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Watertown, Massachusetts
Watertown's Main Street, facing westward
Watertown's Main Street, facing westward
Flag of Watertown, Massachusetts
Official seal of Watertown, Massachusetts
In pace condita (Latin)
"Founded in peace"
Location in Middlesex County in Massachusetts
Location in Middlesex County in Massachusetts
Watertown is located in the United States
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 42°22′15″N 71°11′00″W / 42.37083°N 71.18333°W / 42.37083; -71.18333
CountryUnited States
SettledJuly 1630
IncorporatedSeptember 7, 1630
 • TypeCouncil-manager
 • City ManagerGeorge Proakis
 • Total4.12 sq mi (10.68 km2)
 • Land4.00 sq mi (10.35 km2)
 • Water0.13 sq mi (0.33 km2)
36 ft (11 m)
 • Total35,329
 • Density8,841.09/sq mi (3,413.41/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP Code
Area code617/857
FIPS code25-73440
GNIS feature ID0612401

Watertown is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, part of Greater Boston. The population was 35,329 in the 2020 census. Its neighborhoods include Bemis, Coolidge Square, East Watertown, Watertown Square, and the West End.

Watertown was one of the first Massachusetts Bay Colony settlements organized by Puritan settlers in 1630. The city is home to the Perkins School for the Blind, the Armenian Library and Museum of America, and the historic Watertown Arsenal, which produced military armaments from 1816 through World War II.


Archeological evidence suggests that Watertown was inhabited for thousands of years before colonization. In the 1600s, two groups of Massachusett, the Pequossette and the Nonantum, had settlements on the banks of the river later called the Charles,[2] and a contemporary source lists "Pigsgusset" as the native name of "Water towne."[3] The Pequossette built a fishing weir to trap herring at the site of the current Watertown Dam. The annual fish migration, as both alewife and blueback herring swim upstream from their adult home in the sea to spawn in the fresh water where they were hatched, still occurs every spring.[4]

Watertown, first known to settlers as Saltonstall Plantation, was one of the earliest of the Massachusetts Bay Colony settlements. Founded in early 1630 by a group of settlers led by Richard Saltonstall and George Phillips, it was officially incorporated that same year. The alternate spelling "Waterton" is seen in some early documents.[5]

The first buildings were upon land now included within the limits of Cambridge known as Gerry's Landing. For its first quarter century Watertown ranked next to Boston in population and area. Since then its limits have been greatly reduced. Thrice portions have been added to Cambridge, and it has contributed territory to form the new towns of Weston (1712), Waltham (1738), Lincoln (1754) and Belmont (1859). In 1632 the residents of Watertown protested against being compelled to pay a tax for the erection of a stockade fort at Cambridge; this was the first protest in America against taxation without representation and led to the establishment of representative democracy in the colony. As early as the close of the 17th century, Watertown was the chief horse and cattle market in New England and was known for its fertile gardens and fine estates. Here about 1632 was erected the first gristmill in the colony, and in 1662 one of the first woolen mills in America was built here.[6] The first burying ground, on Arlington Street, was established in the 1660s. It contains a monument to Joseph Coolidge, the only Watertown resident killed during the British retreat from Concord in April 1775.[6]

Saltonstall's landing spot in Watertown, also known as Elbridge Gerry Landing

Revolutionary War era

Much excitement was generated in Watertown towards the start of the American Revolutionary War period. In 1773, many of its citizens were engaged with the Sons of Liberty in another tax protest, this time against the British Tea Tax which resulted in the famous Boston Tea Party protest.[7]

Then later (April 1775), some 134 Watertown minutemen responded to the alarm from Lexington to rout the British soldiers from their march to Concord. Thereafter many of these citizen soldiers were part of the first battle line formed at the Siege of Boston. Another Watertown citizen, Israel Bissel, was the first rider to take the news of the British attack and rode all the way to Connecticut, New York and Philadelphia.[8][9]

Edmund Fowle House, built in the 1700s and used by the Massachusetts government during the Revolutionary War

The Massachusetts Provincial Congress, after adjournment from Concord, met from April to July 1775 in the First Parish Church, the site of which is marked by a monument. On July 3, George Washington was greeted in Watertown; the following day he took command of the Army in Cambridge.[10] The Massachusetts General Court held its sessions here from 1775 to 1778. Committees met in the nearby Edmund Fowle House. Boston town meetings were held here during the siege of Boston, when many Boston families made their homes in the neighborhood. For several months early in the American Revolution the committees of safety and committee of correspondence made Watertown their headquarters and it was from here that General Joseph Warren set out for Bunker Hill.[6][11]

Browne House, built c. 1694

The Treaty of Watertown, the first treaty signed between the newly formed United States of America and a foreign power, the St. John's and Mi'kmaq First Nations of Nova Scotia, was signed in this house.[clarification needed][12][13]

The Coolidge Tavern, built in 1742, was frequented by minutemen during the war. Here, Washington was entertained on his New England tour in 1789.[6] The tavern was demolished in 1918 to make way for a trolley terminal.[14][better source needed]

Industrial era

From 1832 to 1834, Theodore Parker conducted a private school and his name is still preserved in the Parker School,[6] though the building no longer operates as a public school.

Mount Auburn Cemetery was founded in 1831, creating the first garden cemetery in the United States. The landscape of Mount Auburn provided inspiration for the nation's first public parks and picturesque suburbs designed by the early generations of American landscape architects. Mount Auburn has been recognized as one of the most significant designed landscapes in the country. Although perceived as a Cambridge institution, almost all of the cemetery is actually in Watertown.

The Watertown Arsenal operated continuously as a military munitions and research facility from 1816 until 1995, when the Army sold the property, by then known as the Army Materials Technology Laboratory,[15] to the town of Watertown. The Arsenal is notable for being the site of a 1911 strike prompted by the management methods of operations research pioneer Frederick Winslow Taylor (Taylor and 1911 Watertown Arsenal Strike). Taylor's method, which he dubbed "Scientific Management," broke tasks down into smaller components. Workers no longer completed whole items; instead, they were timed using stopwatches as they did small tasks repetitively, as Taylor attempted to find the balance of tasks that resulted in the maximum output from workers. The strike and its causes were controversial enough that they resulted in Congressional hearings in 1911; Congress passed a law in 1915 banning the method in government owned arsenals. Taylor's methods spread widely, influencing such industrialists as Henry Ford, and the idea is one of the underlying inspirations of the factory (assembly) line industrial method. The Watertown Arsenal was the site of a major superfund clean-up in the 1990s, and has now become a center for shopping, dining and the arts, with the opening of several restaurants and a new theatre. The site includes the Arsenal Center for the Arts, a regional arts center that opened in 2005. The Arsenal is now owned by athenahealth. Arsenal Street features two shopping malls across the street from one another, with the Watertown Mall on one side and Arsenal Yards on the other.

The Stanley Brothers built the first of their steam-powered cars, which came to be known as Stanley Steamers, in Watertown in 1897.[16]

The Locomobile Company of America, founded in 1899, also produced steam-powered cars in Watertown until the company moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut.

21st century

Shortly after midnight of April 18–19, 2013, the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing engaged in a protracted battle with police, in Watertown involving the use of firearms and explosives. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was critically wounded and later pronounced dead and the town was completely locked down for hours as police, FBI, and Army National Guard personnel patrolled it, looking for the remaining suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was captured wounded but alive in a boat shortly after the lockdown ended on the following evening.

In the November 2021 Election, the citizens voted to amend the official name of the city to "The City of Watertown"[17] (from "The City Known as the Town of Watertown")


Watertown is located at 42°22′17″N 71°10′55″W / 42.37139°N 71.18194°W / 42.37139; -71.18194 (42.37139, −71.18194).[18] To the north, it is bordered by the town of Belmont, along Belmont Street; to the south, it is bordered by the city of Newton. The city of Boston's Brighton neighborhood also lies to the south and east—the border being largely formed by the Charles River. Though the majority of the town lies north of the Charles, from Watertown Square, the nexus of the town, the town's border extends south of the Charles to encompass the neighborhood surrounding Casey Playground. To the east lies the City of Cambridge, the border to which is almost entirely the well-known Mount Auburn Cemetery, most of which is actually in Watertown. To the west lies the more expansive city of Waltham, but there is no distinct geographic feature or major road dividing the two municipalities.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.2 square miles (11 km2), of which 4.1 square miles (11 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.1 km2 or 1.20%) is water.

Adjacent cities and towns


See also: List of Massachusetts locations by per capita income

Historical population
* = population estimate.
Source: United States census records and Population Estimates Program data.[19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29]
U.S. Decennial Census[30]

As of the census[31] of 2000, there were 32,986 people, 14,629 households, and 7,329 families residing in the city. The population density was 8,025.7 inhabitants per square mile (3,098.7/km2). There were 15,008 housing units at an average density of 3,651.5 per square mile (1,409.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 91.42% White, 1.73% African American, 0.16% Native American, 3.87% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.85% from other races, and 1.95% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.68% of the population.

There were 14,629 households, out of which 17.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.9% were married couples living together, 8.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 49.9% were non-families. 34.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.17 and the average family size was 2.86.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 14.1% under the age of 18, 9.4% from 18 to 24, 39.8% from 25 to 44, 20.0% from 45 to 64, and 16.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 86.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $59,764, and the median income for a family was $67,441. Males had a median income of $46,642 versus $39,840 for females. The per capita income for the city was $33,262. About 4.5% of families and 6.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.6% of those under age 18 and 7.5% of those age 65 or over.

Armenian population

St. Stephen Armenian Apostolic Church
Hairenik Association building – Watertown, Mass.

Watertown is a major center of the Armenian diaspora in the United States, with the third-largest Armenian community in the United States, estimated as numbering 7,000[32] to over 8,000[33] as of 2007.[34] Watertown ranks only behind the California cities of Glendale and Fresno. Watertown is also the venue for the publication of long-running Armenian newspapers in English and Armenian, including:

Several Armenian grocery stores are found in East Watertown that sell produce and imported Armenian and Mediterranean products.[35]


Major employers based in Watertown include the Tufts Health Plan, New England Sports Network, the Perkins School for the Blind, Exergen Corporation,[36] Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc., and athenahealth.[37]


Watertown borders Soldiers Field Road and the Massachusetts Turnpike, major arteries into downtown Boston. Watertown is served by several MBTA bus and formerly trackless trolley routes. Most of them pass through or terminate in Watertown Square or Watertown Yard. The former A-Watertown branch of the MBTA's Green Line ran to Watertown until 1969.


Public schooling is provided for approximately 2,600 students by Watertown Public Schools, which operates three elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school (Watertown High School).[38][39]

Private day schools:

There is also a supplementary Armenian language school, St. James Erebuni Armenian School (Armenian: Սբ. Հակոբ Էրեբունի հայկական դպրոց), affiliated with the St. James Armenian Apostolic Church [hy], which teaches both Western Armenian and Eastern Armenian to children. It originated as a solely Eastern Armenian supplementary school established in 1988 by the Armenian Society of Boston (Iranahye Miutyun); it was Greater Boston's first Eastern Armenian supplementary school. It became church-affiliated in 2015, and it merged with a Western Armenian school,[40] St. Sahag & St. Mesrob Armenian School, in September of that year.[41]

Notable people

Benjamin Robbins Curtis
Eliza Dushku


See also


  1. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  2. ^ "History & Tourism – Watertown, MA – Official Website".
  3. ^ Wood, William (2002). Wood's Vocabulary of Massachusett. Merchantsville, NJ: Evolution Publishing: American Language Reprints. p. 14. ISBN 978-1-889758-97-8.
  4. ^ "Watertown Tab "Zubrowski: The herring run through Watertown from Mother's Day to Father's Day" (June 10, 2009)". Wicked Local. Retrieved October 7, 2014.
  5. ^ Young, Alexander (1846). Chronicles of the First Planters of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, 1623–1636, pp. 313–14. Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown.
  6. ^ a b c d e  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Watertown". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 411.
  7. ^ "Watertown Tour".
  8. ^ "Bissell Outrode Paul Revere But History Left Him in the Dust", Hartford Courant, April 16, 2007
  9. ^ "The Five Riders".
  10. ^ "Did You Know? | Watertown, MA – Official Website". Retrieved February 14, 2020.
  11. ^ Hodges, Maud deLeigh. 1980. Crossroads on the Charles. Phoenix Publishing, Canaan, NH
  12. ^ Maine Historical Society. "Documentary history of the state of Maine ." Portland – via Internet Archive.
  13. ^ Paul, Daniel N. (2000). We Were Not the Savages: A Mi'kmaq Perspective on the Collision Between European and Native American Civilizations (2nd ed.). Fernwood. pp. 169–170. ISBN 978-1-55266-039-3. (includes full text of both treaties).
  14. ^ sverdrupian (November 13, 2019). "Reddit | Lost Architecture | Coolidge Tavern". Retrieved February 14, 2020.
  15. ^ John Pike. "History of the AMTL". Retrieved October 7, 2014.
  16. ^ "1906 Stanley Steamer Rocket Images, Information and History". Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  17. ^ Breitrose, Charlie (November 3, 2021). "See Precinct Results for 2021 Town Council, School Committee, Library Trustees Races and the Charter Questions". Watertown News. Retrieved August 3, 2023.
  18. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  19. ^ "Total Population (P1), 2010 Census Summary File 1". American FactFinder, All County Subdivisions within Massachusetts. United States Census Bureau. 2010.
  20. ^ "Massachusetts by Place and County Subdivision - GCT-T1. Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  21. ^ "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.
  22. ^ "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.
  23. ^ "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.
  24. ^ "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.
  25. ^ "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.
  26. ^ "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.
  27. ^ "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.
  28. ^ "1850 Census" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1854. Pages 338 through 393. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  29. ^ "City and Town Population Totals: 2020-2022". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 10, 2023.
  30. ^ "U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: United States". Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  31. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  32. ^ Armenians in Watertown, MA in Hayk the Ubiquitous Armenian
  33. ^ Watertown in
  34. ^ Keith O'Brien, "ADL local leader fired on Armenian issue", The Boston Globe, August 18, 2007.
  35. ^ Chudy, Katie (July 15, 2015). "An Armenian Food Treasure Trove in Watertown: Lamejun, Boregs, and More". Eater Boston. Retrieved July 3, 2023.
  36. ^ "Changing The Way The World Takes Temperature". Exergen. Retrieved November 28, 2017.
  37. ^ "Labor Market Information". Retrieved December 16, 2014.
  38. ^ "Schools". Town of Watertown. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  39. ^ "About Us". Watertown Public Schools. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  40. ^ "Erebuni School at St. James Celebrates 30th Anniversary". Armenian Mirror-Spectator. April 19, 2018. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  41. ^ "St. James Erebuni Armenian School". St. James Armenian Church. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  42. ^ Watertown, Massachusetts at IMDb
  43. ^ "Today at the WFPL". Retrieved October 7, 2014.
  44. ^ "Plumbing Museum Leaving Space in Watertown".
  45. ^ "David J. Russo". Retrieved July 3, 2023.
  46. ^ "HSW". Retrieved July 3, 2023.
  47. ^ "Washington Tower | Mount Auburn Cemetery".

Further reading