Fitchburg, Massachusetts
Downtown Fitchburg seen from the south.
Downtown Fitchburg seen from the south.
Official seal of Fitchburg, Massachusetts
Nickname(s): 
City by the River, The Burg, The Dirty 'Burg (Derogatory, occasionally endearing)
Location in Worcester County and the state of Massachusetts.
Location in Worcester County and the state of Massachusetts.
Fitchburg, Massachusetts is located in the United States
Fitchburg, Massachusetts
Fitchburg, Massachusetts
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 42°35′00″N 71°48′10″W / 42.58333°N 71.80278°W / 42.58333; -71.80278
CountryUnited States
StateMassachusetts
CountyWorcester
Settled1730
Incorporated (town)1764
Incorporated (city)1872
Government
 • TypeMayor–council
 • City Council
City Council members[1]
Area
 • Total28.12 sq mi (72.82 km2)
 • Land27.82 sq mi (72.06 km2)
 • Water0.29 sq mi (0.76 km2)
Elevation
482 ft (143 m)
Population
 (2020)
 • Total41,946
 • Density1,507.55/sq mi (582.07/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP Code
01420
Area code351/978
FIPS code25-23875
GNIS feature ID0617121
Websitewww.fitchburgma.gov

Fitchburg is a city in northern Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. The third-largest city in the county, its population was 41,946 at the 2020 census.[3] Fitchburg State University is located here.

History

Print of Fitchburg from 1882 by L.R. Burleigh with listing of landmarks

Fitchburg was first settled in by Europeans in 1730 as part of Lunenburg, and was officially set apart from that town and incorporated in 1764. The area was previously occupied by the Nipmuc tribe. It is named for John Fitch, one of the committee that procured the act of incorporation.[4] In July 1748 Fitch and his family, living in this isolated spot, were abducted to Canada by Native Americans, but returned the next year.[5]

Fitchburg is situated on both the Nashua River and a railroad line. The original Fitchburg Railroad ran through the Hoosac Tunnel, linking Boston and Albany, New York. The tunnel was built using the Burleigh Rock Drill, designed and built in Fitchburg. Fitchburg was a 19th-century industrial center. Originally operated by water power, large mills produced machines, tools, clothing, paper, and firearms. The city is noted for its architecture, particularly in the Victorian style, built at the height of its mill town prosperity. A few examples of these 19th century buildings are the Fay Club, the old North Worcester County Courthouse[6] and the Bullock house.[7]

In 1922, it was affected by the 1922 New England Textile Strike, shutting down the mills in the city over an attempted wage cut.[8][9][10]

As the city is one of Worcester County's two shire towns, it has hosted the Northern Worcester County Registry of Deeds, established in 1903, and the county jail on Water Street.

In 1961, two films Return to Peyton Place and By Love Possessed filmed exterior street scenes, town squares and public buildings in Fitchburg.[11]

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 28.1 square miles (73 km2), of which 27.8 square miles (72 km2) is land and 0.3 square miles (0.78 km2), or 1.07%, is water. The city is drained by the Nashua River. The highest point in Fitchburg is the summit of Brown Hill near the northwestern corner of the city, at 1,210 feet (370 m) above sea level.[12]

Fitchburg is bordered by Ashby to the north, Lunenburg to the east, Leominster to the south, Westminster to the west, and a small portion of Ashburnham to the northwest.

Neighborhoods

Fitchburg is divided into multiple different neighborhoods/villages, including:

Climate

Fitchburg's climate is humid continental, which is the predominant climate for Massachusetts and New England.[17] Summers are typically warm, rainy, and humid, while winters are cold, windy, and snowy. Spring and fall are usually mild, but conditions vary widely and depend on wind direction and jet stream positioning. The warmest month is July, with an average high temperature of about 84 °F and an average low temperature of about 63 °F. The coldest month is January, with an average high temperature of about 35 °F and an average low temperature of about 17 °F.

Climate data for Fitchburg Municipal Airport, Fitchburg, Massachusetts (1998-2020 normals); Snow: Fitchburg COOP (2016-2023)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 70
(21)
80
(27)
89
(32)
94
(34)
98
(37)
99
(37)
103
(39)
100
(38)
96
(36)
87
(31)
78
(26)
74
(23)
103
(39)
Mean maximum °F (°C) 57
(14)
57
(14)
68
(20)
82
(28)
90
(32)
92
(33)
94
(34)
93
(34)
89
(32)
79
(26)
70
(21)
61
(16)
96
(36)
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 34.8
(1.6)
38.0
(3.3)
46.3
(7.9)
59.2
(15.1)
70.0
(21.1)
78.1
(25.6)
83.9
(28.8)
82.3
(27.9)
75.4
(24.1)
62.2
(16.8)
50.9
(10.5)
40.2
(4.6)
59.5
(15.3)
Daily mean °F (°C) 25.8
(−3.4)
28.3
(−2.1)
36.4
(2.4)
48.0
(8.9)
58.8
(14.9)
67.5
(19.7)
73.3
(22.9)
71.6
(22.0)
64.2
(17.9)
51.5
(10.8)
41.2
(5.1)
31.5
(−0.3)
49.3
(9.6)
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 16.9
(−8.4)
18.6
(−7.4)
26.5
(−3.1)
36.8
(2.7)
47.5
(8.6)
56.9
(13.8)
62.7
(17.1)
60.9
(16.1)
53.1
(11.7)
40.8
(4.9)
31.4
(−0.3)
22.7
(−5.2)
39.1
(3.9)
Mean minimum °F (°C) −2
(−19)
2
(−17)
8
(−13)
25
(−4)
34
(1)
44
(7)
53
(12)
50
(10)
38
(3)
26
(−3)
17
(−8)
4
(−16)
−4
(−20)
Record low °F (°C) −10
(−23)
−15
(−26)
−12
(−24)
15
(−9)
29
(−2)
36
(2)
47
(8)
45
(7)
28
(−2)
15
(−9)
7
(−14)
−7
(−22)
−15
(−26)
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.62
(67)
3.01
(76)
3.94
(100)
3.79
(96)
3.74
(95)
4.59
(117)
3.47
(88)
3.49
(89)
3.97
(101)
4.46
(113)
3.27
(83)
3.41
(87)
44.45
(1,129)
Average snowfall inches (cm) 15.1
(38)
17.8
(45)
18.6
(47)
2.9
(7.4)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0.8
(2.0)
3.1
(7.9)
17.5
(44)
70.7
(180)
Source: https://www.weather.gov/wrh/climate?wfo=box

Demographics

Historical population
YearPop.±%
17901,151—    
18001,390+20.8%
18101,566+12.7%
18201,736+10.9%
18302,169+24.9%
18402,604+20.1%
18505,120+96.6%
18607,805+52.4%
187011,260+44.3%
188012,429+10.4%
189022,037+77.3%
190031,531+43.1%
191037,826+20.0%
192041,029+8.5%
193040,692−0.8%
194041,824+2.8%
195042,691+2.1%
196043,021+0.8%
197043,343+0.7%
198039,580−8.7%
199041,194+4.1%
200039,102−5.1%
201040,318+3.1%
202041,946+4.0%
202241,502−1.1%

Source: United States census records and Population Estimates Program data.[18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28]
Source:
U.S. Decennial Census[29]

As of the census[30] of 2010, there were 40,318 people, 15,165 households, and 9,362 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,450.3 inhabitants per square mile (560.0/km2). There were 17,117 housing units at an average density of 615.7 per square mile (237.7/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 78.2% White, 5.1% African American, 0.3% Native American, 3.6% Asian, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 9.1% from other races, and 3.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 21.6% of the population (14.6% Puerto Rican, 1.8% Dominican, 1.6% Uruguayan, 1.4% Mexican, 0.3% Ecuadorian, 0.2% Colombian, 0.2% Honduran, 0.1% Guatemalan, 0.1% Salvadoran, 0.1% Spanish, 0.1% Peruvian).[31] 76.9% spoke English, 15.1% Spanish, 4.2% Other Indo-European Language and 2.6% Asian and Pacific Islander Languages as their first language.

There were 15,165 households, out of which 29.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.3% were married couples living together, 6.1% had a male householder with no wife present, 16.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.3% were non-families. 29.8% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.10.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 22.9% under the age of 18, 14.1% from 18 to 24, 25.9% from 25 to 44, 24.7% from 45 to 64, and 12.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34.7 years. For every 100 females, there were 94.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $47,019, and the median income for a family was $57,245. Males had a median income of $47,350 versus $37,921 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,972. About 14.6% of families and 19.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.3% of those under age 18 and 12.7% of those age 65 or over.

Economy

Main Street, looking east, in c. 1912

Throughout the early twentieth century, Fitchburg was known for its paper industry, which occupied the banks of the Nashua River and employed a large segment of the European immigrant population. It has been noted by many residents in Fitchburg that the Nashua River would be dyed the color the paper mills had been coloring the paper that day.[32]

Fitchburg Central Steam Plant

The Fitchburg Central Steam Plant (locally known by its nickname: the PLT) was built in 1928 to provide steam and electricity to the many local paper mills. As the paper mills were abandoned or improved the Central Steam Plant fell into disuse and was abandoned. In 2008, the EPA designated the Central Steam Plant a brownfield site due to contamination of the site soil and groundwater with metals and inorganic contaminants. The EPA provided the City of Fitchburg $50,500 in grant money[35] to help clean up hazardous substances on the site.

Cleanup[36] of the Central Steam Plant started in 2010 and is ongoing as of July 2011. Unfortunately as of December 2015 the Fitchburg Central Steam Plant has been razed. The last structure to fall being the massive smokestack.

Arts and culture

The Fitchburg Art Museum was founded in 1925 and includes over 20,000 square feet (1,900 m2) of gallery and educational space which features a "cross barn" built in 1883, the Simond's building completed in 1989, and 12 galleries feature American, European, African, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Asian, and Pre-Columbian art.[citation needed]

The Rollstone Boulder, on the summit of Rollstone Hill in 1909.

The Rollstone Boulder is a 110-ton specimen of porphyritic granite located in a small triangular public park. The boulder was a feature of the summit of Rollstone Hill; it was exploded and reassembled on the green in 1929 and 1930.[citation needed]

The Fitchburg Historical Society houses more than 200,000 items related to the history of Fitchburg, including Sentinel newspapers from 1838 to 1976, city directories, photographs, scrapbooks, manuscripts, family genealogies, postcards, files on industries in the City, books and pamphlets on Fitchburg's history from the 1700s to the present, a Civil War collection, and a collection on the railroad.[citation needed]

Public library, Fitchburg, c. 1907

The Fitchburg Public Library was established in 1859.[37][38] In 1899, a child-specific library service began in one of the country's first children's rooms.[citation needed] Fitchburg Public Library became the first regional library in the Massachusetts Regional Library System in 1962.[39] In 2008, the library had a budget of $1,111,412.[40] In 2014, the Fitchburg Law Library opened.[41]

Other cultural features include:

Parks and recreation

Coggshall Park
West Fitchburg Steamline Trail Park

Government

Education

State Normal School c. 1920, now Fitchburg State University
Hammond Building, Fitchburg State University

Elementary Schools

Middle School

High School

Private schools

St. Anthony of Padua School opened c. 1951 and closed in 2017. In its final year it had 144 students. Its closure meant that Fitchburg now has only one remaining Roman Catholic grade school.[55]

Colleges and universities

Established in 1894 by an act of the Massachusetts Legislature, the State Normal School in Fitchburg opened in temporary quarters in the old high school building on Academy Street.[56]

Media

Newspapers

Television

Radio

Infrastructure

Fire department

The Fitchburg Fire Department employs 81 firefighters, operating out of three stations. It responds to approximately 12,000 emergency calls annually.[58][59]

Law enforcement

Medical care

UMass Memorial Health operates a hospital in Fitchburg.[62]

Transportation

Fitchburg Municipal Airport

Transportation for Fitchburg is largely supplied by the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority (MART). MART[63] operates fixed-route bus services, shuttle services, as well as paratransit services within the Montachusett Region. It also provides two connections to the MBTA Commuter Rail line at Fitchburg Station and Wachusett Station. The Fitchburg Station is the second to last stop on the Fitchburg Line from the North Station in Boston and the Wachusett Station is the last stop.

The Fitchburg Municipal Airport occupies 335 acres (136 ha) off Airport Road in Fitchburg near the Leominster border. In 1940, the airport land was donated to the City of Fitchburg and serves the greater Fitchburg area.

Notable people

In popular culture

In Harry Potter universe, Fitchburg is the hometown of the professional Quidditch team the Fitchburg Finches.[103]

The children's book Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D.B. Johnson is set in Fitchburg.

In 2012, Dark Horse Comics published a comic book series entitled Falling Skies: The Battle of Fitchburg.[104]

Twin towns – sister cities

Fitchburg has four sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International:

See also

References

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Further reading