Community Profile

City of Somerville FY22 Budget

Somerville is a city located in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, just two miles north of Boston. Occupying slightly more than four square miles and with a population of 80,906, including thriving immigrant communities from all over the world, Somerville is 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 boasts numerous intriguing historical sites, community spaces, businesses, and restaurants.

Somerville has a rich and lengthy history dating back before the 1700s when it was first settled by native people – the Massachuset Indians – drawn by the abundance of alewife, a fish still found in the Mystic River today. After illness significantly reduced the number of the Massachuset tribe, the land was purchased and settled by Europeans in 1630 as a part of Charlestown. It later played a significant role in events leading up to and during the American Revolution. Somerville was still largely rural with roughly 1,000 residents when it established itself as a town in 1842, separate from the urbanizing Charlestown. The town was officially incorporated as a city in 1872 by which time its population had grown significantly to roughly 15,000, and its economy was more industrialized with several manufacturing businesses. By the early 1900s, Somerville had evolved into a densely settled urban area with the population growing very rapidly each year, more than doubling within 30 years.

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 pre-Revolutionary structures in Massachusetts - housed gunpowder for Revolutionary soldiers during the war. During British invasion, Somerville (then 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.

Today, Somerville is a vibrant mix of blue-collar families, young professionals, growing and established families, college students, and recent immigrants from countries as varied as Brazil, Haiti, and Nepal. There are more than 50 spoken languages in Somerville schools. With a large immigrant population, Somerville celebrates its diversity through numerous inclusive events celebrating cultural traditions and holidays. Somerville is a diverse, dense, walkable, community that offers comparatively affordable housing in the Boston Metropolitan Area. Given the City’s convenient location near numerous educational institutions, including three of the nation’s leading institutions of higher learning, Tufts, Harvard, and MIT, it comes as no surprise that college and graduate students make up almost 19% of the population.

Somerville is defined by its city squares. Its large number of squares 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, shops and small businesses to fit every taste and occasion. The City shares its southern border with Cambridge and the MBTA Red and Orange Lines connect Davis Square to Cambridge and Boston. The long-awaited Green Line Extension finally broke ground in FY 2019 and is on pace to be fully complete and operation by the end of 2021. When complete, the number of Somerville residents within a half mile of public transit will jump from 15% to 85%.