Somerville () is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, located just north of Boston. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 75,754 and was the most densely populated municipality in New England. It is also the 17th most densely populated incorporated place in the country. It was established as a town in 1842, when it was separated from the urbanizing Charlestown. Somerville was a 2009 All-America City Award recipient. Somerville has been voted one of the best managed cities in America by the Boston Globe magazine.
Somerville was first settled in 1630 as part of Charlestown. It was known as "Charlestown beyond the Neck" because it was part of the Massachusetts mainland, not the Charlestown Peninsula. (Charlestown Neck was the narrow strip of land that joined the two.) The incorporation of Somerville in 1842 separated the largely rural town from the urbanizing Charlestown.
The original choice for the city's new name after breaking away from Charlestown was Walford, after the first settler of Charlestown. However this name was not adopted by the separation committee. Mr. Charles Miller, a member of this committee, proposed the name "Somerville" which was chosen. It was not derived from any one person's name. A report commissioned by the Somerville Historical Society found that Somerville was a "purely fanciful name" (though "Somerville" is a surname of Franco-British origin).
Traffic on the Middlesex Canal began its famous journey from the mouth of the Charles River in Charlestown (now part of Boston) to Lowell by going through East Somerville, where several historical markers can be discovered today.
Historically Somerville encompassed many of the less desirable railway and industrial lands squeezed between the Charles River to the southwest and the Mystic River to the northeast. For all its problems, Somerville's late 19th and early 20th centuries industrial revolution left behind a rich historical record of Sanborn Maps, apparently invented in Somerville in 1867, and subsequently used for fire insurance appraisal across the USA. The delicate, detailed original Sanborn Maps are on display at the main branch of the Somerville Public Library.
Somerville's industrial past left one special legacy, the invention of Fluff, the marshmallow creme. In 1914, the city became the home of the original Economy Grocery Store, which later grew into the Stop & Shop grocery chain. Two related food service chains, Steve's Ice Cream and Bertucci's, sprung from adjacent lots in Somerville's Davis Square.
One of the earliest American flags was raised on Prospect Hill, above Union Square, on January 1, 1776.
Until the 1990s, Somerville was colloquially referred to as "Slummerville", on account of its blue-collar residents and its reputation for crime, especially in the city's east, where James "Buddy" McLean and Howie Winter and the "Winter Hill Gang" were based. The city also had a very high car theft rate, once being the car theft capital of the country, and its Assembly Square area was especially infamous for theft. However, after the gentrification period the city went through in the 1990s and an influx of artists to the area, this name has mostly faded from use and the city has instead gained a reputation for its active arts community and effective government including being named Massachusetts' "Best Run City" by The Boston Globe. More recently, lobbying by grassroots organizations is attempting to revive and preserve Somerville's "small town" neighborhood environments by supporting local business, public transit, gardens and pedestrian/bike access.
The first Democratic Mayor of the city was John J. Murphy in 1929. He succeeded on his seventh try by uniting the Irish, Italians, Greeks, and Portuguese. There were "Candle Parades" with thousands marching to giant rallies in the middle of Union Square (and other squares too).
Somerville is located at (42.390546, -71.103683), bordered by Cambridge, Arlington, Medford, Everett, and the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of , of which is land and (2.61%) is water.
Squares and neighborhoods
Somerville has a number of squares that are bustling business and entertainment centers, as well as a number of other neighborhoods:
Sullivan Square is just over the Charlestown border; Porter Square, Inman Square, and Lechmere Square are all just over the Cambridge border.
The following are the "Seven Hills" of Somerville:
Seven Hills Park at Davis Square. The towers in the park each represent one of the city's original hills.
- Central Hill
- Clarendon Hill
- Cobble Hill
- Mount Benedict (or Plowed Hill)
- Mount Pisgah (or Prospect Hill)
- Spring Hill
- Winter Hill
Paths and parks
The Somerville Community Path is a tree-lined rail trail that runs from Cedar Street to the Cambridge border near Davis Square. It connects with the Alewife Linear Park, which in turn connects with the Minuteman Bikeway and the Fitchburg Cutoff Path. Community activists hope to extend the path eastward to Lechmere Square, which would connect with the Charles River Bike Paths and the proposed East Coast Greenway. As of 2010, the city has a total of 63 parks, playgrounds, playing fields, and community gardens.
Somerville has a mayor-city council form of municipal government. The Board of Aldermen consists of 4 at-large (city-wide) positions and 7 ward representatives (each ward is a specific section of the city). The current mayor of the city is Joseph Curtatone.
Somerville is part of Massachusetts's 8th congressional district for purposes of elections to the United States House of Representatives. It is represented by Rep. Michael Capuano (Democrat), a former mayor of Somerville and a candidate for Ted Kennedy's US Senate seat following Kennedy's death in 2009.
For representation to the Massachusetts Senate, Somerville is part of the "Second Middlesex" and "Middlesex, Suffolk, and Essex" districts. For representation to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Somerville is part of the 26th, 27th, and 34th Middlesex districts.
|Voter Registration and Party Enrollment as of October 15, 2008
||Number of Voters
Somerville Public Schools operates 11 schools for pre-K to grade 12 students, including the East Somerville Community School, which was temporarily closed after a fire in 2007, and as of 2009 is undergoing demolition and reconstruction. Also included in the school district is the Somerville Center for Adult Learning Experiences. The former Powder House Community School (which was closed due to low enrollment in 2004) is being considered for redevelopment, either as a consolidated location for city offices if funding is obtained under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 or as some other type of development.
Somerville's Police Department responds to, investigates and prevents crime and enforces traffic regulations. They have divisions including the patrol,neighborhood policing,special operations,auxiliary,K-9 unit,detective unit and the traffic bureau. They operate marked and unmarked patrol cars, motorcycles and bikes, paddy wagons, traffic enforcement SUVs, speed monitoring trailers and an emergency incident command truck. The Somerville Police operates out of a headquarters and one neighborhood substation. They respond to approximately 45,000 service calls a year. SPD's headquraters is located in Union Square.
Somerville is protected full time by the 150 professional firefighters of the Somerville Fire Department (SFD). The Somerville Fire Department provides fire suppression, training and prevention, emergency medical services, and rescue from water, trench or transit to the city of Somerville 24/7, 365 days a year. The SFD operates out of 5 fire stations, located throughout the city, and operates a fire apparatus fleet of 5 engines (6 when manpower permits), 3 ladders, 1 rescue, 1 Haz-Mat. unit, 1 fireboat, and numerous other special, support, and reserve units. The Somerville Fire Department runs at Basic Life Support emergency medical services level with about half the firefighters being Certified First Responders and the others are basic Emergency Medical Technicians, and one firefighter is a Paramedic. The SFD responds to approximately 9,000 emergency calls per year.
||651 Somerville Ave.
||C2 (Deputy Chief)
||255 Somerville Ave.
||6 Newbury St.
||C3 (District Chief)
||265 Highland Ave.
Emergency Medical Services
The Cataldo Ambulance Service provides BLS and ALS, emergency and non-emergency ambulance coverage to the city of Somerville.
Somerville has a mix of blue collar Irish-American, Italian American and to a slightly lesser extent Portuguese American families who are spread throughout the city; immigrant families from Brazil, Haiti and El Salvador, who live in East Somerville, from South Korea, Nepal, and India, in the Union Square area, and college students and young professionals, many of whom live in sections near Cambridge where Harvard and MIT are located, or near Tufts University, which straddles the Somerville-Medford city line.
With only slightly over of land, Somerville is the most densely populated city in New England according to the 2000 Demographics of the United States.
As of the census of 2010, there were 75,754 people, 33,720 households, and 14,673 families residing in the city. The population density was 18,404.8 people per square mile (7,278.4/km ). There were 32,105 housing units at an average density of 7,909.1 per square mile (3,051.0/km ). The racial makeup of the city was 69.1% White, 6.8% African American, 0.3% Native American, 8.7% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 4.96% from other races, and 3.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 10.6% of the population.
There were 31,555 households out of which 18.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.2% were married couples living together, 10.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 53.5% were non-families. 31.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.38 and the average family size was 3.06.
In the city the population was spread out with 14.8% under the age of 18, 15.9% from 18 to 24, 42.6% from 25 to 44, 16.2% from 45 to 64, and 10.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 94.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.2 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $46,315, and the median income for a family was $51,243. Males had a median income of $36,333 versus $31,418 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,628. About 8.4% of families and 12.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.3% of those under age 18 and 13.6% of those age 65 or over.
Somerville has experienced dramatic gentrification since the Red Line of Boston's subway system was extended through Somerville in 1985, especially in the area between Harvard and Tufts Universities, centering around Davis Square. Gentrification has historical cycles in the city of Somerville due to its proximity to these and many other colleges and universities. This was especially accelerated by the repeal of rent control in the mid-1990s being directly followed by the Internet boom of the late 90s. Residential property values approximately quadrupled from 1991 to 2003 and the stock of rental housing decreased as lucrative condo conversions become commonplace. This has led to tensions between long-time residents and recent arrivals, with many of the former accusing the latter of ignoring problems of working-class families such as drugs, gang violence, and suicides. Incidents such as anti-"yuppie" graffiti, appearing around town, have highlighted this rift. The economic clash between several areas of the city of Somerville and its neighboring cities of Boston, and in particular Cambridge, has created a culture of anti-intellectualism and anti-gentry sentiment that has spanned many generations. Symptoms of this include petty crime, and in some cases, violence against outsiders. Recent years have seen the arrival of community groups such as Save Our Somerville (SOS), dedicated to improving relationships between old and new residents and ensuring that the concerns of the Somerville working class remain at the forefront of the city's political concerns. SOS in particular is headed by young residents of the city who claim to desire unity between all residents but also focus on the difficulties that young adults in Somerville face. They enjoy support from a number of well-known, local adults, including elected officials. Many such community-led groups find it difficult to attract wide support as many would-be advocates choose to move to other towns due to the density of the population or to the strong economic forces that have made Somerville an expensive city to live in.
In November 1997, the Utne Reader named Davis Square in Somerville one of the 15 hippest places to live in the U.S. The article illustrates how Somerville is in an era of socio-economic change shared by many other working-class and industrial areas of the country.
Though formally listed as being located in Medford, Tufts University is also located in Somerville. The Somerville Medford line runs through Tufts' campus splitting the main library. The school employs many local residents and has many community service projects that benefit the city, especially those run through the Leonard Carmichael Society and the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service.
Similarly, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences lists its address in Cambridge, but has its main entrance on Beacon Street in Somerville.
Somerville is home to a thriving arts community. Regular arts-related events, such as the annual "ArtBeat" festival, occur throughout the year. In addition, numerous galleries and music clubs showcase the talents of residents and others. Live music performance venues include Johnny D's, Somerville Theater, Precinct, Sally O'Briens, PA's Lounge, and others.
Two major art studios, the Brickbottom Artists Building and the Joy Street Studios, are located in former industrial buildings in the Brickbottom District of Somerville, located between McGrath Highway and the Fitchburg Line railroad tracks, adjacent to the Inner Belt District. The Brickbottom Artists Association has been hosting annual open studio events in the fall since 1987.
Davis Square is home to lively coffee houses, vintage stores and other independent retailers. It is also home to the Somerville Theatre, which houses the Somerville branch of the Museum of Bad Art and plays host to the Independent Film Festival of Boston each spring.
The volunteer-operated Somerville Museum preserves memorabilia chronicling Somerville's roots, with historical and artistic exhibits. It is located at 1 Westwood Road, on the corner of Central Street.
With three branches, the Somerville Public Library offers residents a range of services and resources from books, movies, and music, to computer access, English conversation classes, and much more.
The Somerville Arts Council and Somerville Open Studios both host annual events involving the community in homegrown arts. The Boston chapter of the Dorkbot community meets in Somerville at the Willoughby & Baltic studio, in the Brickbottom district.
The Boston Review, a political and literary magazine, has its offices in the city and the public radio show Living on Earth is recorded in Davis Square.
Candlewick Press, a major children's book printing company, is operated in Somerville.
Somerville boasts a large number of restaurants and taverns, including Redbones, The Independent, Gargoyles on the Square, Namaskar, Diva, Highland Kitchen, Taqueria la Mexicana, Dali and others. The Rosebud is a 1941 diner. Noteworthy cafes include Sherman's, Diesel, Bloc 11, True Grounds, The Biscuit, and the cupcake bakery Kickass Cupcakes.
There are numerous National Register of Historic Places listings in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Massachusetts Route 28 runs north/south through Somerville, separating East Somerville from the rest of the city. Rte. 28 is called "McGrath Highway" from Cambridge to Interstate 93, and it is called the "Fellsway" north of I-93 and on into Medford.
Interstate 93 runs northwest/southeast through Somerville, separating Ten Hills and Assembly Square from the rest of the city. This massive highway is elevated for almost its entire length through Somerville and runs directly alongside and/or above Mystic Avenue (Massachusetts Route 38).
At present, rail transit serves periphery points of Somerville: to the northwest, Davis Square on the Red Line and to the southeast, Sullivan Square on the Orange Line at the border with Charlestown, providing easy access to Harvard Square and to downtown Boston. Porter Square (just over the Cambridge border) also has Red Line service and an MBTA Commuter Rail station, providing access to Boston's North Station and to locations westward on the Fitchburg Line.
Somerville Highlands Station, 1908
Massachusetts state officials have agreed, both in court settlements and legislation, to extend the Green line rapid transit system through Somerville. This would bring rail transit service to the core sections of Somerville. This commitment was made, in part, to offset the additional burdens in traffic and pollution within the city due to completion of the Big Dig infrastructure. The Green Line Extension would be built along existing commuter rail rights-of-way, and would extend service to much of central Somerville, to Tufts University and surrounding areas of Medford, and (along a separate spur) to Union Square. Controversy has surrounded the repeated delays by the state in providing funding for the project, most recently when Governor Deval Patrick decided to delay work an additional two years in order to seek up to $300 million in federal financing for the project. This decision makes it unlikely that the previous completion date of 2014 will be met.
In April 2008, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a $3.5 billion transportation bond bill that includes the $600 million necessary to fund the Green Line extension. The target completion date remains 2014.
A new Orange Line station has been proposed, to be built near the Assembly Square Mall in eastern Somerville, between the existing Sullivan and Wellington stations.
The city is served by buses that connect to these subway stations:
Orange Line stations:
- Sullivan Square in Charlestown
- Wellington in Medford
- Malden in Malden
Red Line stations:
- Davis Square in Somerville
- Kendall, Central, Harvard, and Porter in Cambridge
Green Line stations:
- Lechmere in East Cambridge
- Cleveland Circle and Reservoir, at the Brighton/Brookline line
Local news media
The city is served by a number of news sources, including:
Isaac Asimov, science fiction author, while a professor at Boston University in the 1950s (1920 1992)
Robert A. Bruce, academic cardiologist (1916 2004)
Mat Bruso, vocalist, former lead singer of Bury Your Dead
Michael E. Capuano, US Congressman; Mayor of Somerville (1990 1998) (b. 1952)
Haroutioun Hovanes Chakmakjian (1878 1973), chemistry professor, Armenian scholar, and father of Alan Hovhaness
Richard Carle, comic film actor (1871 1941)
Gosder Cherilus, starting offensive tackle for the Detroit Lions football team
Hal Clement, science fiction author (1922 2003)
Hal Connolly, Olympic gold medalist in the hammer throw (1931-2010)
Bob Cousy, NBA Hall of Famer
George Dilboy, recipient of Medal of Honor (1896 1918)
Harry Ellis Dickson, assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, father-in-law of Mike Dukakis (1909-2003)
Antje Duvekot, singer/songwriter
Jonathan Franzen, author (lived in Somerville during his early writing career; references to Tufts and Somerville appear in his Strong Motion)
Nick Gomez, television and movie director (b. 1963)
Arthur Skinny Graham, Boston Red Sox outfielder (1909 1967)
Henry Kimball Hadley, composer and conductor (1871 1937)
Hank Hansen, raiser of the first flag in the Battle of Iwo Jima
Alan Hovhaness, composer (1911 2000)
James Hutchinson, musician
Pagan Kennedy, author
Moses E. Kiley, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Milwaukee
Jake Kilrain, famous bare knuckle fighter and glove boxer of the 1880s
Jennifer Kimball, singer/songwriter
Steven Levitt, economist and author
Howie Long, NFL player, member Football Hall of Fame (b. 1960)
Marc Maron, comedian, host of WTF with Marc Maron
Claire Messud, novelist
F. Mark Modzelewski, entrepreneur
Connie Morella, former U.S. Representative from Maryland
Randall Munroe, creator of xkcd
Barack Obama, (while attending Harvard Law School) President of the United States
Howard Petrie, actor (1906 1968)
Bobby "Boris" Pickett, composer "Monster Mash" (1938 2007)
Harry Nelson Pillsbury, chess champion (1872 1906)
Archibald Query, inventor of Marshmallow Fluff
Josh Ritter, singer-songwriter, while beginning his music career
Lloyd Schwartz, poet, scholar and Pulitzer Prize-winning critic (b. 1941)
John Shea, playwright (b. 1964)
Paul Sorrento, Major League Baseball player from 1989 to 1999 (b. 1965)
Daniel C. Stillson, inventor of the Stillson pipe wrench, (1830 1899)
Leonard H. Tower Jr., free software activist, software hacker, and founding member of the Board of Directors of the Free Software Foundation
David Warsh, economics journalist
David Foster Wallace, author
Winter Hill Gang
James Wood, literary critic
Paul Wylie, U.S. Olympic figure skater (1992 Silver Medalist) (b. 1964)
Evan Ziporyn, composer (b. 1959)
- Somerville, Arlington and Belmont Directory. 1869; 1873; 1876.
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