Medford, Massachusetts
Left-right from top: Medford Square, Medford High School, Eaton Hall of Tufts University, Wellington MBTA station
Official seal of Medford, Massachusetts
Location in Middlesex County in Massachusetts
Location in Middlesex County in Massachusetts
Medford, Massachusetts is located in the United States
Medford, Massachusetts
Medford, Massachusetts
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 42°25′06″N 71°06′24″W / 42.41833°N 71.10667°W / 42.41833; -71.10667
Country United States
State Massachusetts
RegionNew England
 • TypeMayor-council city
 • MayorBreanna Lungo-Koehn
 • Total8.66 sq mi (22.43 km2)
 • Land8.10 sq mi (20.98 km2)
 • Water0.56 sq mi (1.45 km2)
14 ft (4 m)
 • Total59,659
 • Density7,366.22/sq mi (2,844.14/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP Codes
02153, 02155–02156
Area code781/339
FIPS code25-39835
GNIS feature ID0612778

Medford is a city 6.7 miles (10.8 km) northwest of downtown Boston on the Mystic River in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. At the time of the 2020 U.S. Census, Medford's population was 59,659. It is home to Tufts University, which has its campus on both sides of the Medford and Somerville border.


Indigenous history

Detail of William Wood's 1634 map of New England, showing Naumkeag sachem Wonohaquaham, known by English colonists as Sagamore John, in Medford[2]

Native Americans inhabited the area that would become Medford for thousands of years prior to European colonization of the Americas. At the time of European contact and exploration, Medford was the winter home of the Naumkeag people, who farmed corn and created fishing weirs at multiple sites along the Mystic River.[3] Naumkeag sachem Nanepashemet was killed and buried at his fortification in present-day Medford during a war with the Tarrantines in 1619.[4] The contact period introduced a number of European infectious diseases which would decimate native populations in virgin soil epidemics, including a smallpox epidemic which in 1633 killed Nanepashemet's sons, sachems Montowompate and Wonohaquaham. Sagamore Park in West Medford is a native burial site from the contact period which includes the remains of a likely sachem, either Nanepashemet or Wonohaquaham.[4][3] After the 1633 epidemic, Nanepashemet's widow, known only as the Squaw Sachem of Mistick, led the Naumkeag, and over the next two decades would deed large parts of Naumkeag territory to English settlers. In 1639, the Massachusetts General Court purchased the land that would become present day Medford, then within the boundaries of Charlestown, from the Squaw Sachem.[5]

17th century

Medford was settled in 1630 by English colonists as part of Charlestown, of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The settlement was originally called "Mistick" by Thomas Dudley, based on the indigenous name for the area's river. Thomas Dudley's party renamed the settlement "Meadford".[6] The name may have come from a description of the "meadow by the ford" in the Mystic River, or from two locations in England that Cradock may have known: the hamlet of Mayford or Metford in Staffordshire near Caverswall, or from the parish of Maidford or Medford (now Towcester, Northamptonshire).[7] In 1634, the land north of the Mystic River was developed as the private plantation of Matthew Cradock, a former governor. Across the river was Ten Hills Farm, which belonged to John Winthrop, Governor of the Massachusetts Bay colony.[8]

A stone with the dates of the early Cradock Bridge in Medford

In 1637, the first bridge (a toll bridge) across the Mystic River was built at the site of the present-day Cradock Bridge, which carries Main Street into Medford Square.[9] It would be the only bridge across the Mystic until 1787, and as such became a major route for traffic coming into Boston from the north (though ferries and fords were also used).[10] The bridge would be rebuilt in 1880, 1909, and 2018.[9]

Until 1656, all of northern Medford was owned by Cradock, his heirs, or Edward Collins. Medford was governed as a "peculiar" or private plantation. As the land began to be divided among several people from different families, the new owners began to meet and make decisions locally and increasingly independently from the Charlestown town meeting. In 1674, a Board of Selectmen was elected; in 1684, the colonial legislature granted the ability to raise money independently; and in 1689, a representative to the legislature was chosen. The town got its own religious meeting room in 1690, and a secular meeting house in 1696.[10]

In 1692, the town engaged its first ordained preacher, Rev. John Hancock Sr. During his time of service Rev. Hancock lived in Medford, serving until November 1693. One of his grandsons was John Hancock, who was a later notable figure of the American Revolutionary War and later elected as first and third governor of Massachusetts.[10][11]

18th and 19th centuries

The land south of the Mystic River, present-day South Medford, was originally known as "Mistick Field". It was transferred from Charlestown to Medford in 1754.[12] This grant also included the "Charlestown woodlots" (the Medford part of the Middlesex Fells), and part of what was at the time Woburn (now Winchester).[13] Other parts of Medford were transferred from Charlestown in 1811, Winchester in 1850 ("Upper Medford"), and Malden in 1879. Additional land was transferred to Medford from Malden (1817), Everett (1875), and Malden (1877) again.[7][14]

The population of Medford rose from 230 in 1700 to 1,114 in 1800. After 1880, the population rapidly expanded, reaching 18,244 by 1900.[15] Farmland was divided into lots and sold to build residential and commercial buildings, starting in the 1840s and 1850s; government services expanded with the population (schools, police, post office) and technological advancement (gas lighting, electricity, telephones, railways).[14] Tufts University was chartered in 1852 and the Crane Theological School at Tufts opened in 1869. In 1865 the Lawrence Rifles volunteer militia company was formed in Medford during the Civil War.

Medford was incorporated as a city in 1892, and was a center of industry, including the manufacture of tiles and crackers,[16] bricks,[17] rum,[18] and clipper ships,[19] such as the White Swallow and the Kingfisher, both built by Hayden & Cudworth.[20]


During the 17th century, a handful of major public roads (High Street, Main Street, Salem Street, "the road to Stoneham", and South Street) served the population, but the road network started a long-term expansion in the 18th century.[21] The Medford Turnpike Company was incorporated in 1803, and (as was reasonably common at the time) turned what is now Mystic Avenue over to the city in 1866. The Andover Turnpike Company was incorporated in 1805, and turned what is now Forest Street and Fellsway West over to Medford in 1830.[14]

Other major commercial transportation projects included the Middlesex Canal by 1803,[22] the Boston and Lowell Railroad in West Medford in the 1830s, and the Boston and Maine Railroad to Medford Center in 1847.

A horse-powered street railway began running to Somerville and Charlestown in 1860. The street railway network expanded in the hands of various private companies, and went electric in the late 1890s, when trolleys to Everett and downtown Boston were available.[14] Streetcars were converted to buses in the 20th century. Interstate 93 was constructed between 1956 and 1963.[23]

Spongy moth

In 1868, a French astronomer and naturalist, Leopold Trouvelot, was attempting to breed a better silkworm using spongy moths. Several of the moths escaped from his home, at 27 Myrtle Street. Within ten years, the insect had denuded the vegetation in the neighborhood. It spread over North America.[24][25]

Holiday songs

In Simpson's Tavern, a tavern and boarding house on High Street, in the late 19th century, local resident James Pierpont is rumored to have written "Jingle Bells" after watching a sleigh race from Medford to Malden. There is also a claim that Pierpont wrote it while he was the music director at Unitarian Universalist Church in Savannah, Georgia. He copyrighted the song while there.[26][27]

Another local resident, Lydia Maria Child (1802–1880), made a poem out of the trip across town to her grandparents' house, now the song "Over the River and Through the Wood".

Other notables

1790 bird's-eye view from Bunker Hill of the "Malden Bridge" across the Mystic River, with Medford in the background
Pomp's Wall and Historical Marker

Paul Revere's famous midnight ride traveled along Main Street, continuing onto High Street in Medford Square. An annual re-enactment takes place honoring the historic event.

The Peter Tufts House (350 Riverside Ave.) is thought to be the oldest all-brick building in New England. Another important site is the "Slave Wall" on Grove Street, built by "Pomp",[28] an enslaved person owned by the prominent Brooks family.[29] The Royall House and Slave Quarters, which once belonged to one of Harvard Law School's founders, Isaac Royall, Jr., is a National Historic Landmark and a local history museum. The house was used by Continental Army troops, including George Washington and John Stark, during the American Revolutionary War.

George Luther Stearns, an American industrialist and one of John Brown's Secret Six. His passion for the abolitionist cause shaped his life, bringing him into contact with the likes of Abraham Lincoln and Ralph Waldo Emerson and starting The Nation magazine. He was given the rank of major by Massachusetts Governor John Andrew and spent most of the Civil War recruiting for the 54th and 55th Massachusetts regiments and the 5th cavalry.

Medford was home to Fannie Farmer, author of one of the world's most famous cookbooks—as well as James Plimpton, the man credited with the 1863 invention of the first practical four-wheeled roller skate, which set off a roller craze that quickly spread across the United States and Europe.[30]

Amelia Earhart lived in Medford while working as a social worker in 1925.

Elizabeth Short, the victim of an infamous Hollywood murder and who became known as The Black Dahlia, was born in Hyde Park (the southernmost neighborhood of the city of Boston, Massachusetts) but raised in Medford before going to the West Coast looking for fame.

Medford has sent more than its share of athletes to the National Hockey League; Shawn Bates, though born in Melrose, grew up in Medford, as did Keith Tkachuk, Mike Morrison, David Sacco and Joe Sacco. Former Red Sox pitcher Bill Monbouquette grew up in Medford, as did former Major League Baseball infielder Mike Pagliarulo.

Medford was home to Michael Bloomberg, American businessman, philanthropist, and the founder of Bloomberg L.P. He was the Mayor of New York City from 2002 to 2013. Mayor Bloomberg attended Medford High School and resided in Medford until after he graduated from college at Johns Hopkins University.[31] His mother remained a resident of Medford until her death in 2011.

The only cryobank of amniotic stem cells in the United States is located in Medford, built by Biocell Center, a biotechnology company led by Giuseppe Simoni.

Notorious crimes

Medford was the location of some infamous crimes:


Medford is located at 42°25′12″N 71°6′29″W / 42.42000°N 71.10806°W / 42.42000; -71.10806 (42.419996, −71.107942).[37]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 8.6 square miles (22 km2), of which 8.1 square miles (21 km2) is land and 0.5 square miles (1.3 km2) (5.79%) is water.

A park called the Middlesex Fells Reservation, to the north, lies partly within the city. This 2,060-acre (8 km2) preserve is shared by Medford with the municipalities of Winchester, Stoneham, Melrose, and Malden. The Mystic River flows roughly west to southeast through the middle of the city.


People from Medford often identify themselves with a particular neighborhood.


See also: List of Massachusetts locations by per capita income

Historical population
* = population estimate.
Source: United States census records and Population Estimates Program data.[39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46][47][48][49]
U.S. Decennial Census[50]

Irish-Americans are a strong presence in the city and live in all areas. South Medford is a traditionally Italian neighborhood. West Medford, the most affluent of Medford's many neighborhoods, was once the bastion of some of Boston's elite families—including Peter Chardon Brooks, one of the wealthiest men in post-colonial America, and father-in-law to Charles Francis Adams—and is also home to an historic African-American neighborhood that dates to the Civil War.[52]

Between 2021 and 2022, the United States Census Bureau ranked Medford as having one of the nation's fastest-growing populations.[53]

As of the census[54] of 2010, there were 56,173 people, 22,810 households, and 13,207 families residing in the city. The population density was 6,859.9 inhabitants per square mile (2,648.6/km2). There were 24,046 housing units at an average density of 2,796.0 per square mile (1,079.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 78.6% White, 8.80% African American, 0.2% Native American, 6.9% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 2.8% from other races, and 2.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.4% of the population.

There were 22,810 households, out of which 22.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.5% were married couples living together, 11.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.1% were non-families. 24.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.38 and the average family size was 3.00.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 13.8% under the age of 15, 14.3% from 15 to 24, 31.7% from 25 to 44, 24.9% from 45 to 64, and 15.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37.7 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.4 males.[55]

The median income for a household in the city was $52,476, and the median income for a family was $62,409. Males had a median income of $41,704 versus $34,948 for females. The per capita income for the city was $24,707. About 4.1% of families and 6.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.7% of those under age 18 and 7.4% of those age 65 or over.

Medford has three Public, educational, and government access (PEG) cable TV channels. The Public-access television channel is TV3, The Educational-access television is channel 15 and 16 is the Government-access television (GATV) municipal channel.


Medford is home to many schools, public and private.


Main article: Medford Public Schools § Elementary Schools

Private (non-sectarian)
Private (sectarian)
Middle School

Main article: Medford Public Schools § Secondary Schools

High School

Main article: Medford Public Schools § Secondary Schools

Miscellaneous education


County government: Middlesex County
Clerk of Courts: Michael A. Sullivan
District attorney: Marian Ryan
Register of Deeds: Richard P. Howe, Jr. (North at Lowell)
Eugene C. Brune (South at Cambridge)
Register of Probate: Tara E. DeCristofaro
County Sheriff: Peter Koutoujian (D)
State government
State Representative(s): Paul Donato (D)
Sean Garballey (D)
Christine Barber (D)
State Senator(s): Patricia D. Jehlen (D, 2nd Middlesex district)
Governor's Councilor(s): Terrence W. Kennedy (D)
Federal government
U.S. Representative(s): Katherine Clark (D-5th District)
U.S. Senators: Elizabeth Warren (D), Ed Markey (D)
Voter registration and party enrollment as of February 1, 2023[63]
Party Number of voters Percentage
Unaffiliated 22,834 55.88%
Democratic 15,480 37.88%
Republican 2,167 5.30%
Libertarian 105 0.25%
Total 40,861 100%

Local government

City Council


School Committee


Local media and news

The City of Medford has several local news and media outlets:



Three MBTA subway stations are located in Medford: Wellington on the Orange Line, plus Medford/​Tufts and Ball Square on the Green Line. The MBTA Commuter Rail Lowell Line stops at West Medford. Medford is served by MBTA bus local routes 80, 94, 95, 96, 99, 100, 101, 108, 134, and 710, plus express routes 325 and 326.

Interstate 93 travels roughly north–south through the city. State routes passing through Medford include 16, 28, 38, and 60.

Points of interest

Further information: List of Registered Historic Places in Medford, Massachusetts

1852 map of Boston area showing Medford and rail lines
Clipper ship Thatcher Magoun

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  2. ^ "The south part of New England as it planted this yeare, 1634". Retrieved December 11, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Massachusetts Historical Commission (1980). "MHC Reconnaissance Town Reports: Medford" (PDF).
  4. ^ a b Bradford, William; Winslow, Edward; Dexter, Henry Martyn (1865). Mourt's relation or journal of the plantation at Plymouth. Harvard University. Boston, J. K. Wiggin.
  5. ^ "Medford Historical Society Papers, Volume 24., The Indians of the Mystic valley and the litigation over their land". Retrieved December 11, 2021.
  6. ^ History of the Town of Medford, p. 30
  7. ^ a b History of Middlesex County, p. 158
  8. ^ History of the Town of Medford, p. 39
  9. ^ a b Bencks, Jarret (October 27, 2011). "Cradock Bridge to Be Replaced in 2012 or 2013 – Medford, MA Patch". AOL Inc. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
  10. ^ a b c "A Peculiar Plantation: 17th Century Medford – Medford Historical Society & Museum". February 22, 2013.
  11. ^ a b John H. Hooper (1906). Proceedings of the Celebration of the Two Hundred and Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the Settlement of Medford, Massachusetts, June, Nineteen Hundred and Five: Prefaced by a Brief History of the Town and City from the Day of Settlement. Executive Committee. p. 62. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
  12. ^ History of the Town of Medford, p. 5
  13. ^ "A Quiet Country Town: 18th Century Medford – Medford Historical Society & Museum". February 22, 2013.
  14. ^ a b c d "The Emerging City: 19th Century Medford – Medford Historical Society & Museum". February 22, 2013.
  15. ^ United States census
  16. ^ Medford city history
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  20. ^ Gleason, Hall (1937). Old Ships and Ship-Building Days of Medford. Medford, MA: J.C. Miller. p. 76.
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Further reading