Waltham has been called "watch city" because of its association with the watch industry. Waltham Watch Company opened its factory in Waltham in 1854 and was the first company to make watches on an assembly line. It won the gold medal in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. The company produced over 35 million watches, clocks and instruments before it closed in 1957.
Waltham was first settled in 1634 as part of Watertown and was officially incorporated as a separate town in 1738. Waltham is most likely named for Waltham Abbey in the County of Essex, England. The first record of the name is from the articles of incorporation, dated January 15, 1738. The name derives from the Anglo-Saxon words, weald or wald "forest" and ham "homestead" or "enclosure." Waltham had no recognizable town center until the 1830s, when the nearby Boston Manufacturing Company gave the town the land that now serves as its central square.
In the early 19th century, Francis Cabot Lowell and his friends and colleagues established in Waltham the Boston Manufacturing Company—the first integrated textile mill in the United States, with the goal of eliminating the problems of co-ordination, quality control, and shipping inherent in the subcontracting based textile industry. The Waltham–Lowell system of production derives its name from the city and the founder of the mill.
Another first in Waltham industrial history involves the method to mass-produce the magnetron tube, invented by Percy Spencer at Raytheon. During World War II, the magnetron tube technology was applied to radar. Later, magnetron tubes were used as components in microwave ovens.
Waltham was also the home of the Walter E. Fernald State School, the western hemisphere's oldest publicly funded institution serving people with developmental disabilities. The storied and controversial history of the institution has long been covered by local and, at times, national media.
The name of the city is pronounced with the primary stress on the first syllable and a full vowel in the second syllable, /ˈwɔːlθæm/WAWL-tham, though the name of the Waltham watch was pronounced with a reduced schwa in the second syllable: /ˈwɔːlθəm/. As most would pronounce in the British way, "Walthum", when people came to work in the mills from Nova Scotia, the pronunciation evolved. The "local" version became a phonetic sounding to accommodate French speakers who could not pronounce in the British way. In some areas, the city is referred to as "The Waltham".
There were 23,891 households, 19.8% of which included children under the age of 18 and 28.4% with people 65 and older. 39.7% of households were married couples living together, 9.9% cohabitating couples, 21.2% male householders with no partner present, and 29.2% female householders with no partner present. The average household size was 2.29 and the average family size was 3.02.
32.7% of households spoke a language other than English at home.
The age distribution is as follows: 13.7% under 18, 20% from 18 to 24, 30.6% from 25 to 44, 9.9% from 45 to 64, and 14.6% 65 or older. The median age was 34. The population was 48.3% male and 51.7% female.
The median income for a household was $95,851, and per capita was $44,977. In 2020, 9.2% of the population and 5% of families lived below the poverty line. 11.7% of those under 18 and 8.45% of those 65 and older lived below the poverty line.
As of 2020, 26.6% of Waltham residents were born outside of the United States. Of foreign-born residents, 41.5% were born in Asia, 32.7% in Latin America, 11.9% in Europe, and 9.7% in Africa.
Waltham's combination of population (especially in central and south Waltham) parks, public transit, stores, and trails gives it 62 (out of 100) walkability ranking on walkscore.com. This is often reflected downtown and along the Charles Riverwalk, which is often crowded on summer nights by people fishing, jogging, or walking off a meal at one of the many restaurants.
Moody Street in downtown Waltham offers its own brand of entertainment with a colorful assortment of shops, restaurants, and bars, including Outer Limits, Gourmet Pottery, and Lizzy's Ice Cream. Moody Street's booming nightlife, convenience to the commuter rail and lower rents have attracted younger professionals to Waltham in growing numbers in recent years. Moody Street is also referred to as "Restaurant Row" and has become a destination because of the number, variety and quality of its locally owned restaurants. The city of Waltham has a free "Tick Tock Trolley" on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from 6pm–11pm for visitors that provides easy access to local municipal parking lots.
Starting in 2020, the City of Waltham in Massachusetts has shut down a large portion of the main road, Moody St., to vehicular traffic from May 1 until October 31 annually. Moody Street is lined with restaurants and other small businesses but typically has high volumes of automobile passage. In an effort to assist these businesses in a difficult time, the Waltham Traffic Commission closed off a segment of the road to allow businesses to have outdoor dining and storefronts amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Bus stops that would typically be on the blocked off part of Moody St. are temporarily relocated to nearby spots.
Moody Street is a wide road, and with its closure, many residents of Waltham have begun walking the length of the closure frequently to get outdoors. Waltham has a high immigrant population, and a high population of people without cars. Providing a space that is for pedestrians and cyclists only has increased the number of chance encounters residents have, hence improving social connections. Many restaurants have brought in tents with lighting, while others just bought picnic tables and umbrellas and set them outside. Some restaurants have brought in green spaces or features, creating a biophilic experience for those passing by or eating. These changes have overarching public health benefits for local residents utilizing the space.
Additionally, the Moody St. closure has had a traffic calming effect on surrounding traffic, as it requires street furniture and closures. The shift of Moody St. from an automobile road to a pedestrian road for a significant share of the year challenges the automobility paradigm by reclaiming the space for pedestrians. Without the barrier effect that cars often have on Moody Street, the street is open and enjoyable to walk around. The dense rows of restaurants and other businesses lining the road make for an engaging experience for people who walk the street during the street closure.
Restaurants are supportive of the closure, as they can offer outdoor seating and increase their capacity for business. However, Moody Street has a variety of other businesses like small grocery stores, clothing stores, and jewelers. Some of these non-restaurant business owners oppose repeating the plan in the future, arguing that closing off the road makes their businesses less accessible due to a lack of automobile access. While Waltham has included a variety of stakeholders in the process of the street closure, it is crucial that they continue to do so in order to continue using a democratic process for city-wide decision-making.
For over 25 years, the Waltham Arts Council has sponsored "Concerts On Waltham Common", featuring a different musical act each week of the summer, free of charge to attendees. "Concerts On Waltham Common" was created and organized by Stephen Kilgore until his death in 2004.
Waltham's cultural life is enriched by the presence of two major universities and a number of arts organizations throughout the city.
The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University is devoted to modern and contemporary art. The Rose holds a variety of exhibitions and programs, and collections are free and open to the public.
The city's history is also celebrated at a number of museums, monuments, and archives. The Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation, the Waltham Watch Factory historic district, the Gore Estate, the Lyman Estate, and the Robert Treat Payne Estate are among the most well known of the 109 sites in the city on the National Register of Historical Sites. Many festivals are held at these sites each year, such as the annual sheep shearing festival at the Gore Estate. The National Archives and Records Administration Northeast regional branch is located in Waltham. The Waltham Public Library has extensive archives regarding the city's history. The Waltham Museum is devoted solely to the history of the city. Mark Gately is the only stakeholder left of the Waltham Museum.
Waltham is known for its embracing of literary arts. Local author Jessica Lucci has written a series of books about Waltham which can be found at the Waltham Museum, The Waltham Historical Society, and many other regional establishments devoted to promoting literary arts.
The Waltham Mills Artists Association is located in one of the former factories of the Boston Manufacturing Company. The WMAA Open Studios takes place each year on the first weekend of November. The 76 artists of the WMAA open their homes and studios to the public. Works of all media imaginable are demonstrated, displayed and discussed.
The Waltham Philharmonic Orchestra, a civic symphony of the MetroWest area, began in 1985 under the direction of local musicians David J. Tierney and Harold W. McSwain, Jr. With almost 60 professional, semi-professional, and amateur musicians, the orchestra's mission is to provide the Waltham community with the opportunity to perform in and attend classical concerts of the highest quality. WPO musicians come from Waltham as well as from Boston and surrounding communities. The ensemble includes players of a wide range of ages and professions.
There are five to six concerts throughout the season, including one that features the winner of the annual Youth Concerto Competition, which provides opportunities for young musicians to perform solo works with the WPO. Annual concerts have included summer Concerts on the Common and the December Holiday Pops.
Waltham is home to the Waltham Symphony Orchestra, a high-level semi-professional civic orchestra. The 55 piece orchestra performs five concerts each season at the Kennedy Middle-school Auditorium. Its music director is French-born American conductor, Patrick Botti.Open space in the city is protected by the Waltham Land Trust.
Waltham embraces its ethnic diversity in a number of festivals. The annual Latinos en Acción Festival celebrates the many Puerto Rican, Mexican, Peruvian, and Guatemalan residents. It is held by Latinos in Action, a local nonprofit group that helps the Latino population register to vote, understand the laws and find scholarships. The festival includes a parade, music, food, and a beauty pageant.
Waltham has in recent decades become a center for Ugandan culture, with an estimated 1500 Ugandans living in the city, leading some to call Waltham "Little Kampala". The Ugandan North America Association is headquartered in Waltham, along with St. Peters Church of Uganda Boston, as well as Karibu, a well regarded Ugandan eatery. Wilberforce Kateregga, a Ugandan immigrant to Waltham has since established Waltham College Uganda, a boarding school for over 300 orphans and children affected by AIDS. The school was named in honor of Kateregga's new home city.
Waltham is governed by a mayor and a city council. The current mayor is Jeanette A. McCarthy. There are 15 members of the city council, each elected to two-year terms in non-partisan elections. The current president of the city council is Paul J. Brasco.
The Waltham Public Schools system includes seven elementary schools (Northeast, Fitzgerald, MacArthur, Plympton, Whittemore, Stanley, and the Waltham Dual Language Elementary School), two middle schools (McDevitt, Kennedy), and one senior high school (Waltham High School).
Waltham High School's sports teams had been referred to as the Watchmen and the Crimson, before they changed the name to the Hawks.
Waltham is home to the Waltham News Tribune (formerly The Daily News Tribune), a weekly paper which is published each Thursday, year-round owned by Gatehouse Media. The Waltham Patch covers the local, daily news and invites locals to post their own blogs, events and opinion online only. In 2018, Waltham writer Jessica Lucci was chosen as the "Mayor" of Waltham Patch. WCAC-TV is the cable access and provides opportunities for community members to learn how to create their own local-interest television programming. Waltham news sometimes appears in The Boston Globe's GlobeWest section, as well.
Waltham was formerly the home of classical radio station WCRB (99.5 FM), which relocated to the WGBH studios in Brighton in 2006. Brandeis University runs a low-power station, WBRS (100.1 FM).
MBTA bus service also covers the city, including routes 61, 70, 170, 505, 553, 554, 556 and 558.
The Charles River runs through Waltham, and bike and walking paths cover most of the south bank, as well as part of the north bank from Prospect Street to Moody Street. Some commuters ride the path to offices in Cambridge and Boston.
The city of Waltham is protected by the 166 full-time, paid firefighters of the city of Waltham Fire Department (WFD). Established in 1816, the Waltham Fire Department is currently organized into three divisions of operations: fire suppression, fire prevention, and training.
Emergency Medical Services
Armstrong Ambulance Service currently provides 24/7 Advanced Life Support emergency medical services to the City of Waltham.
^"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.
^"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.
^"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.
^"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.
^"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.
^"1850 Census"(PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1854. Pages 338 through 393. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
^"1950 Census of Population"(PDF). 1: Number of Inhabitants. Bureau of the Census. 1952. Section 6, Pages 21-7 through 21-09, Massachusetts Table 4. Population of Urban Places of 10,000 or more from Earliest Census to 1920. Archived(PDF) from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2011. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
Core cities are metropolitan core cities of at least a million people. The other areas are urban areas of cities that have an urban area of 150,000+ or of a metropolitan area of at least 250,000+. Satellite cities are in italics.