and weekly to the White House in Washington.


Pansies as we know them were created in Needham, cultivated hybrids of the little wild Viola called ‘Johnny-jump-up.’ Needham's "Pansy King" was Denys Zirngiebel, a commercial grower whose home and greenhouses were on South Street. Zirngiebel came to the United States from Switzerland in 1855. He lived in Bern with his young family, working as a botanist and cultivating grapes on his own land, until 1855, when his land was taken for the Swiss Federal Railways. With limited further prospects in his own country, he moved to America to create a new future. He settled in Cambridge, taking a job as a garden man with the Harvard Botanical Gardens. 


In 1864, Zirngiebel decided to go into the nursery business for himself, and bought the historic Joshua Lewis House (1776) in Needham, along the river on South Street, to built his greenhouses. His specialty was pansies. He grew his pansies commercially for decades, and was famous for the numerous varieties that he developed. His premier product was the Giant Swiss Pansy, which often displayed blooms more than 4 inches across. In May 1888, he took First and Second Prize, and a Silver Medal for his pansies at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society exhibition. He sold his plants and seeds to commercial growers all over the country.


Zirngiebel is famous not only for his pansies, but because he was the grandfather of another important Needhamite, the great artist and illustrator N. C. Wyeth. The Zirngiebels’ neighbor in Cambridge was Andrew Newell Wyeth, who owned a hay and feed business. Both families were young, and their children grew up as friends. The Zirngiebel and Wyeth families continued as friends even after the move to Needham, and in 1881, Wyeth’s son Newell married Zirngiebel’s daughter Hattie. Zirngiebel built a house for the couple next door to his own home, and the South Street land became an extended family compound. 


N.C. Wyeth was the first of Newell and Hattie’s children, and the oldest of their four sons – Newell (NC), Edwin, Nathaniel, and Stimson. N.C. Wyeth referred frequently to both homes in his work, notably his famous illustrations of Paul Revere’s Ride (the Zirngiebel house), and the Admiral Benbow Inn in Treasure Island (his parents’ house). The Zirngiebel home, and Denys Zirngiebel himself, were also the subject of several of Wyeth's painting, including Winter (1913), which is in the collections of the Needham History Center & Museum.


The charming Pansy was therefore a natural choice as an emblem of Needham's history. The Town of Needham has declared April to be Pansy Month, and the Pansy to be the Official Fflower of Needham. 

(PS – the High School football team was never called The Pansies – that’s a Wellesley joke.)

Gloria Polizzotti Greis is the Executive Director of the Needham History Center & Museum. For more information, please see our website at

Pansy baskets on the Schoolhouse porch, April 2022.

On Sale Now!

It's the hottest ticket of the season -

and we have TWO of them!

Thanks to a generous donor, we are raffling a PAIR OF TICKETS to the TAYLOR SWIFT concert at Gillette Stadium! The concert date is Friday May 19, 2023 at 6:30 pm. These are fabulous seats - Section 109, Row 28, Seats 7 and 8. The cost of each raffle ticket is $25, and the face value of the two tickets is $892.20 The winning ticket will be drawn on the evening of the Gala, and you do not have to be present to win. The supply is limited - only 500 tickets will be sold - so hurry!


Featured Gala Sponsor ~

We are so grateful for the Sponsors who are supporting our Spring into Springtime Gala! These people and businesses give generously to many local organizations. Keep Needham such a great place to live, and support the businesses that support our town. Thank You!

Gold Sponsor:

New Pond Village

Learn more about

New Pond Village HERE

Calendar and Events

Visit our Calendar for all our event listings

History Book Group - All who enjoy reading books based on history are welcome!

We meet at the Needham History Center. More information HERE.

  • March 28 Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (Patrick Keefe)
  • April 25 - "Remember Me to All the Friends": Civil War Letters of George Harwood, MA 36th. (Janet M. Drake) Needham author!

"Remember Me to All the Friends": Civil War Letters from George W. Harwood, Massachusetts 36th. March 29 (Wednesday), 12 pm. A lunch and book talk with author Janet M. Drake. In 1862, George W. Harwood of North Brookfield enlisted for three years with the 36th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers. This book is the collection of letters he wrote home. His regiment travelled with the 9th Corps under General Ambrose E. Burnside, participating in several major battles. Harwood provided an excellent description of the war and the land from a soldier’s perspective. Jan Drake grew up in Needham, and graduated from Needham High School. She went to Hobart & William Smith College in New York where she majored in Chemistry, and then went on to Simmons College in Boston for a master’s degree in Library Science. Jan as just retired from a long and productive career in libraries, most in Wellesley. George Harwood was Jan’s great-uncle, and his letters are in Jan’s keeping. (See also Book Group discussion of this book, April 25)


The lunch and talk will take place at the Needham History Center, 1147 Central Avenue. The event is free, but seating is limited so reservations are required. To reserve, email Gloria at

The Thursday News is posted every week on our website, (scroll down to Current Newsletter).  An archive of previous weeks' stories is there as well.

Community Events

Other events of interest, from around town and beyond

The Needham Multicultural Festival. Sunday, March 19th, from 1-5pm at Needham Town Hall. Needham residents represent a diverse range of racial, ethnic, religious, and gender identities. There will be tables representing many of the fabulous cultures that together make up the Needham community. Hosted by the Needham Human Rights Committee and the Needham Diversity Initiative, this will be a free event. Info at

"Massachusetts, a Pictorial Celebration of its 351 City and Town Halls.” Tuesday, March 28 at 6:30, at the Needham History Center & Museum. A talk by author Maury Ringel, presented by the Rotary Club of Needham. We are delighted to have Needham’s own Maury Ringel tell us about his new book. He will also tell us about his Project 351, a non-profit, youth-led service organization. Very light refreshments will be served.

Pancake Breakfast Festival 2023! April 1st 7am to 11am at the Newman School. After a COVID break, the Rotary Club of Needham’s Pancake Breakfast Festival is back! This year we are returning to our roots and holding the event at the Newman Elementary School. All you can eat pancakes and sausages. Kids games. Fire truck. No end to the fun. Come say hello to your neighbors and enjoy the day. $5 entry fee. Tickets can be bought online ( or at the door. See you there! Bring friends! Can’t make it? Visit the site and buy some tickets for those less fortunate.

Important Election Information from the Needham LWV! The Needham League of Women Voters has scheduled two information sessions for the upcoming town elections on April 11.

  • Focus on the 2023 Needham Ballot Questions. The League will host “Focus on the 2023 Needham Ballot Questions” on Monday, March 20, at 4:30 pm. The program will be available live on Zoom and on the Needham Channel’s website and Roku app. Zoom registration is required at The event will feature Select Board Chair Marianne Cooley and Police Chief John Schlittler, who will present information on the ballot questions and answer questions from the moderator and the Zoom audience. For information on the two ballot questions and links to additional information, visit the League of Women Voters website at

  • 2023 Candidates Night Returns to Broadmeadow. Candidates Night will be held at Broadmeadow School on Monday, March 27 from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. The event will include an informal Meet and Greet (7-7:30) with all candidates, a candidates forum beginning at 7:30 for the two contested boards (Planning Board and Select Board), a brief presentation of the two ballot questions, and self-introductions by Town Meeting candidates. The event will be available live on Zoom (register at and on the Needham Channel’s website and Roku app. The recorded event will be available on the LWVN and Needham Channel websites. For complete information on the April 11 Annual Election including Candidates Night, voting options, candidates, ballot questions, visit the League’s Gateway to the 2023 Needham Election at

Are you reading this article on Facebook?

Was it forwarded to you by someone?

If you enjoy these articles, you can get them every week in your Inbox by signing up for our mailing list. We don't spam you, and you can opt out at any time.

We thank our Corporate Sponsors 

for their generous and ongoing support!


Lead Sponsor - The Needham Bank 

Exhibits Sponsor - Beth Israel Deaconess - Needham

Program Sponsor - North Hill 

Gold Sponsor - NC Wyeth Foundation and Reading Libraries

The Dedham Inst. for Savings . The Middlesex Bank 

Louise Condon Realty . Petrini Corporation . The Vita Needle Company

The Needham Women's Club . JC Timmerman, Inc.

The Needham History Center & Museum

781-455-8860 /