Somerville is a city located in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, just two miles north of Boston. Occupying slightly over 4 square miles, its population of 75,754 (as of the 2010 census) and a myriad of immigrants from all over the world make Somerville the most densely populated community in New England and one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the nation. Rich in both history and culture, the city houses numerous intriguing sites, businesses, and restaurants for every style.
Somerville was first settled in 1630 as a part of Charlestown, and was established as a town in 1842, when it was separated from the urbanizing Charlestown because it was still largely rural. Somerville was officially incorporated as a city in 1872 due to its growing population and increasing industrialization. By the early 1900s, Somerville itself had become a densely packed urban area, featuring immigrants from across Europe.
As a part of Charlestown, areas existing in modern-day Somerville were critical military positions in the American Revolution. The historic Powder House – now considered one of the most distinct ancient ruins in Massachusetts – housed gunpowder for Revolutionary soldiers during the war. During British invasion, Somerville (Charlestown) was part of the route ridden by Paul Revere on his famous “Midnight Ride.” Finally, and most notably, Prospect Hill was the site of the raising of the first Grand Union Flag, under the orders of General George Washington, on January 1, 1776. (Visit the Somerville Historic Preservation site for more information).
Today, Somerville is an eclectic mix of blue-collar families, young professionals, college students and recent immigrants from countries as diverse as El Salvador, Haiti, and Brazil. More than 50 spoken languages in Somerville schools. With a large immigrant population, Somerville celebrates its diversity through numerous ceremonies celebrating cultural traditions and holidays.
Somerville is defined by its city squares. It is known for its large number of squares, which help mark neighborhood boundaries while also featuring bustling businesses and entertainment centers. Among the most active today are Davis Square, Union Square, Ball Square, Teele Square, and Magoun Square. Each offers a mix of ethnic restaurants, bars and shops and small businesses to fit every taste and occasion.
Somerville is Arts Central: only New York has more artists per capita than the City of Somerville; the local artists make the City one of the most vibrant and exciting arts centers in the country. With several umbrella groups sponsoring events – such as ArtsUnion, Brickbottom Artists Association, and the Somerville Arts Council – there are always new exhibits or events to explore. Somerville’s arts scene is showcased each summer at the weekend-long ArtBeat Festival. Hosted by the Somerville Arts Council, ArtBeat transforms Davis Square into one of New England’s largest and most innovative arts destinations.
Somerville has received national recognition as a model of innovation and efficiency for their 311 customer service helpline and SomerStat, a data-driven style of managing government services. Somerville is the only community in Massachusetts to employ 311, and the only city in the country to employ both a 311 customer service help line and a Connect-CTY mass outreach (reverse 911) program. With its bright development future featuring new, mixed-use development projects, and the innovative 311 and Connect-CTY systems, Somerville has been recognized as “the best run City in the Commonwealth” (see “Somerville- the Model City”).