Acton, Massachusetts
Acton Town Hall
Acton Town Hall
Official seal of Acton, Massachusetts
Location in Middlesex County, Massachusetts
Location in Middlesex County, Massachusetts
Acton is located in Massachusetts
Acton is located in the United States
Acton is located in North America
Coordinates: 42°29′06″N 71°26′00″W / 42.48500°N 71.43333°W / 42.48500; -71.43333
CountryUnited States
 • TypeOpen town meeting
 • Town ManagerJohn S. Mangiaratti
 • Select Board
  • Jim Snyder-Grant, Chair
  • Francesca Arsenault, Vice-Chair
  • Dean A. Charter, Clerk
  • David D. Martin, Member
  • Alissa Nicol, Member
 • Total20.3 sq mi (52.5 km2)
 • Land20.0 sq mi (51.7 km2)
 • Water0.3 sq mi (0.8 km2)
260 ft (79 m)
 • Total24,021
 • Density1,201.1/sq mi (464.6/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (Eastern)
Area codes978, 351
FIPS code25-00380
GNIS feature ID0618213

Acton is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, approximately 21 miles (34 km) west-northwest of Boston along Massachusetts Route 2 west of Concord and about ten miles (16 km) southwest of Lowell. The population was 24,021 in April 2020, according to the United States Census Bureau.[1] It is bordered by Westford and Littleton to the north, Concord and Carlisle to the east, Stow, Maynard, and Sudbury to the south and Boxborough to the west. Acton became an incorporated town in 1735. The town employs the Open Town Meeting form of government with a town manager and an elected, five-member select board. Acton was named the 11th Best Place To Live among small towns in the country by Money Magazine in 2015, and the 16th best in 2009 and in 2011.[2] The local high school, Acton-Boxborough Regional High School, was named a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education in 2009.[3]


Wetlands in Acton off of Massachusetts Avenue, in summer 2015

Acton is located at 42°29′N 71°27′W / 42.483°N 71.450°W / 42.483; -71.450. According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 20.3 square miles (53 km2), of which 20.0 square miles (52 km2) is land and 0.3 square miles (0.78 km2), or 1.53 percent, is water. Almost all of Acton is forested, except for where it has been cleared for residential or agricultural use. Some forested areas have been put aside for special use by corporations.

The current geography of Acton was created when the last wave of glaciers retreated approximately ten thousand years ago. Acton has nine drumlins—hills which are composed of glacial till. In addition, Wills Hole and Grassy Pond are kettle ponds which were formed in depressions in the till formed by large blocks of ice.

Acton has two primary stream systems: the Nashoba Brook system including the incoming streams Butter Brook, Wills Hole Brook and Conant Brook and the Fort Pond Brook system including the incoming streams Guggins Brook, Inch Brook, Grassy Pond Brook, Pratt's Brook and Coles Brook. Both stream systems empty into the Assabet River, which passes briefly through the town at its southern corner. Nagog Pond in the north, forms Acton's border with the Town of Littleton and provides drinking water to the Town of Concord. A small artificial pond is at NARA Park in North Acton.

The five village centers

While Acton Center has been the civic center of the town since the revolution, the four other village centers earned their nomenclature from the names of their corresponding railroad station.

Lithograph of South Acton from 1886 by L.R. Burleigh with list of landmarks

The current Master Plan for the town encourages development in the village centers in an attempt to prevent further sprawl and preserve open space in the rest of the town.


See also: List of Massachusetts locations by per capita income

Historical population
* = population estimate.
Source: United States census records and Population Estimates Program data.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16]

According to the 2020 census,[17] there were 24,021 residents, a 9.6% increase from 2010. The population density was 1,209.2 inhabitants per square mile (466.9/km2), up from 1103.6. There were 8,931 households, up from 8,187.

In the 2010 Census of 8,187 households, 42.7% had children under the age of eighteen living with them, 63.5% were husband-wife married couples living together. 23.0% of all households were occupied by individuals 65 years of age or older living alone. The age distribution of the population was 29.5% under the age of 18, 4.3% from 18 to 24, 31.5% from 25 to 44, 26.4% from 45 to 64, and 8.4% 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 97.2 males. For every 100 females age eighteen and over, there were 94.2 males. For those age 25 years or older in Acton during the 2000 census, 97.2% had a high school degree or higher, 72.0% had a bachelor's degree or higher, and 40.5% had a graduate degree or higher. Also, 98.0% were employed with a mean commute time of 31.0 minutes.

The 2020 median income for a household in the town was $138,163, up from $133,532.[18] In 2010 males had a median income of $109,371 versus $48,113 for females. The 2020 per capita income for the town was $65,952. About 3.3% of the population were below the poverty line, up from 2.9% in 2010.

Race/ethnicity 2020[19] 2010[20] 2000[21]
Non-Hispanic White 63.4% 77.3% 88.3%
Asian 23.7% 18.6% 9.1%
Two or more races 5.7% 1.7% NR
Black 4.2% 1.1% 0.8%
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 3.5% 2.6% 1.8%
Native American 0.2% 0.1% 0.1%

Chinese and foreign-born populations

See also: History of the Chinese in Boston

Acton had 2,041 Chinese Americans in 2010, a 151% increase from 2000 and the ninth largest Chinese population in Massachusetts.[22]

In 2014, 25% of the residents of Acton were born outside of the United States.[23] In 2000 this percentage was 14%.[24]


See also: List of Massachusetts locations by per capita income

Data is from the 2009–2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.[25][26][27]

Rank ZIP Code (ZCTA) Per capita
Population Number of
1 01718 (Nagog Woods) $62,059 $132,981 $145,750 343 167
Acton $53,379 $110,592 $144,946 22,291 8,479
2 01720 $53,152 $109,578 $144,561 21,804 8,265
Middlesex County $42,861 $82,090 $104,032 1,522,533 581,120
Massachusetts $35,763 $66,866 $84,900 6,605,058 2,530,147
United States $28,155 $53,046 $64,719 311,536,594 115,610,216


Main article: History of Acton, Massachusetts

Acton's history reflects the history of Massachusetts, New England, and the United States. It was first settled by Native Americans who used the Assabet, Sudbury and Concord rivers for transportation and the fields for farming seasonal crops. There is evidence of Native American settlements in Acton which go back 7,000 years. When the colonists arrived in this area, the Native American population dropped dramatically due to European diseases for which they had no immunity.

Colonization Era through Revolutionary Era

Isaac Davis' birth house in Acton, Massachusetts in 1905 (left) and 2015 (right)
Isaac Davis Monument and the Acton Town Hall

Concord was the first inland colonial town established in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The original boundaries of Concord included all of Acton and residents used the Acton land as grazing fields for their animals. In 1639, the first homestead was built within the modern day boundaries of the town.

Acton was established as an independent town on July 3, 1735. Acton has held annual town meetings since 1735, the records of which are held at Acton's Memorial Library.[28]

Acton residents participated in the growing hostility with Great Britain by sending a list of grievances to King George III on October 3, 1774. The anniversary of this day is celebrated in Acton as Crown Resistance Day.[29]

At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, on April 19, 1775, a company of minutemen from Acton responded to the call to arms initiated by Paul Revere (who rode with other riders, William Dawes and Samuel Prescott, with Prescott the only one of the three who was able reach Acton itself) and fought at the North Bridge in Concord as part of the Battle of Lexington and Concord. The Acton minutemen were led by Captain Isaac Davis. When a company was needed to lead the advance on the bridge which was defended by the British regulars, Captain Davis was heard to reply, "I haven't a man who is afraid to go." It has been said that the Acton men led because they alone were equipped with bayonets. [30]

The colonists advanced on the bridge; in the exchange of musket fire that followed, Captain Isaac Davis and Private Abner Hosmer of Acton were killed. Davis was the first officer to die in the American Revolutionary War. In local terms, the events of the day were characterized as "the battle of Lexington, fought in Concord, by men of Acton."[31]

Industrialization and Civil War

During the 19th century, Acton participated in the growing Industrial Revolution. By the mid-19th century, Acton was an industrial center for the production of barrels (cooperage). There were also a powder mill, three gristmills and four sawmills in town.[32] The American Powder Mills complex extended downstream along the Assabet River and manufactured gunpowder from 1835 to 1940.[33]

On October 1, 1844, the railroad came to Acton. The Fitchburg Railroad was routed through South and West Acton so that it could serve the mills. South Acton became a busy rail center and was the division point for the Marlborough Branch Railroad. With the railroad came increasing development in those areas. In addition to the Fitchburg Railroad, two others crossed the town: the Nashua and Acton, and the Framingham and Lowell. These two railroads shared a double track right-of-way that ran from West Concord (aka Concord Junction) through East Acton and then splitting in North Acton in the vicinity of Route 27 and Ledge Rock Way.

In 1874, the population of the town was almost 1700. The town established its first newspaper, The Acton Patriot, and the residents of West Acton formed the first library, The Citizen's Library. In 1890, the Memorial Library was completed and given to the town by William A. Wilde as a memorial to the Acton soldiers who fought in the Civil War.


Acton uses the Open Town Meeting form of town government. The town charter specifies that the annual town meeting must begin on the first Monday in April. The Select Board may also call a special town meeting at other times of the year to consider other business. Citizens may force a special town meeting by submitting a petition signed by 200 registered voters to the town clerk. Anyone may attend Town Meeting but only registered voters may vote. Acton also has a water district, which is run separately from town government, as a public utility.

Acton's elected officials include the following: the Select Board (five members, three-year terms), the Town Moderator (one person, one-year term), Acton members of the Acton-Boxborough Regional School Committee (seven members, three-year terms), the Housing Authority (four members, five-year terms) and Memorial Library Trustees (three members, three-year terms). In addition, the town moderator appoints a finance committee (nine members, three-year terms) which issues an opinion on each of the warrant articles presented to Town Meeting. In addition, a separate and independent branch of government, the Acton Water District, was established in 1912 and consists of three elected commissioners, an elected moderator, an elected clerk, an appointed district counsel, finance committee, Water Land Management Advisory Committee, and paid professional staff.[34]

The town services are primarily funded through the residential property tax, which is subject to the limitations imposed by state statute known as Proposition 2½. The Water District is funded through water rates, connection fees and property rental. The Water District revenues, however, are not subject to Proposition 2+12.

State and federal government

On the state level, Acton is represented in the Massachusetts Senate by James "Jamie" Eldridge, and in the Massachusetts House of Representatives by Danillo Sena and Tami Gouveia. On the federal level, Acton is part of Massachusetts's 3rd congressional district, represented by Lori Trahan. The state's senior (Class I) member of the United States Senate is Elizabeth Warren. The junior (Class II) senator is Ed Markey.

Civic infrastructure

The civic infrastructure grew to accommodate the increasing population. A Water District was established in 1912 and a town-wide Fire Department was established in 1913. Acton was the first town in the area to have water-bound macadam highways.

In 2005 a new Public Safety Facility was built that expanded space for the Police Department and provided for a Joint Dispatch area with the Fire Department.

Water district

The Acton Water District is a community public water supply that delivers drinking water to the majority (about 90 percent) of the residents of the town of Acton, Massachusetts. All of the water provided from the district comes from seven wells located within the town of Acton. The district's system consists of 106 miles (171 km) of water main, four storage tanks, and water treatment facilities including aeration, activated granulated carbon (GAC), an advanced Zenon(R) filtration facility, plus fluoridation and state mandated chlorination.

Separate from the Water District, residents of Great Road (Route 2A) obtain their water from the mains running down their street, that connect Nagog Pond to the Concord water system. They are billed by Concord. The pond is both in North Acton and Littleton, but Concord apparently has the water rights.


Most homes and businesses in Acton (approximately 80%) use private on-site sewage systems (i.e. septic tanks). Higher density developments such as condominiums and apartment buildings (approximately 10% of the town) use private sewers which go to small-scale private treatment plants.[citation needed]

In 2001, Acton completed its first public sewer system, which serves approximately 10% of the town, primarily in South Acton. A betterment fee is charged to property owners whose property is sited proximate to the sewage lines, whether or not they connect to the system.[citation needed]

Town recreation areas

Conservation lands

Acton has a total of over 1,650 acres (7 km2) of town-owned conservation lands.[35]

These town conservation areas, and some smaller ones, are described and mapped in a website maintained by the town's volunteer Land Stewardship Committee.[36]

Playing fields & playgrounds

Bike paths


Acton is part of the Acton Boxborough Regional School District (ABRSD) along with Boxborough. The town has five elementary schools serving K–6: CT Douglas, Gates, Luther Conant, McCarthy-Towne and Merriam. The town has one public middle school serving 7–8, the R.J. Grey Junior High School. High school students then attend Acton-Boxborough Regional High School from grades 9–12.

ABRSD has an uncommon method of assigning students to elementary schools, called "Open Enrollment". First-time incoming kindergarten parents participate in a lottery-based selection process where the parents "choose" the school by listing their preferences in ranked order. Boxborough students have priority for attendance in the school in their own town, but participate in the lottery if they wish to attend an Acton school. Any remaining spaces at Blanchard become available in the lottery.

This method of school choice has a large impact on the nature of the town. Acton is less oriented around neighborhoods than towns which have neighborhood based schools. This carries over into the recreational youth sport organizations whose teams are not organized around specific elementary schools. As a result, students and families are likely to have broad social connections in all parts of the town rather than being limited to neighborhoods. School Choice also benefits the towns real estate market since home valuations are not impacted by the perceived desirability of given neighborhood's school.

While the curriculum in the district is fairly standardized, each of the elementary schools has a different teaching philosophy. The schools and their philosophy of education are:

Acton-Boxborough Junior High and High School

The Acton-Boxborough Regional School has a single Junior High School (Raymond J. Grey Junior High School) for grades 7 & 8 and a single High School (Acton-Boxborough Regional High School) for grades 9 through 12. Both the junior high and high school were enlarged and renovated in 2000–2005. Both buildings are located at the school district campus in Acton.

Current enrollment at the junior high is approximately 1,000 students, while the high school has roughly 2,000 students. The high school consistently ranks highly among rankings of the best public high schools in the Greater Boston area (defined as within I-495); Most recently, the school was placed 1st in by Boston Magazine in 2020 and 2021.[37]

Cultural institutions

Acton Memorial Library


Acton has two public libraries: the Acton Memorial Library and the West Acton Citizens' Library. The Acton Memorial Library was given to the town of Acton by William Allan Wilde as a memorial to its Civil War veterans in 1890. The building was expanded in 1967, and a second major expansion was completed in 1999. There are also libraries in each of the elementary schools, the junior high, and the high school. The Acton Historical Society owns the Jenks Library which contains historical maps, documents, photographs and drawings.



Though there are several theater groups in Acton, the two eldest are Theatre III and Open Door Theater. Theatre III was founded in 1956 when three organizations (a local chorus, dance group, and dramatic troupe) combined to present a show. It produces several plays and musicals each season in the historical old church building on Central Street.

Open Door Theater is a community theater group which was founded to provide an inclusive theater experience. Open Door produces one large musical each year which features a large number of performers ranging in age from nine to adult, including people with special needs. They perform and rehearse in the Dragonfly Theatre, located inside the R. J. Grey Junior High School.


July 4, 2015 fireworks in Acton

Points of interest


Antique road sign in a well near Acton Center, along Route 27

Acton is five miles (8.0 km) from I-495 and ten miles (16 km) from I-95/Route 128. Routes 2, 2A, 27, 62, 111, and 119 run through town.

The MBTA Commuter Rail Fitchburg Line train stops at the South Acton station. Railroad service provided to Fitchburg, Leominster, Shirley, Ayer, Littleton, Concord, Lincoln, Weston, Waltham, Belmont, Cambridge, and Boston.

Yankee Lines provides a commuter bus service to Copley Square in Boston from the "77 Great Road Mall" in Acton on MA-2A and MA-119.

The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail provides a paved bicycle commuter option north to Westford, Chelmsford and Lowell. The Assabet River Rail Trail provides a connection south to Maynard. The trails do not have lighting and are not snowplowed.

In media

Radio stations

Notable people

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Explore Census Data".
  2. ^ "BEST PLACES TO LIVE: Money's list of America's best small towns". CNN. Archived from the original on March 14, 2013. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
  3. ^ Stephen Vittorioso (September 28, 2009). "Acton-Boxborough Regional High named Blue Ribbon School". Archived from the original on November 8, 2012.
  4. ^ Riley, Kathryn (June 21, 2012). "Acton's NARA Park to be renamed for Civil War veteran". Wicked Local Acton. Archived from the original on July 31, 2013. Retrieved September 24, 2012.
  5. ^ "® - ZIP Code™ Lookup". Archived from the original on January 2, 2015.
  6. ^ "Total Population (P1), 2010 Census Summary File 1". American FactFinder, All County Subdivisions within Massachusetts. United States Census Bureau. 2010.
  7. ^ "Massachusetts by Place and County Subdivision - GCT-T1. Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  8. ^ "1990 Census of Population, General Population Characteristics: Massachusetts" (PDF). US Census Bureau. December 1990. Table 76: General Characteristics of Persons, Households, and Families: 1990. 1990 CP-1-23. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  9. ^ "1980 Census of the Population, Number of Inhabitants: Massachusetts" (PDF). US Census Bureau. December 1981. Table 4. Populations of County Subdivisions: 1960 to 1980. PC80-1-A23. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  10. ^ "1950 Census of Population" (PDF). Bureau of the Census. 1952. Section 6, Pages 21-10 and 21-11, Massachusetts Table 6. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1930 to 1950. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  11. ^ "1920 Census of Population" (PDF). Bureau of the Census. Number of Inhabitants, by Counties and Minor Civil Divisions. Pages 21-5 through 21-7. Massachusetts Table 2. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1920, 1910, and 1920. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  12. ^ "1890 Census of the Population" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. Pages 179 through 182. Massachusetts Table 5. Population of States and Territories by Minor Civil Divisions: 1880 and 1890. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  13. ^ "1870 Census of the Population" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1872. Pages 217 through 220. Table IX. Population of Minor Civil Divisions, &c. Massachusetts. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  14. ^ "1860 Census" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1864. Pages 220 through 226. State of Massachusetts Table No. 3. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  15. ^ "1850 Census" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1854. Pages 338 through 393. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  16. ^ "City and Town Population Totals: 2020-2022". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 23, 2023.
  17. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  18. ^ "American FactFinder". Archived from the original on February 10, 2020. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  19. ^ "2020 US Census Acton, MA | Data USA". Retrieved March 16, 2023.
  20. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on December 27, 1996. Retrieved October 15, 2019.
  21. ^ "Mass Dept of public health website". Retrieved March 16, 2023.
  22. ^ Burge, Kathleen. "One community's Asian connection" (Archive). The Boston Globe. March 31, 2013. Retrieved on September 8, 2015.
  23. ^ "Acton Town, Middlesex County, Massachusetts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  24. ^ Sacchetti, Maria. "A melting pot stretches out to the suburbs." Boston Globe. September 15, 2010. p. 2 (Archive). Retrieved on September 23, 2014.
  25. ^ "SELECTED ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS 2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on January 17, 2015. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  26. ^ "ACS DEMOGRAPHIC AND HOUSING ESTIMATES 2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on January 5, 2015. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  27. ^ "HOUSEHOLDS AND FAMILIES 2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  28. ^ "Acton Memorial Library Online Historical Collections". Archived from the original on December 21, 2008. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  29. ^ "Early Acton History". Archived from the original on December 1, 2008. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  30. ^ French, Allen (1925). The Day of Concord and Lexington. Little, Brown, and Company. pp. 188–189.
  31. ^ Acton Historical Society: "A Brief History of Acton", page 24. Beacon Publishing Company, 1974.
  32. ^ Acton Historical Society: "A Brief History of Acton", page 33. Beacon Publishing Company, 1974.
  33. ^ Mark, David A. (2014). Hidden History of Maynard. The History Press. pp. 78–82. ISBN 978-1626195417.
  34. ^ Acton Water District
  35. ^ "Acton Trails - Acton Conservation Lands". Archived from the original on February 10, 2012.
  36. ^ Acton Land Stewardship Committee. "Acton Trails home page". Acton Land Stewardship Committee. Archived from the original on February 10, 2012. Retrieved February 18, 2012.
  37. ^ "The Best Public High Schools in Greater Boston". Boston Magazine. August 25, 2020.
  38. ^ Steve Crosby. "Acton Minutemen home page". Archived from the original on March 6, 2009. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  39. ^ Archived October 8, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  40. ^ "Isaac Davis Camporee and March... Redirecting". Archived from the original on October 8, 2007.
  41. ^ "Jones Tavern". Archived from the original on August 20, 2008. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  42. ^ Radio-Locator information on WAEM-LP
  43. ^ Radio-Locator information on WHAB


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