The CommunityMoving to a new city or town can be an exciting journey. In order to help you find the right community that best suits your lifestyle, I’ve compiled information to help you become more familiar with the local cities and towns — and to discover the unique characteristics of each.
Learn more about the local community, including comprehensive school information, local government, history and culture:
One of the world’s most unique, culturally diverse cities, Cambridge, Massachusetts, is architecturally rich and varied. Each of its neighborhoods offers its own charm and a wealth of housing stock – both old and new – accessible to the breathtaking array of amenities that make Cambridge one of the nation’s most desirable living areas.
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The residential district known as Avon Hill, located between Linnaean Street and Upland Road northward and Mass. Ave. and Raymond Street westward, was developed largely during 1870 and 1900 from land comprising the Cooper-Frost estate. The oldest complete house, the Cooper-Frost house, c1690, is located on Linnaean Street and is owned by Historic New England, a Boston-based conservation organization. Part of the Cambridge Common, which originally extended to Porter Square and into North Cambridge, jutted into a part of Avon Hill; the public gallows was located on one of the east slopes. Avon Hill has more than 200 residential houses regulated for historic conservation, and the neighborhood is home to some of Cambridge’s prettiest residential architecture. The handsome 19th and early 20th century homes form a tranquil, suburban-like neighborhood, yet the area is close to Harvard Square, Harvard buildings, shops and restaurants and public transportation. The highest point of the City is the top of Avon Hill Street.
The former Port of Cambridge is one of the City’s oldest residential neighborhoods and historically was the site of most of the City’s industrial activity. Sought after for its many historic and architecturally interesting houses and its location near the Charles River, this densely settled neighborhood is also known for its parks and tree-lined streets. The housing is a mix of triple-deckers and single-family homes, some Greek Revival architecture, and few large, multi-unit buildings. In the past decade, the area has seen a steady increase in residential renovation and restoration. The neighborhood is minutes to Harvard University, MIT, Boston University, the biopharma centers, the Mass. Turnpike (the Pike) and Boston. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, friends since childhood, grew up in Cambridgeport.
Although the first inhabitants settled here in the 1630’s, little use was made of the watery land until the early 19th century, when East Cambridge became the most important industrial center, with more business importance than the other two centers, Old Cambridge and Cambridge Port. Andrew Craigie, for whom Craigie Street off Brattle is named, is credited with being the creator of this neighborhood, and, although a physician and and a pharmacist, he focused his energy on attracting business to the area. Although Craigie died bankrupt, East Cambridge continued to flourish and remained an industrial center until the late 19th century. The housing is dense and exceedingly varied, with Greek Revivals from the 1820’s and 1840’s; workers’ attached row houses; triple deckers; frame multi-units; brick townhouses; post WWII Capes; industrial buildings and churches, some of which are now residential. East Cambridge once again is the site of large-scale industry, abutting and sharing the biopharma industries with Kendall Square. Cambridge Street has the Lechmere T/Green Line to Boston on the east end—soon to be relocated to North Point, the most recent large-scale residential development In East Cambridge—and restaurants and shops dot Cambridge Street as it heads westward to Inman Square. The renovated and historic Bulfinch complex, near the Lechmere T, is comprised of a number of impressive buildings, but with the façade, fencing, signage and grounds sorely neglected by the City. The East End also has full service luxe residential buildings, the Museum of Science, the CambridgeSide Galleria, Hotel Marlowe and Sonesta Hotel.
Originally the agricultural area for the early settlers, Dana Hill, built largely on the former Francis Dana estate, became fashionable in the early 19th century and was considered a suburb of the 3 major centers of Cambridge: Old Cambridge/Harvard Square, East Cambridge and Cambridgeport. The residential district of Mid-Cambridge, originating in the 1830’s, the neighborhood remains mostly residential as it had been when originally created. However, Mid-Cambridge then far exceeded the boundaries referred to as Mid-Cambridge today, now the area from Dana Street eastward to Prospect Street and Mass. Ave. northward to Kirkland Street. In 1849 none of the residents worked within the original expanse of Mid-Cambridge and more than 30% commuted to Boston. Almost 175 years later, little has changed. The housing stock is varied and dense, comprised of large brick residential buildings of condominiums and apartments; attractive single-family homes; townhouse complexes; and architecturally interesting frame multi-units. Cambridge Hospital and Youville Assisted Living are the large medical facilities on the west end of Cambridge Street. Along Mass. Ave, heading east towards Central Square, there is an interesting mix of restaurants, shops, newer full-service condominium buildings and newer, pricey apartment buildings. Situated between Harvard University and MIT, with easy access to the Harvard Square and Central Square Red Line T’s, Mid-Cambridge is a very popular place to live.
Beginning in the 19th Century, residences began to be built on land surrounding upper Massachusetts Avenue, which had been the route to areas north and west of Cambridge since the 17th Century. Today the varied architecture of Victorian and early 20th Century single- and multi-family homes co-exist with handsome new home construction on quiet streets and closely knit neighborhoods near Porter Square, Alewife and the Arlington town line.
The city’s most famous district, West Cambridge is noted for its many pre-Revolutionary houses, as well as the subdivision of land that enabled the intensive development and varied housing built in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Belmont is a mostly residential suburb of Boston and Cambridge which covers an area of approximately 4 ½ square miles and a population of 24,700. Belmont is 7 miles west of Boston.
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A Rich HistorySettlement in the area that now includes Belmont began in 1630, when Sir Richard Saltonstall and approximately 40 families separated from the first settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and moved inland to start an agricultural community. Originally called Pequosette after the local Indian tribe, the name of the new town soon changed to Watertown. In 1638, by order of the General Court, Watertown paid the Pequosette Indians the sum of 13 pounds, 7 shillings and 6 pence for the land.
The original settlement spread inland extensively into the present towns of Watertown, Waltham, Weston, Lincoln and parts of Cambridge and Belmont. In 1738, Waltham seceded from Watertown, and the future Belmont was now part of three towns.
A Growing CommunityIn 1805, Frederick Tudor began cutting ice on Fresh Pond. As his business grew, he decided to build a railroad from his wharves in Charlestown to Fresh Pond. This line was built about 1843.
With the railroad so near, the citizens of Waltham clamored to have it extended to their village, which was granted, and the line ran through what was to become the Town of Belmont. The railroad made the purely agricultural community available for residences of well-to-do Bostonians. Settlements centered around Wellington Station (now Belmont Center), Waverley Station and Hill’s crossing station.
Those settlements grew into villages, but local government arrangements were annoying because citizens had to go to Watertown, Waltham or West Cambridge (now Arlington) to vote and attend town meetings. A group of about 1,000 people joined together in the early 1850′s and announced their desire to form a separate town. One of the most enthusiastic advocates was John Perkins Cushing, the largest taxpayer of the proposed town, who gave generously and openly to the incorporation expense on the condition that it be named after his 200 acre estate “Bellmont.”
A New Town was BornThe towns of Watertown, Waltham and West Cambridge fought the proposed creation of a new town, but in the end the battle was won and on March 18, 1859, the Town of Belmont was born. Of the then total area of 5 square miles, 2.26 were taken from Watertown, 0.67 from Waltham and 2.82 from West Cambridge. The population was 1,175 of whom 170 were registered voters and 325 were school children. The new town was a widespread collection of fruit farms and market gardens. Produce from Belmont farms was sold at Faneuil Hall market. Specialties included celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, berries and small fruits. In fact, “Belmont” became a term of distinction indicating quality and large size.
The original town included a part of present day Cambridge, including half of Fresh Pond. Because of a controversy over a slaughter house erected in Belmont on the banks of the pond, which was the drinking water supply for Cambridge, an 0.89 square mile of Belmont was annexed in 1880 to Cambridge. This left Belmont with a total area of 4.676 square miles. Minor adjustments due to various Route 2 widenings makes the total area 4.655 square miles today.
In the 1900′s, the large number of artists, authors, educators, physicians and scientists moving to the town doubled its population. As a result, the farming community disappeared. Belmont today, with a population of 25,349, is almost entirely residential and is known as “The Town of Homes.” (Source: Richard Betts)
Arlington offers a unique blend of urban convenience and suburban small-town flavor – providing something for everyone. Urban convenience manifests itself in excellent town services, a superior school system, varied recreational opportunities, great shopping variety and easy access via public transportation and highways to Boston, Cambridge, Route 128/95, industrial areas and the airport.
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Visit the Arlington school system site
Sense of NeighborhoodSuburban flavor is most evident in Arlington’s sense of neighborhoods, the traditional New England Town Meeting form of government and exceptional citizen involvement in civic affairs and educational and cultural activities.
Small wonder that Arlington appeals to people from every walk of life: professionals, academics, medical personnel, highly skilled workers and entrepreneurs. Together they represent an enriching diversity of lifestyles and a wholesome range of income levels.
An Active CitizenryArlington citizens participate enthusiastically in a myriad of activities. There are historical committees, the Art Association, Philharmonic, widely renowned Friends of the Drama, and many groups supporting schools, the library, area hospitals and many governmental endeavors.
And Arlington citizens have their choice of housing. Single family houses range from modest homes on small lots to expansive executive properties, including unique waterfront homes. There are numerous condominiums, and many multi-family houses offering rental opportunities and income potential. Though there is some new construction, most Arlington property is at least 30 years old. Many homes date back to the turn of the century and are prized for their quality and uniqueness. In short, there is something for everyone in Arlington.
The City of Somerville is a small business and residential haven of approximately four square miles. It is ideally located adjacent to Boston, one-and-a-half miles from the city’s financial and commercial districts.
Visit the City of Somerville web site
Visit the Somerville school system site
Somerville can aptly be described as a gateway to Eastern Massachusetts. Immediate access is available to routes 1, 2, 16, 28, 38, 90 and 128 and to Interstate 93 and 95. Somerville is also just 3.5 miles from Boston’s Logan International Airport. The T.F. Green Airport in Providence is less than an hour away.
Somerville is extremely accessible to public transportation. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) subway service is easily available throughout the city and offers access to Boston and other communities. In addition, 14 different bus lines travel through the city.
A Wide Spectrum of ServicesThe City of Somerville offers a wide spectrum of services for its residents and businesses. The community’s electrical and energy needs are served by the Boston Edison Company, Boston Gas and Commonwealth Gas. Somerville’s municipally owned water and sewer system successfully provides residents with some of the lowest rates in the Greater Boston area. Somerville was the first community in the Commonwealth to offer residents a choice in cable television providers. Today, RCN Corporation, AT&T Broadband and Bell Atlantic all service Somerville via an advanced fiber-optic network.
Culture, Restaurants and ShopsThroughout this compact, vibrant community, over 50 different languages are spoken and over 15 religions are practiced. The international flavor of Somerville guarantees that you will feel at home. Diversity is a key component of Somerville’s attractiveness to residents and business owners.
Somerville’s array of restaurants offers samples of cuisine from all over the world. Both Union Square and Davis Square are dining and entertainment destinations for Greater Boston. And of course, you are just minutes from the array of cultural opportunities in Boston and Cambridge. (Source: City of Somerville)
Strategically located just six miles northwest of Boston in Middlesex County, Watertown enjoys the advantages of this metropolitan commercial, residential and social community while maintaining its own local characteristics and unity.
Watertown is rich in ethnic diversity and culture, boasts a high level of citizen involvement and many amenities such as shopping malls, swimming pools, golf and tennis clubs, skating rinks, athletic clubs, 11 parks and public transportation – providing easy access to Boston and surrounding communities.
Visit the Town of Watertown web site
Visit the Watertown school system site
Historic BeginningsThis tiny urban community was founded in 1630 – the first inland settlement in America. Originally encompassing all of Weston and Waltham and large sections of Lincoln, Cambridge and Belmont, Watertown was first known as Saltonstall Plantation (named for Sir Richard Saltonstall, who founded the settlement).
Today, this compact culturally diverse community is home to over 33,000 people. Local residents enjoy a virtual plethora of activities along the banks of the Charles River. Outdoor types will find many hours of recreation and stimulation picnicking, strolling, sailing or crew boating, jogging, rollerblading and cycling. Swimming pools are available in the summer months and ice skating rinks in the winter for public enjoyment. The facilities are inexpensive, well maintained and conveniently located throughout the area.