Arlington, founded over 350 years ago, remains proud of its history, even as it has grown into a thoroughly modern community. The birthplace of Uncle Sam, the location of the first public children's library, and the site of most of the fighting when the British marched through it returning from the Old North Bridge at the start of the Revolutionary War, Arlington has preserved many of its historical buildings and even recreated its town common. Once a thriving agriculture and mill town, Arlington's excellent access to metropolitan Boston has made it a very desirable place to live.
History Highlights of Arlington
The Town of Arlington was originally settled in 1635 as a village under the name Menotomy. In 1807, the Town and a section of what is now Belmont were set off from Cambridge and incorporated as West Cambridge. In 1867, the name was changed to Arlington in honor of the heroes buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.
Squaw Sachem: When the first settlers made an agreement in 1635 with Squaw Sachem, she reserved the right to maintain some land near the Mystic Lakes for her use and required as part payment, a new English (woolen) coat every year for as long as she lived. This area was called Menotomy, an Algonquian word.
Captain Cooke: Two years later, Captain George Cooke took advantage of the swift running water in Mill Brook by building the first mill in this area. Farmers from Cambridge, Woburn, Watertown, and Medford brought their grain to the mill to be ground into flour.
The First School: In 1688, Menotomy's 24 taxpayers petitioned for the right to build a school; an unusual request, because they did not have as yet a meetinghouse. The school, located at what is now the cemetery on Pleasant Street, was completed in 1693 and stood there for more than 100 years.
Battle of Menotomy (Patriots' Day): Arlington (then called Menotomy) played a prominent role on the first day of the American Revolution - April 19, 1775. Minutemen from surrounding towns converged on Menotomy to ambush the British on their retreat from Concord and Lexington. More than one-half of that fateful day's casualties were suffered in the short distance from Foot of the Rocks (at the intersection of Lowell Street and Massachusetts Avenue) to Spy Pond.
Uncle Sam: Uncle Sam was born in Menotomy. Samuel Wilson was almost nine years old when the Battle of Menotomy took place. He started a meat-packing business in Troy, N.Y., where he became known as Uncle Sam. People say that the U.S. stamped on boxes of meat for the U.S. Army during the War of 1812 stood for Uncle Sam.
Libraries: Through a gift of $100 from Dr. Ebenezer Learned in 1835, and an additional appropriation of $30 from the town in 1837, the first free public library in Massachusetts was established in Arlington (then known as West Cambridge).
Prince Hall: Mystic Cemetery On Gardner Street in East Arlington there is a monument in a small park on the site of the only Black Masonic Cemetery in the United States. The cemetery, dedicated in 1864, held members of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge F & AM, formed in 1776. Though much of the cemetery has since been developed, a geophysical survey of the site in 1988 found remains of the original gate and an obelisk.
Industry and Agriculture: Arlington now is a town of homes with little or no industry or agriculture, but at one time seven mills operated along Mill Brook when it was a mightier stream than it is today. An ice industry thrived on Spy Pond. Ice harvested there was transported to Boston for shipment to the South and even India. Arlington's market gardens and greenhouses were famous for their produce, especially Arlington lettuce that was shipped all along the East Coast. California put the farms out of business when refrigerated trains came into use.
Moxie: The connection between Moxie and Arlington is the legacy that Arlington resident Francis Thompson as president of the Moxie Co. (from 1904 to his death in 1939) and his wife left to the town. The money finances scholarships for Arlington High School graduates as every year, and more than 100 seniors receive Thompson Scholarships ranging from $200 to $2,000.
The Thompson School is a token of our town's appreciation for this generous act. Mr. Thompson's father, Dr. Augustin Thompson, developed in 1876, a syrup he called Moxie Nerve Food and marketed it as a tonic to aid digestions. In 1884, he changed Moxie to a carbonated soft drink that at first was also marketed as a tonic with extravagant claims that it would cure all sorts of ailments.
A few years later Moxie was marketed exclusively as a delicious and refreshing drink, and for a while, was the most popular soft drink in the U.S. In fact, it became so popular that the word moxie became part of our language meaning energy, courage or guts. Moxie is still enjoyed by many people and can be obtained in local supermarkets.
Cyrus Dallin: Born in a log cabin in Utah and where as a boy he played with Indians, Cyrus Dallin showed talent at a young age in art and model making. A Boston businessman who financed the 19-year-old's education in Boston recognized his talent. Later Cyrus studied in Paris. Cyrus Dallin spent his adult life in Arlington; his children and grandchildren grew up here. He is especially known for the heroic-size bronze of Paul Revere near the Old North Church, which reminds us of our national heritage.
Also, he is famous for his Indian statues, the most famous being The Appeal to the Great Spirit that stands in front of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Others are: Massasoit in Plymouth as well as American Indian equestrian statues in Chicago, Kansas City, and Philadelphia. Arlington's most famous Dallin work, the Menotomy Indian Hunter, was commissioned by the Robbins family to honor Winfield Robbins. This work, which portrays one of the community's first inhabitants, stands in a beautiful wooded setting in the garden between the Robbins Memorial Town Hall and the Robbins Library.
Arlington 100th Anniversary
"Prepared and published by authority of the committee of the town of Arlington appointed to make arrangements for the celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of the incorporation of the town" reads the opening comments of the book Town of Arlington Past and Present: A Narrative of Larger Events and Important Changes in the Village Precinct and Town from 1637 to 1907 by Charles S. Parker. Published in 1907 and now available to download Park's book here from Google books.
Form of Government:
The town of Arlington is governed by the "Town Manager Act of the Town of Arlington, Massachusetts," the "By-Laws of the Town of Arlington" and Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 43A, "Standard Form of Representative Town Meeting Government." The executive branch is made up of a five-member Select Board, elected at large. The board hires a professional manager to administer the daily operations of the government. The legislative branch is a Town Meeting made up of 252 representatives, elected from each of the 21 precincts. Arlington is also a member of the 5th Massachusetts Congressional District, 4th Middlesex State Senatorial District, and the 15th, 23rd and 24th Middlesex State Representative Districts.
42,844 (2010 U.S. census)
42,389 (2000 U.S. census)
44,630 (1990 U.S. census)
46,465 (1985 state census)
48,219 (1980 U.S. census)
52,720 (1970 U.S. census)
FY 2005, $10.94 per $1,000
FY 2004, $10.64 per $1,000
FY 2003, $13.61 per $1,000
FY 2002, $13.85 per $1,000
FY 2001, $13.17 per $1,000
Arlington is six miles northwest of Boston, in latitude 42 degrees 25 minutes north, longitude 71 degrees 09 minutes west. The town is bordered on the north by Winchester, on the east by Medford and Somerville, on the south by Cambridge and Belmont and on the west by Lexington.
The Town elevation above mean tide ranges from a low of 4 feet to high of 377 feet. Elevations include 10 feet at Mass. Ave. and the Cambridge line, 48 feet at Mass. Ave. and Pleasant Street, 155 feet at Mass. Ave. and Park Avenue, 281 feet at Crescent Hill Avenue and Park Place, and 377 feet at Park Circle and Eastern Avenue.
Arlington covers 3,517.5 acres, or 5.5 square miles, of which 286.2 acres are covered by water. There are 158.27 acres of parkland owned by the town and 52.25 acres under the control of the Metropolitan District Commission. Just over 59 acres of the land area are devoted to cemeteries.
There are 95.27 miles of public streets and town ways, 24.36 miles of private streets open for travel, 6.11 miles of state highways and parkways, and 3.24 miles of paper streets. The permanent water system consists of 131.43 miles, and the sewer system consists of 117.37 miles. There are 77.37 miles in the town's storm drain system, and the town maintains 3,698 catch basins. There are 104.09 miles of permanent sidewalks and 92.31 miles of curbing.
Arlington is bounded on the south by Route 2, a major transportation route allowing access to Boston and the western part of Massachusetts. Arlington is also a short distance from Interstate 93 and 95. Other major routes that go through the town are Routes 2A and 3. Public transportation is provided through the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) servicing the Greater Boston area with bus service and a subway system. Closest access to the subway system is through the Alewife Station located just over the Arlington border in Cambridge.
The Town of Arlington operates an excellent school system with seven elementary schools, one middle school, and Arlington High School. The elementary schools are: Bishop School, 25 Columbia Road; Brackett School, 66 Eastern Ave.; Dallin School, 185 Florence Ave.; Hardy School, 52 Lake St.; Peirce School, 85 Park Ave. Extension; Stratton School, 180 Mountain Ave., and Thompson School, 70 N. Union St. The Ottoson Middle School is at 63 Acton St. Arlington High School is at 869 Mass. Ave. Visit Arlington Public Schools.