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Somerville, Massachusetts
—  City  —
Davis Square, Somerville

Location in Middlesex County in Massachusetts
Coordinates: 42°23′15″N 71°06′00″W / 42.3875°N 71.1°W / 42.3875; -71.1Coordinates: 42°23′15″N 71°06′00″W / 42.3875°N 71.1°W / 42.3875; -71.1
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Middlesex
Settled 1630
Incorporated 1842
 - Type Mayor-council city
 - Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone
 - Total 4.2 sq mi (10.9 km2)
 - Land 4.1 sq mi (10.6 km2)
 - Water 0.1 sq mi (0.3 km2)
Elevation 12 ft (4 m)
Population (2007)
 - Total 74,405
 Density 18,147.6/sq mi (7,019.3/km2)
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)
ZIP code 02143, 02144, 02145
Area code(s) 617 / 857
FIPS code 25-62535
GNIS feature ID 0612815

Somerville (pronounced /ˈsʌməvəl/) is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, located just north of Boston. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 77,478 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 was first settled in 1630 as part of Charlestown. It was known as "Charlestown beyond the Neck"[1] 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"[2] (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 1800s and early 1900s 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.[3]

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.[4]

One of the earliest American flags was raised on Prospect Hill, above Union Square, on January 1, 1776.[5]

Somerville has been colloquially referred to as "Slummerville",[6] 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.[7] The city also had a very high car theft rate,[citation needed] once being the car theft capital of the country, and its Assembly Square area was especially infamous for theft.[8] However, after the gentrification period the city went through in the 1990s this name became less prevalent. 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.


Political history

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). At the time signs in real estate windows often had "Irish Catholic need not apply" under their "Flats for Rent".[citation needed]


Somerville is located at 42°23′26″N 71°6′13″W / 42.39056°N 71.10361°W / 42.39056; -71.10361 (42.390546, -71.103683).[9]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.2 square miles (10.9 km²), of which, 4.1 square miles (10.6 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km²) of it (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:[10][11]

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"[15] of Somerville:

  1. Central Hill
  2. Clarendon Hill
  3. Cobble Hill
  4. Mount Benedict (or Plowed Hill)
  5. Mount Pisgah (or Prospect Hill)
  6. Spring Hill
  7. 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. The city has 39 parks and playgrounds.[16]


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).[17] 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 to replace the US Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy until his death in 2009[18].

For representation to the Massachusetts Senate, Somerville is part of the "Second Middlesex" and "Middlesex, Suffolk, and Essex" districts.[19] For representation to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Somerville is part of the 26th, 27th, and 34th Middlesex districts.[20]


Somerville Public Schools operate 13 schools in the city,[21] including the East Somerville Community School, which was temporarily closed after a fire in 2007, and as of 2009 is undergoing demolition and reconstruction.[22] 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.[23]

Also included in the school district are the Somerville Center for Adult Learning Experiences, Somerville High School, an alternative high school and junior high, the Michael E. Capuano Early Childhood Center, and a number of neighborhood elementary schools.


Historical populations
Census Pop.  %±
1850 3,540
1860 8,025 126.7%
1870 14,685 83.0%
1880 24,933 69.8%
1890 40,152 61.0%
1900 61,643 53.5%
1910 77,236 25.3%
1920 93,091 20.5%
1930 103,908 11.6%
1940 102,177 −1.7%
1950 102,351 0.2%
1960 94,349 −7.8%
1970 88,779 −5.9%
1980 77,372 −12.8%
1990 76,210 −1.5%
2000 77,478 1.7%
Est. 2007 74,405 −4.0%

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,[citation needed] and college students and young professionals, many of whom live in sections near Cambridge, or near Tufts University, which straddles the Somerville-Medford city line, although the university's formal address is Medford.

With only slightly over 4 square miles (10 km²) 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[24] of 2000, there were 77,478 people, 31,555 households, and 14,673 families residing in the city. The population density was 18,868.1 people per square mile (7,278.4/km²). There were 32,477 housing units at an average density of 7,909.1/sq mi (3,051.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 76.97% White, 6.50% African American, 0.22% Native American, 6.44% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 4.96% from other races, and 4.85% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.76% 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.[citation needed] 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, (also known locally as "barnies",[5]) 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.[6] Symptoms of this include petty crime, and in some cases, violence against outsiders.[7] 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.[25] 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 Complex, 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.[26][27]

Davis Square is home to a lively coffeehouse scene with several coffeehouses each boasting its own fiercely loyal clientele. It is also known for its mom-and-pop shops, vintage stores and other independent retailers. Davis Square is also home to the Somerville Theatre, which houses the Somerville branch of the Museum of Bad Art.

The volunteer-operated Somerville Museum[28] preserves memorabilia chronicling Somerville's roots, with historical and artistic exhibits. It is located on 1 Westwood Road, on the corner with Central Street.

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, Wu-Chon House, The Independent, Gargoyles on the Square, Namaskar, Diva, Highland Kitchen, Taqueria la Mexicana, Dali and others. Noteworthy cafes include Sherman's, Diesel, Bloc 11, True Grounds and the cupcake bakery Kickass Cupcakes.

There are numerous National Register of Historic Places listings in Somerville, Massachusetts.


Major highways

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.[29]

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).


Somerville Highlands Station, 1908

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.

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.[30] 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.[31]

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.[32]

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

Notable residents


  1. ^ The History of Prospect Hill
  2. ^ cf. Haskell, Albert L., "Haskell's Historical Guide Book of Somerville, Massachusetts", section on "Somerville: Why So Named".
  3. ^ Somerville Public Library
  4. ^ About Stop & Shop - New England's Largest Food Retailer
  5. ^ Historical postcards of the raising of the Grand Union Flag in 1776.
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ [2]
  8. ^ [3]
  9. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2000 and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2005-05-03. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  10. ^ Somerville City website
  11. ^ Somerville Neighborhood Map
  12. ^ 48 Reasons Why Somerville is GREAT (Finished for Now) « Greg’s Words of Wisdom
  13. ^ Compare historic postcard [4] to Google Maps streetview.
  14. ^ Community Path-overview.pdf Somerville Community Path briefing, p. 5
  15. ^ City Of Somerville - Somerville Historical Information
  16. ^
  17. ^ City Of Somerville - Board of Aldermen
  18. ^ Mason, Edward; Dwinell, Joe (September 8, 2009). "Capuano takes out papers for Ted K’s Senate seat". Boston Herald. Retrieved September 8, 2009. 
  19. ^ Massachusetts General Court - Senatorial Districts
  20. ^ Representative Districts
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  25. ^ Jay Walljasper and Daniel Kraker, "Hip Hot Spots: The 15 Hippest Places to Live". Utne Reader. November/December 1997. 
  26. ^ Brickbottom Artists Association Website
  27. ^ Social Web article on Brickbottom District
  28. ^ The Somerville Museum
  29. ^ Street map from City of Somerville website
  30. ^ "City Of Somerville - Green Line Extension Info". Retrieved 2007-08-26. 
  31. ^ "Proponents rap delay to extend Green Line - The Boston Globe". Retrieved 2007-08-26. 
  32. ^ "State fully funds Green Line extension - Somerville News". Retrieved 2008-05-01. 


1852 Map of Boston area showing Somerville and the Middlesex Canal.
  • Sammarco, Anthony Michael (1997). Images of America: Somerville. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-7385-1290-7. 
  • Somerville, Arlington and Belmont Directory. 1869; 1873; 1876.

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Somerville article)

From Wikitravel

Somerville is an urban city near Boston.


Somerville has managed to hold onto its blue-collar roots while at the same time gentrifying. It's fairly ethnically diverse, with populations including Irish, Italians, Portuguese, Brazilians (probably the largest ethnic minority), Haitians, Tibetans, Indians, Chinese, and others. It is still the most densely populated city in New England (about 80,000 people in four square miles), so visitors will find lots of purely residential territory between the "fun" areas: Davis Square, Porter Square, and Powderhouse Square (the location of Tufts University). Other notable neighborhoods include Union Square and Winter Hill, erstwhile home of the "Winter Hill Gang", the organized crime group headed by Whitey Bulger in the 1960's and 1970's, as well as East Somerville, probably the last non-gentrified area, which has a substantial immigrant population.

Somerville has a number of "squares", which are areas where several of the larger roads come together and which have various stores and parking. The major squares include Davis Square, Teele Square, Powderhouse Square, Union Square, Magoun Square, and Ball Square. Many intersections have small plaques dedicating them as squares named after notable Somerville residents, frequently war veterans, but these areas are never actually referred to by those names.


Winter Hill, Located roughly north of Highland Avenue and west of the McGrath Highway, Winter Hill is home to a mix of restored homes and aluminium-sided fixer-uppers, replete with china gnomes and bathtub Virgin Marys. Once known as the home base of Irish gangsters Whitey Bulger (currently on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list), James "Buddy" McLean, Howie Winter and the notorious Winter Hill Gang, Winter Hill is now, like much of the rest of Somerville, experiencing gentrification and a resulting rise in property values and rents. Despite these changes, the area continues to hang onto its neighborhood flavor and is home to a large community of Irish, Italians, Brazilians, Portuguese, Cape Verdeans, and other ethnic groups.

Davis Square, This is a great late-night summer hangout, especially given that J.P. Licks is here. (J.P. Licks is a trendy local ice cream shop, also seen on Newbury Street in Boston.) It's right on the Red Line, and also a major bus transfer point. Tons of college folk linger in the brick plaza. The Somerville Theatre doubles as a second-run movie house and music venue. Davis Square has several coffeehouses, most notably the locally owned Diesel Cafe on Elm Street, that draw people day and night.

Teele Square, Just up the street from Davis Square (heading west) it has a lot to offer in way of local restaurants. It's less crowded than Davis Square and less trendy. Head up this way if you're looking for good subs and pizza (Angelina's), Mexican food (Rudy's), or multi-ethnic Mediterranean fare from the Balkans and beyond (Sabur).

Union Square, It is not on the Red Line, so it's a bit off the beaten path. It is only a 15 minute walk from the Sullivan Square Orange Line station, and there are MBTA [1] buses arriving from Central, Harvard, Porter, Davis, Lechmere, and Sullivan Square T stops. (It's a nice walk in good weather from the West, but the neighborhoods to the East are less nice. There are a number lots of Brazilian restaurants and stores around, including a Brazilian butcher-slash-convenience store. The Brazilian community extends to Inman Square (Cambridge) and there's another pocket in Allston. There's also Indian, Mexican, and Peruvian fare here. It's a nice, brick-based New England intersection of many roads, but there's not enough public space for pedestrians to linger.

Get in

By plane

Fly in to Logan International Airport in Boston. A taxi from Logan to Somerville can cost anywhere between $20 and $35 depending on the route taken and time of day. You can also take the MBTA Blue Line subway from Logan to either the Orange Line (switch at State Street) or the Red Line. Alternately, you can take the Silver Line bus service to South Station, then transfer to the Red Line. The subway ride takes longer than a taxi and may involve some walking, which is something to consider when you have lots of luggage.

By train

Take the MBTA[2] Red Line to either the Davis Square or Porter Square Stations. If you're coming from downtown (e.g. South Station) you'll want to hop on an Alewife/Harvard bound train.

You can also take the Orange Line to Sullivan Square and then take one of the MBTA busses up Broadway through Winter Hill and beyond.

Should you be coming from northwest of Boston (e.g. Fitchburg) you can also ride the MBTA Commuter Rail.

By car

From points North: You can get to Somerville in two ways:

  1. take Interstate 93 and get off at exits 29-31
  2. take Route 3 and park at the Alewife station on the MBTA Red Line. Take the inbound Red Line to Davis Square. This is advisable on the weekends, as parking can be hard to find near Davis Square.

By bus

The MBTA bus system will take you from Sullivan Square (Orange Line) through Somerville on to Arlington center and Medford. You can also get to Somerville by bus from Lechmere Station (at the end of the Green Line in Cambridge, near the Cambridgeside Galleria and Boston Museum of Science).

Get around

Mass transit

Somerville is covered by many MBTA (Mass Bay Transit Authority) bus lines, and has one subway station (the Davis Square Red Line stop) inside the city limits and several others within a few blocks of the city limits. Expansion of the MBTA Green Line light rail to include a stop inside the city limits is scheduled for sometime perhaps as soon as 2013.

Somerville has several taxi businesses. There are cab stands in Davis Square, but in most of the city cabs must be called by telephone.

By Bike

The Minuteman Bike Trail,[3] a converted railway right of way, the main branch of which runs from Bedford to Alewife (in Cambridge) extends through Davis Square and a bit further to Cedar St., parallel to Highland Ave.

  • Somerville has over 200 yard shrines (often referred to as "Bathtub Marys")
  • Powderhouse Square has a revolutionary-war era stone powderhouse.
  • Check out artistic park benches in Union Square.
  • Prospect Hill, behind Union Square, has a tower you can climb for good views of Boston and was the location of the first American flag flown (January 1, 1776).
  • Somerville Museum, 1 Westwood Road, at the corner of Central St., Phone: +1 617-666-9810 Run by volunteers.


Most tourists spend their time near Davis and Porter Squares (within walking distance of each other, Porter actually mostly being over the Cambridge border). Residents sometimes avoid the crowds and hit their favorite spots in Union Square and the Winter Hill area, further from the T subways but still quite accessible.

  • The Somerville Theater, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, MA 02144, Phone: +1 617-625-5700, [4] is a former vaudeville theater which has had several smaller theaters added (without dividing the main hall). It shows fairly cheap 2nd-run movies as well as live musical acts. "The Museum of Bad Art (MOBA)" (which advertises that it's the world's only museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all its forms) [5] recently added a second gallery in the basement of the Somerville Theater. Admission to the MOBA gallery is free with your movie ticket.
  • Johnny D's, 17 Holland St. (Davis Square), Phone: +1 617-776-2004, [6]. M-F 12:30PM-1AM; Sa-Su 9AM-1AM.Johnny D's is a restaurant, bar, and music club which holds about 175 people. It's the Boston area stop for many nationally and internationally touring musicians, especially in the folk, folk-rock, rock, and blues spectrum. There's live music most nights (sometimes a series of dance or trivia nights on mondays), and they are also known for their weekend brunches which often have live jazz.
  • Sacco's Bowl Haven is a perfectly preserved 1950s bowling alley. It's Candlepin Bowling, of course, (as opposed to typical American 10-pin) with carved wooden ball returns, and steel and chrome lane clearing switches, and lockers for the league players.
  • The George Dilboy Post of the VFW, 371 Summer Street, plays host to various dances and acts, ranging from swing to electronica to circus to vaudeville.

There are also numerous bars and restaurants as well as various shops, some of which are mentioned below.

  • Union Square is host to several night clubs that feature DJ's or live music of many genres. At one time or another, clubs like Toast and Club Choices have hosted nights for many sorts of music, ranging from Goth to Hip-Hop.
  • In May, the city's annual Memorial day parade.
  • In July, the city's annual pre-July 4th fireworks. Restarted in 2004, has since been the site of acts of violence yearly.
  • In May is Somerville Open Studios, in which the public is welcomed into artists' home and studio space for a look at their work. Somerville has enough artists that it's basically impossible to see them all during the weekend-long event.
  • In July is Art Beat a street festival in Davis Square focused on visual arts.
  • October 2007 was the second annual Honk! festival in Davis Square. Over a dozen brass bands showed up, from as far away as New Orleans and Italy.
  • SOS (Save Our Somerville) Annual End of Summer youth Basketball Tournament at Lexington Park.


Tufts University is a major American research university. The main campus is located next to the Powderhouse Square area, and includes the undergraduates and most graduate schools, including the Fletcher School of International Diplomacy. The Medical school and several other health sciences graduate programs and laboratories are located in downtown Boston next to Chinatown, while the Veterinary school is halfway across the state in Grafton, Mass.


Somerville is largely residential, with some retail and professional services, a hospital, and some light industry such as cabinet makers, printing companies, and some very small junkyards. Somerville residents span a wide economic spectrum, and thus hold all sorts of jobs within the greater Boston area.

  • Poor Little Rich Girl, 255 Elm St., [7]. A wonderful consignment shop that has trendy, gently used women's clothes and accessories.
  • Magpie, 416 Highland Ave., [8]. One of the nation's best stores devoted to handmade hipster crafts, unique gifts, independent designers, and local artists.
  • Goodwill, Elm St. Two floors filled with all manner of stuff.
  • Hollywood Express, Elm St., [9]. Though mainly rentals, this video store is well-supplied with art house films and cult tv shows.
  • Comicazi, 407 Highland Ave., [10]. Well- stocked comic book shop, featuring a very friendly staff.
  • Artifaktori, [11] Artifaktori is a small boutique specializing in art, antiques and vintage clothing located at 22a College ave., Davis Square, Somerville, MA.
  • Davis Square also has a sewing machine parts store, a UPS Store for shipping, a large pharmacy, opticians, etc.
  • A-1 New and Used Plumbing and Heating Supplies. This is one of the nation's foremost dealers of used steam radiators; if you have an old home you are renovating or repairing and need one, this is where you want to go; they've got them wide, narrow, tall, short, round, with lovely detail cast in or just plain.
  • The Assembly Square Mall once abandoned and run-down, this mall was completely reborn in 2006. It is now a shopping center featuring Christmas Tree Shops, K-Mart, Bed Bath & Beyond, TJ Maxx & Home Goods, Staples, A.C. Moore, and a Sports Authority. Negotiations with IKEA have recently moved forward to bring them here in the coming years.
  • Home Depot near the Assembly Square Mall and Sullivan Square.
  • Circuit City near the Home Depot has surprisingly good deals on mainstream DVDs and a surprisingly good selection considering it's a chain store. Probably the best place to get Hollywood movies in the Boston area in terms of price, although the best for cult movies remains Newbury Comics.
  • Cambridgeside Galleria If you are interested in a real mall, you may want to visit the Cambridgeside Galleria in Cambridge. It's a large mall anchored by Macy's, Best Buy, Borders, and Sears. It can be reached by taking the bus/subway to Lechmere Station (green line) and walking a few blocks, or to Kendall Square (red line) where the mall runs a free shuttle every 20 min. or so. It's a 5 min. shuttle ride. A large garage also offers parking for $3.99 on weekends.


Including supermarkets and convenience stores, Somerville has nearly 200 places to get food. It's home to many restaurants, from low-priced pizza and ethnic finds to elegant dining.

  • Anna's Taqueria, 236 Elm St. (Davis Sq.), 617-666-3900, [12]. Fast Mexican food, much better than Taco Bell. People seem divided on Annas, some love it, some hate it.  edit
  • The Burren, Davis Square, [13]. An Irish pub once said to pour more Guinness than any other in North America. Live Irish music. Music nightly in the back room, including the amazing Swinging Johnsons on Thursday nights.
  • Blue Shirt Cafe, 424 Highland Ave., Phone: +1 617-629-7641. Sandwiches, wraps, fruit smoothies, salads, and soup.
  • Diesel Cafe, 257 Elm St, Phone: +1 617-629-8717, [14]. Coffee and light dining, winner of several local awards. A local favorite providing an alternative to the Starbucks across the street, locally owned with art for sale on the walls and a couple of pool tables.
  • Gargoyle's on the Square, 219 Elm St. (Davis Sq), Phone: +1 617-776-5300, [15]. French-influenced New American cuisine. One of the fancier places in Somerville.
  • Martsa on Elm, 233A Elm St., Phone: +1 617-666-0600. Tibetan specialties, including momos and a variety of vegetarian dishes as well as entrees with meat. Lunch buffet.
  • Redbones, 55 Chester St. (Davis Sq), Phone: +1 617-628-2200, [16]. Excellent BBQ and great selection of microbrewed beers. While certainly not what you'd find in Texas or Mississippi, they clearly know what they're doing; you don't find hush puppies and okra on too many menus in New England. The art in the basement room is great, the bar has a "wheel of beer" in case you're feeling lucky or indecisive. They serve a late night menu until midnight, another area rarity.
  • Rosebud Diner, 381 Summer St. Rosebud is a historic landmark, being one of the last barrel-vault style diners in the U.S. still at its original location. Narrow with a bar with stools and a single row of about 8 booths, it feels very homey. The food is typical American; burgers, fries, mozzarella sticks. If you want spicy, go elsewhere; this is New England food.
  • Amelia's Kitchen, Broadway. Authentic Italian food by the Susi family from Abruzzi. Once essentially a glorified sub and pizza shop, they've moved upscale over the years and opened a second restaurant in Kendall Square. The pizza is still good, but now there's wine, and gnocchi on par with any in the northeast, New York included.
  • Tu Y Yo Mexican Fonda, 858 Broadway, Phone: +1 617-623-5411, [17]. (Powderhouse Square) Excellent authentic Mexican food. This is not the typical Mexican restaurant; the food is authentic and you won't find burritos here.
  • East Somerville is home to several good Brazilian BBQs with self-serve steam tables.
  • Fasika, Broadway (East Somerville). Ethiopians looking for a new place after they lost their lease took over a local bar and put a partition down the middle, keeping the bar on one side and having seating on the other. The result? Probably the only Ethiopian restaurant in the world with video keno! Townies having a beer watch yuppies chow down on very good yemasir wat.
  • Vinny's at Night, 76 Broadway (East Somerville). Phone: 617-628-1921. You get to this place by walking through Vinny's Superette, a convenience store. Honest. Fantastic family-style Italian fare.
  • Mama Lisa's Pizza, 312 Broadway (Winter Hill), Phone: +1 617-623-9463. Good pizza, fantastic ham & cheese calzones, but calzones are only made some days of the week so call to verify.
  • Li'l Vinny's, 525 Medford Street (Magoun Square). Phone: 617.628.8466. [18] Run by the nephew of Vinny's at Night. More great family-style Italian and friendly wait staff.
  • Sound Bites. 704 Broadway (Magoun Square). Phone:617-623-8338 [19] Voted "Best Breakfast in Boston" many times. Lines out the door on weekends.
  • R.F. O'Sullivan and Son, 282 Beacon St (Near Porter Sq.). Phone: +1 617-492-7773, [20]. Mainly a bar, with one food specialty: Outstanding burgers. The fries and onion rings are excellent, and that's pretty much the whole menu.
  • Red House, 24 Union Square, Phone: +1 617-666-4300, Su-Th 11AM-1:30AM; F-Sa 11AM-2AM (Delivery 11AM-1:30AM) A New England-style Chinese restaurant (take-out only). Good food, clean kitchen (you can watch them prepare your food through a window in the waiting area), and open late. Recommended by Ben Affleck.
  • Taqueria La Mexicana, 247 Washington St., (Union Sq), Phone: +1 617-776-5232, [21]. Friendly neighborhood taqueria, West Coast style. Burritos, tacos, tamales, everything cheap.
  • Neighborhood Restaurant and Bakery, 25 Bow St. (Union Square), Phone: +1 617-628-2151, [22]. Daily 7AM-4PM. It is worth visiting Union Square for, especially in the summer months. There's an overhead grape arbor with real fruit growing on it. There's a large breakfast/brunch menu, and very colorful outdoor decor. The menu also includes some Brazilian fare, as well as alcoholic drinks.
  • Rudy's Cafe, 248 Holland St. (Teele Sq), Phone: +1 617-623-9201. Unparalleled selection of Tequila. Opinions vary on the Tex-Mex food.
  • Orleans, 65 Holland St., Davis Square, Phone: +1 617-591-2100, [23]. Large beer selection and huge selection of exotic mixed drinks including a variety of Sangrias and martinis.
  • The Independent, 75 Union Square, Phone: +1 617-440-6021, [24]. A very cool unpretentious place for a drink.
  • The Joshua Tree, Davis Square, a good bar for the college/"young professional" set in the evenings. Numerous HDTVs, good food, friendly staff.
  • Also see Redbones and The Burren above


Somerville is, as mentioned elsewhere, a heavily residential area; hence, there are few hotels. There are some bed-and-breakfasts that are not well-publicized; if you are visiting someone who lives here, they may be able to help you find one. Otherwise, you may do better to stay in Cambridge or in one of the outlying suburbs along Route 93 or Route 95.

  • AmeriSuites, 116 Riverside Ave, Medford, MA, +1 781-395-0077, [25]. Located off of I-93, near Medford Square. This hotel is 2.5 miles from Davis Square and 7 miles to the airport.
  • Holiday Inn Boston Somerville, 30 Washington St., Phone: +1 617-628-000, Fax: +1 617-628 0143, [26]. Just two miles from downtown Boston and four miles from Logan International Airport. Includes a photo gallery, rates, availability and on line reservations.
  • Morrison House (Bed and Breakfast), 221 Morrison Avenue, Phone: +1 617-627-9670, [27]. 4 rooms, near public transportation.

Stay safe

The area around Sullivan Square and the Assembly Square Mall is a bit desolate after dark. You have to walk under the highway and there are several dive bars nearby. If you find yourself at Sullivan Square after dark, you might want to stick close to the bus stops where there are plenty of people around.

Get out

Boston, Cambridge, the North Shore are nearby. All of New England can be reached in a few hours.

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SOMERVILLE, a city of Middlesex county, Massachusetts, U.S.A., on the Mystic river, adjoining Boston (Charlestown), Cambridge, Medford and Arlington. Pop. (1890), 40,152; (1900), 61,643, of whom 17,232 were foreign-born, (1910 census), 77,236. Of the foreign-born in 1900 6400 were English-Canadians, 5542 were Irish, 1321 were English, 610 were French-Canadians, 590 were Italians, 576 were Scotch and 556 were Swedish. Somerville is served by the Boston & Maine railroad and by suburban electric railway lines. It is a residential and manufacturing suburb of Boston, of which, industrially, it forms a part; it is included in the metropolitan water, sewer and park districts, and in the Boston postal district. It comprises an irregular (land) area of 4.06 sq. m. in the Mystic Valley and along a range of hills or ridges, of which the largest are Prospect, Spring, Winter, Central and Clarendon hills. Among its public buildings and institutions are a fine public library (1872) with 80,000 volumes in 1908, the city hall, a state armoury, Somerville Hospital, the city poor house, a Roman Catholic home for the aged, and two high schools (English and classical). Among the parks are Broadway Park, Central Hill Park, Prospect Hill Park, Lincoln Park, and Nathan Tufts Park. The total value of the city's factory product in 1905 was $22,955,197, an increase of 14.4 per cent. over that of 190o; in 18 9 0 the product value was only $7,307,522. The establishments include slaughtering and meat-packing houses, whose product is by far the most valuable in the city, bleacheries, finishing factories, glassworks, machine shops, tube works, jewelry factories, and a desk factory. There are also lumber and coal yards. Blue slate-stone used for building purposes is quarried.

Somerville, originally a part of Charlestown, was settled in 1630. Six hundred acres, the "Ten Hills Farm," were granted here in 1631 to John Winthrop, who built and launched here in that year the "Blessing of the Bay," the first ship built in Massachusetts. For more than a century it was a sparsely settled farming community, the only article of manufacture being bricks. On the 19th of April 1775 the British columns returning from Concord were harassed by the farmers here, as in the other towns along the line of march. Several of the hills of Somerville (e.g. Prospect and Central Hills) were fortified during the siege of Boston. On Prospect Hill on the ,8th of July 1775 Israel Putnam raised the "Appeal to Heaven" flag, and here also is said to have been raised on the 1st of January 1776 one of the earliest of the Continental standards, the Union Jack and Stripes. On Powder House Hill (originally Quarry Hill), in Nathan Tufts Park, there still stands an interesting old slate-stone powder house, a circular building, 30 ft. high, with a conical cap, originally built (about 1703) for a windmill, deeded in 1747 to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, used in1756-1822as a powder house, and now marked by a bronze tablet erected by the Massachusetts Society of the Sons of the Revolution; on the 1st of September 1774, General Gage seized 250 half-barrels of powder stored here in anticipation of the outbreak of hostilities; in 1775 the powder house became the magazine of the American forces besieging Boston, and at that time Nathanael Greene maintained his headquarters at the Samuel Tufts House, and Charles Lee had his headquarters at the Oliver Tufts House, in Somerville. After the battle of Saratoga some of Burgoyne's officers were housed here. The opening of the Middlesex Canal through the town in 1803 and of the Boston & Lowell railroad in 1835 gave an impetus to the town's growth. In 1834 an Ursuline Convent, built in 1827 on Mt Benedict, was sacked and destroyed by an anti-Catholic mob. In 1842 Somerville was separated from Charlestown and incorporated under its present name; it was chartered as a city in 1871.

See T. H. Hurd, History of Middlesex County (3 vols., Philadelphia, 1890); S. A. Drake, History of Middlesex County (2 vols., Boston, 1880) E. A. Samuels, Somerville Past and Present (Boston, 1897); Miss M. A. Haley, The Story of Somerville (Boston, 1903).

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