Medford, Massachusetts

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Medford, Massachusetts
Medford Square, Medford MA.jpg
Medford High School, Medford MA.jpg
Eaton Hall, Tufts.jpg
Outbound train at Wellington station, January 2013.jpg
Left-right from top: Medford Square, Medford High School, Eaton Hall of Tufts University, Wellington MBTA station
Seal of Medford, Massachusetts.png
Middlesex County Massachusetts incorporated and unincorporated areas Medford highlighted.svg
Location in Middlesex County in Massachusetts
Usa edcp location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Medford, Massachusetts
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 42°25′06″N71°06′24″W / 42.41833°N 71.10667°W / 42.41833; -71.10667
CountryFlag of the United States.svg  United States
StateFlag of Massachusetts.svg  Massachusetts
County Middlesex
Region New England
  Type Mayor-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)
  Density7,366.22/sq mi (2,844.14/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
  Summer (DST) UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP Codes
02153, 02155–02156
Area code 781/339
FIPS code 25-39835
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 Wood 1634 Medford Detail.png
Detail of William Wood's 1634 map of New England, showing Naumkeag sachem Wonohaquaham, known by English colonists as Sagamore John, in Medford

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 Cradock Bridge stone.jpg
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 View of the bridge over mystic river.jpg
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 PompsWall4.jpg
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″N71°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.


Historical population
1790 1,029    
1800 1,114+8.3%
1810 1,443+29.5%
1820 1,474+2.1%
1830 1,755+19.1%
1840 2,478+41.2%
1850 3,749+51.3%
1860 4,842+29.2%
1870 5,717+18.1%
1880 7,573+32.5%
1890 11,079+46.3%
1900 18,244+64.7%
1910 23,150+26.9%
1920 39,038+68.6%
1930 59,714+53.0%
1940 63,083+5.6%
1950 66,113+4.8%
1960 64,971−1.7%
1970 64,397−0.9%
1980 58,076−9.8%
1990 57,407−1.2%
2000 55,765−2.9%
2010 56,173+0.7%
2020 59,659+6.2%
* = 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. [51]

Between 2021 and 2022, the United States Census Bureau ranked Medford as having one of the nation's fastest-growing populations. [52]

As of the census [53] 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. [54]

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.

Private (non-sectarian)
Private (sectarian)
Middle School
High School
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 [62]
PartyNumber of votersPercentage
Democratic 15,48037.88%
Republican 2,1675.30%
Libertarian 1050.25%

Local government

City Council

  • Nicole Morell, President
  • Isaac B. "Zac" Bears, Vice President
  • Richard F. Caraviello
  • Kit Collins
  • Adam Knight
  • George A. Scarpelli
  • Justin Tseng


School Committee

  • Breanna Lungo-Koehn, Chair
  • Jenny R. Graham, Vice Chair
  • Sharon Hays
  • Kathy Kreatz
  • Melanie P. McLaughlin
  • Mea Quinn Mustone
  • Paul Ruseau, Secretary


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

1852 map of Boston area showing Medford and rail lines 1852 Middlesex Canal (Massachusetts) map.jpg
1852 map of Boston area showing Medford and rail lines
Clipper ship Thatcher Magoun THATCHER MAGOUN (Ship) (c112-02-34).jpg
Clipper ship Thatcher Magoun

Notable people

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Middlesex County, Massachusetts</span> County in Massachusetts, United States

Middlesex County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, United States. As of the 2020 census, the population was 1,632,002, making it the most populous county in both Massachusetts and New England and the 22nd most populous county in the United States. Middlesex County is one of two U.S. counties to be amongst the top 25 counties with the highest household income and the 25 most populated counties. It is included in the Census Bureau's Boston–Cambridge–Newton, MA–NH Metropolitan Statistical Area. As part of the 2020 United States census, the Commonwealth's mean center of population for that year was geo-centered in Middlesex County, in the town of Natick.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Everett, Massachusetts</span> City in Massachusetts, United States

Everett is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, directly north of Boston, bordering the neighborhood of Charlestown. The population was 49,075 at the time of the 2020 United States Census.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Malden, Massachusetts</span> City in Massachusetts, United States

Malden is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. At the time of the 2020 U.S. Census, the population was 66,263 people.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Somerville, Massachusetts</span> City in Massachusetts, United States

Somerville is a city located directly to the northwest of Boston, and north of Cambridge, in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. As of the 2020 United States Census, the city had a total population of 81,045 people. With an area of 4.12 square miles (10.7 km2), the city has a density of 19,671/sq mi (7,595/km2), making it the most densely populated municipality in New England and the 19th most densely populated incorporated municipality in the country. Somerville was established as a town in 1842, when it was separated from Charlestown. In 2006, the city was named the best-run city in Massachusetts by The Boston Globe. In 1972, 2009, and 2015, the city received the All-America City Award. It is home to Tufts University, which has its campus along the Somerville and Medford border.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Arlington, Massachusetts</span> Town in Massachusetts, United States

Arlington is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The town is six miles (10 km) northwest of Boston, and its population was 46,308 at the 2020 census.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Charlestown, Boston</span> Neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Charlestown is the oldest neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts, in the United States. Also called Mishawum by the Massachusett, it is located on a peninsula north of the Charles River, across from downtown Boston, and also adjoins the Mystic River and Boston Harbor waterways. Charlestown was laid out in 1629 by engineer Thomas Graves, one of its earliest settlers, during the reign of Charles I of England. It was originally a separate town and the first capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lexington, Massachusetts</span> Town in Massachusetts, United States

Lexington is a suburban town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, located 10 miles (16 km) from Downtown Boston. The population was 34,454 as of the 2020 census. The area was originally inhabited by Native Americans, and was first settled by Europeans in 1641 as a farming community. Lexington is well known as the site of the first shots of the American Revolutionary War, in the Battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775, where the "Shot heard 'round the world" took place. It is home to Minute Man National Historical Park.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stoneham, Massachusetts</span> Town in Massachusetts, U.S.

Stoneham is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, nine miles (14.5 km) north of downtown Boston. Its population was 23,244 at the 2020 census. Its proximity to major highways and public transportation offers convenient access to Boston and the North Shore coastal region and beaches of Massachusetts. The town is the birthplace of the Olympic figure-skating medalist Nancy Kerrigan and is the location of the Stone Zoo.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Winchester, Massachusetts</span> Town in Massachusetts, United States

Winchester is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, located 8.2 miles (13.2 km) north of downtown Boston as part of the Greater Boston metropolitan area. It is also one of the wealthiest municipalities in Massachusetts. The population was 22,970 at the 2020 United States Census.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mystic River</span> River in Massachusetts, United States

The Mystic River is a 7.0-mile-long (11.3 km) river in Massachusetts. In the Massachusett language, missi-tuk means "large estuary", alluding to the tidal nature of the Mystic River. The resemblance to the English word mystic is a coincidence, which the colonists followed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brighton, Boston</span> Neighborhood of Boston in Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States

Brighton is a former town and current neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, United States, located in the northwestern corner of the city. It is named after the English city of Brighton. Initially Brighton was part of Cambridge, and known as "Little Cambridge". Brighton separated from Cambridge in 1807 after a bridge dispute, and was annexed to Boston in 1874. For much of its early history, it was a rural town with a significant commercial center at its eastern end.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Peter Tufts House</span> Historic house in Massachusetts, United States

The Peter Tufts House is a Colonial American house located in Medford, Massachusetts. It is thought to have been built between 1677 and 1678. Past historians considered it to be the oldest brick house in the United States, although that distinction belongs to Bacon's Castle, the 1665 plantation home of Virginian Arthur Allen. It is also believed to be, possibly, the oldest surviving house in the U.S. with a gambrel roof.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Peter Tufts</span> 17th-century American businessman

Peter Tufts, Sr. was a prominent early citizen of Malden and Medford, Massachusetts, and ancestor of Charles Tufts who donated land for the Tufts University campus. The Peter Tufts House is still standing and is among the oldest all brick houses still standing in the United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">South Medford, Massachusetts</span> Neighborhood in Medford, Massachusetts

South Medford is the southern neighborhood of Medford, Massachusetts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mystic Lakes (Boston)</span>

The Mystic Lakes, consisting of Upper Mystic Lake and Lower Mystic Lake, are closely linked bodies of water in the northwestern suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts.

The Pawtucket tribe were a confederation of Eastern Algonquian-speaking Native Americans in present-day northeastern Massachusetts and southeastern New Hampshire. They are mostly known in the historical record for their dealings with the early English colonists in the 17th century. Confusion exists about the proper endonym for this group who are variously referred to in European documents as Pawtucket, Pentucket, Naumkeag, Wamesit, or Mystic Indians, or by the name of their current sachem or sagamore.

Nanepashemet was a sachem and bashabe or great leader of the Pawtucket Confederation of Abenaki peoples in present-day New England before the landing of the Pilgrims. He was a leader of Native peoples over a large part of what is now coastal Northeastern Massachusetts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Naumkeag people</span> Historic Native American tribe in Massachusetts, USA

Naumkeag is a historical tribe of Eastern Algonquian-speaking Native American people who lived in northeastern Massachusetts. They controlled most of the territory from the Charles River to the Merrimack River at the time of the Puritan migration to New England (1620–1640).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wonohaquaham</span>

Wonohaquaham also known as Sagamore John was a Native American leader who was a Pawtucket Confederation Sachem when English began to settle in the area.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Squaw Sachem of Mistick</span>

Squaw Sachem of Mistick was a prominent leader of a Massachusett tribe who deeded large tracts of land in eastern Massachusetts to early colonial settlers.


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Further reading