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The City of Somerville is an urban industrial city in the Mystic Valley on the Boston transportation corridor to the northwest. It occupies about 4.1 square miles along the divide between the lower Charles and Mystic River watersheds. Somerville was a critical military position in the Revolution, with fortifications on Prospect Hill, and was an important corridor of turnpike, canal and railroad routes from Boston during the early 19th century. But in its earliest history, Somerville served as the grazing lands for the residents of Charlestown with only a few scattered permanent settlements. Among them was Governor Winthrop's estate at Ten Hills, the location of the first ship built in the colonies, the Blessing of the Bay, in 1631. Somerville's location, close to Boston and Charlestown, assured early development of markets for the city's agriculture and dairying products as well as well as for pottery, bricks and slate. Establishment of the area as a town in 1842 stimulated growth and in eight years the community's population more than tripled. In each of the next decades, until 1870, the population doubled. Many of the new settlers, including a large number of Irish immigrants, worked in the various brickyards of Somerville, producing as many as 1.3 million bricks a year by hand or 5.5 million with a new patent press. In 1851, the American Tube Works was opened and began manufacturing the first seamless brass tubes in the U.S. using an English patent. This marked the entrance of heavy industry into Somerville, and was soon followed by rolling and slitting mills, iron works and manufacturers of steam engines and boilers. Diversification into glass production, food processing and meat packing soon followed. Establishment of street car lines opened Somerville's greatest suburban growth and population again exploded, growing six fold between 1870 and 1915. Development explosions in other parts of the country increased the demand for bricks and at the highest point of production, 24 million bricks were being made a year in the 12 brickyards in the city, while the scale of the meat packing industry earned Somerville the reputation as the Chicago of New England. The city's population reached its peak during the Second World War when 105,883 people were said to create a density greater than that of Calcutta. Closely built two family homes and three deckers were put up around the city to house this population, many of whom worked in the Ford Motor Company plant, at the First National warehouse or in the wholesale slaughtering and meatpacking industry. (Narrative based on information provided by the Massachusetts Historical Commission)
View more information from the MA Dept of Housing and Community Development.If you do not have Adobe Reader you can download it here.
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