Wellesley, Massachusetts

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Wellesley, Massachusetts
Wellesley Town Hall.jpg
Wellesley Town Hall
Wellesley MA seal.png
Norfolk County Massachusetts incorporated and unincorporated areas Wellesley highlighted.svg
Location of Wellesley in Norfolk County, Massachusetts
USA Massachusetts location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location in Massachusetts
Coordinates: 42°17′47″N71°17′35″W / 42.29639°N 71.29306°W / 42.29639; -71.29306 Coordinates: 42°17′47″N71°17′35″W / 42.29639°N 71.29306°W / 42.29639; -71.29306
Country Flag of the United States.svg United States
State Flag of Massachusetts.svg  Massachusetts
County Flag of Norfolk County, Massachusetts.gif Norfolk
  Type Representative town meeting
   Select Board
List of Select Board members
  • Thomas Ulfelder
  • Ann-Mara Lanza
  • Beth Sullivan Woods
  • Colette Aufranc
  • Lise Olney
  Total10.49 sq mi (27.2 km2)
  Land10.18 sq mi (26.4 km2)
  Water0.31 sq mi (0.8 km2)
141 ft (43 m)
 (2020) [3]
  Density2,902.75/sq mi (1,120.76/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
  Summer (DST) UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP Codes
02481, 02482, 02457
Area code(s) 339/781
FIPS code 25-74175
GNIS feature ID0618332
Website www.wellesleyma.gov

Wellesley /ˈwɛlzli/ is a town in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States. Wellesley is part of Greater Boston. The population was 29,550 at the time of the 2020 census. [3] Wellesley College, Babson College, and a campus of Massachusetts Bay Community College are located in Wellesley.



Wellesley was settled in the 1630s as part of Dedham, Massachusetts. It was subsequently a part of Needham, Massachusetts called West Needham, Massachusetts. On October 23, 1880, West Needham residents voted to secede from Needham, and the town of Wellesley was later christened by the Massachusetts legislature on April 6, 1881. The town was named after the estate of local benefactor Horatio Hollis Hunnewell. [4] [5]

Wellesley's population grew by over 80 percent during the 1920s. [6]

Historic district

The town designated Cottage Street and its nearby alleys as the historic district in its zoning plan. Most houses in this district were built around the 1860s and qualify as protected buildings certified by the town's historic commission.


Wellesley is located in eastern Massachusetts. It is bordered on the east by Newton, on the north by Weston, on the south by Needham and Dover and on the west by Natick. According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 10.49 square miles (27.2 km2), of which 10.18 square miles (26.4 km2) is land and 0.32 square miles (0.83 km2) is water. [2]


  • Wellesley Farms [7]
  • The Fells [7]
  • Wellesley Hills [7] (02481) [8]
  • Wellesley Square [7] (02482) [9]
  • Poets' Corner [7]
  • Babson Park [7] (02457) [10]
  • Peirce Estates [7]
  • College Heights [7]

Recent construction

The town's historic 19th-century inn was demolished to make way for condominiums and mixed-use development in 2006. [11] The Wellesley Country Club clubhouse, which is the building where the town was founded, was demolished in 2008, and a new clubhouse was built. [4] The town's pre-World War II high school building was torn down and replaced with a brand new high school finished in 2012. [12] The entire 1960s-style Linden Street strip-mall has been replaced by "Linden Square"—a shopping district that includes a flagship Roche Bros. supermarket, restaurants, cafes, clothing stores, along with a mixture of national chains and local shops. [13]


Historical population
1890 3,600    
1900 5,072+40.9%
1910 5,413+6.7%
1920 6,224+15.0%
1930 11,439+83.8%
1940 15,127+32.2%
1950 20,549+35.8%
1960 26,071+26.9%
1970 28,051+7.6%
1980 27,209−3.0%
1990 26,615−2.2%
2000 26,613−0.0%
2010 27,982+5.1%
2020 29,550+5.6%
* = population estimate. Source: United States Census records and Population Estimates Program data. [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20]

The Census Bureau has also defined the town as a census-designated place with an area exactly equivalent to the town. [2]

As of the census of 2000, there were 26,613 people, 8,594 households, and 6,540 families residing in the town. The population density was 2,614.1 people per square mile (1,009.4/km2). There were 8,861 housing units at an average density of 870.4 per square mile (336.1/km2). According to a 2007 Census Bureau estimate, the racial makeup of the town was 84.6% White, 10.0% Asian, 2.2% Black, 0.01% Native American, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 1.4% from other races, and 1.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.4% of the population. [2]

There were 8,594 households, out of which 39.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 67.2% were married couples living together, 7.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 23.9% were non-families. 20.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.70 and the average family size was 3.14. [2]

In the town, the population was spread out, with 25.1% under the age of 18, 13.9% from 18 to 24, 22.9% from 25 to 44, 24.2% from 45 to 64, and 13.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 77.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 71.1 males. [2]

The median income for a household was $159,167, and the median income for a family was $186,518. The per capita income in the town was $72,046. [21] About 2.4% of families and 3.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.0% of those under age 18 and 2.1% of those age 65 or over. [2]


Central Street in Wellesley Square, looking west 2004-12-19 - Wellesley (1).jpg
Central Street in Wellesley Square, looking west

The town government has been run by town meeting since the town's founding. Since Proposition 2½ limited property tax increases to 2.5% per year in 1980, the town has had to ask residents for a number of overrides to maintain funding for certain programs. Although the main 2005 override passed, a simultaneous supplemental override to preserve certain specific programs and services failed by 17 votes. The 2006 override passed with a large majority. Wellesley also receives funding from the state government. Local roads have been repaved several times in the 1990s and 2000s.

The town is part of the Massachusetts Senate's Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex district.

Wellesley opened its new Free Library building in 2003, which is part of the Minuteman Library Network. Due to the structure of budget override votes and perhaps the size of the new main branch of the library, the two branch libraries—one in Wellesley Hills, which was purpose-built to be a branch library in the 1920s, another in Wellesley Fells—closed in the summer of 2006. The branch libraries reopened in September 2008. [22] The main library branch near Wellesley Square underwent a major interior renovation in 2021. [23]

On December 18, 2014, Wellesley College and the Town of Wellesley announced that the College's Board of Trustees had chosen the town's $35-million bid for the purchase of 46 acres of land adjacent to its campus. Under this agreement, at least 50% of the North 40 property will be preserved in perpetuity as open space. A special town meeting in January 2015 resulted in a near-unanimous vote in favor of the purchase, and in March 2015, 80 percent of residents that cast votes at the Town election, voted to approve the purchase.

Municipal light plant

Wellesley is serviced by the Wellesley Municipal Light Plant (WMLP). It is one of only a handful of municipal light plants in the state of Massachusetts.

Recycling and disposal facility

There is no residential trash pickup in Wellesley. Instead, residents cart their own refuse to Wellesley's Recycling and Disposal Facility (RDF), a town-operated multi-use waste recycling site, where items are sorted by type, recyclability, and potential reuse. Old books and magazines are available for town residents to take, which have their own shelving section.

The RDF also has a "Take it or Leave it" area where residents leave items they no longer want but that are in good repair. In 2004, the Town had to discontinue the "Take it or Leave it" because of funding cutbacks. However, within six months town residents reinstated it by means of a volunteer system. The section reopened with volunteers on duty at all times to organize the goods and ensure that only usable items were left there.


Residence halls at Wellesley College Wellesley College Tower Court.jpg
Residence halls at Wellesley College

The following year, 1967 [ when? ] the high school's accreditation was placed on warning status by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Public Secondary Schools. [24] Wellesley High gained national attention in 2012 when English teacher David McCullough Jr. (son of noted author and historian David McCullough) delivered a widely read and viewed commencement address dubbed "You're Not Special", in which he urged graduates not to take things for granted.

On the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test, the district regularly scores higher than the state average. [25] [26] [27] The school system also contains a middle school and seven elementary schools (Bates, Upham, Schofield, Fiske, Hardy, Hunnewell, and Sprague).[ citation needed ]

The town contains a private elementary school, Tenacre Country Day School, one private Catholic elementary school (St. John the Evangelist) and a preparatory school for girls, Dana Hall School. Also, the Wellesley A Better Chance outfit started in the early 1970s brings promising young women from underserved areas into town to attend Wellesley High School and live nearby. [28]

Wellesley also contains the main campus of three colleges: Wellesley College, a women's liberal arts college, Massachusetts Bay Community College, a two-year public college, and Babson, a business college.


Commuter Rail train at Wellesley Hills Wellesley Hills station.jpg
Commuter Rail train at Wellesley Hills

Wellesley has had rail service to Boston since 1833. Rail service is currently provided through Wellesley's participation in the MBTA, which offers a total of 17 weekdays Commuter Rail trains inbound towards Boston and outbound towards Framingham and Worcester. Wellesley's stations are (east to west) Wellesley Farms, Wellesley Hills, and Wellesley Square. The Wellesley Farms station is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. MWRTA bus service also runs along Walnut Street, Cedar Street, and Route 9.

The highways Interstate 95/Massachusetts Route 128, Massachusetts Route 9, Massachusetts route 16 and Massachusetts route 135 run through Wellesley.

For elders and people with disabilities there is a specific MBTA-based service, The Ride, which offers free or low-cost door-to-door service by appointment. [29]

From nearby Riverside MBTA Station in Newton, commuter express buses run to downtown Boston, Newton Corner and Central Square, Waltham. This is also a station for Greyhound Lines and Peter Pan Bus Lines with frequent service to Boston, New York City, and other destinations.

Wellesley's Council on Aging contracts out a daily low-cost minibus service offering elderly access to several local medical facilities and the Woodland MBTA station. [30] Further afield is the Springwell Senior Medical Escort Program / Busy Bee Transportation Service for rides to medical & non-medical services in the area. There is also a monthly minibus to the Natick Mall.

For Amtrak service the nearest stations are west in Framingham, east in Boston at Back Bay and South Station, and south in Route 128 Station in Westwood.

Those affiliated with Wellesley College can take advantage of their bus services to Cambridge and Needham. [31] Wellesley College and Babson College also both offer discounted Zipcar service. [32] [33]

The nearest international airport is Boston Logan Airport, 18 miles from Wellesley.


Green Power Community

In February 2009 Wellesley's municipal light plant introduced the "POWER TO CHOOSE" program to improve home efficiency and offer a variety of options for the community to lower energy consumption. As a result, many residents, businesses, and the three colleges voluntarily pay a premium to purchase electricity generated by wind power.

In 2012, Wellesley was designated a Green Power Community by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the only Green Power Community in Massachusetts and the second in all of New England. [34]

Reducing carbon footprint

In 2009 the town established the Municipal Energy Efficiency Committee (MEEC) made up of representatives from various town departments, to develop and evaluate municipal policies to reduce energy use.

In 2010 Wellesley's Sustainable Energy Committee (SEC) was formed by Town Meeting. The committee's primary objective was a 10% town-wide reduction in Wellesley's carbon footprint and 20% reduction in carbon footprint for all municipal departments by the end of 2013. In 2014 Town Meeting voted to support a new goal of 25% reduction by 2020 using 2007 as the base year. The committee is responsible for Wellesley's adoption of the Massachusetts Stretch Building Code approved by Town Meeting effective January 2012. [35]

In 2013, the committee organized Wellesley's Green Collaborative, a group of organizations that are concerned about environmental issues in Wellesley and beyond. Dozens of like-minded organizations are represented including the Natural Resources Commission, a five-member elected board of town residents; Wellesley Conservation Council, a private, non-profit, land trust and conservation education organization incorporated in 1958; and Sustainable Wellesley, a group of volunteers who encourage sustainability in Wellesley and the surrounding area through events, education, and action.

In 2014 the Sustainable Energy Committee served to double participation in the town's POWER TO CHOOSE program and organized the "More POWER TO CHOOSE" solar program.

Natural resources protection

Wellesley is the longest running Tree City USA community of any city or town in Massachusetts. Wellesley's Tree Bylaw became effective July 1, 2011, requiring property owners to protect certain trees and critical root zones during construction projects, and replace trees that are cut down or donate money to a special tree fund. The town's Natural Resource Protection (NRP) Development bylaw, approved by Town Meeting in 2013, applies to any subdivision generating five or more lots. This bylaw requires a minimum of 50% of the property be preserved as open space in exchange for reduced lot sizes without increasing density.

Established in 1979, Wellesley has a unique elected Natural Resources Commission (NRC) bearing the statutory authority and responsibility of Park Commissions, Conservation Commissions, Tree Wardens, Town Forest Committees, and Forestry and Pest Control Officers. The commission maintains Wellesley's two Community Gardens and maintains a trail network that includes 26 miles of marked trails interconnecting open spaces and conservation lands for walking, dog walking, jogging, bicycling, cross-country skiing, and more.

In 2001 the commission, in collaboration with the Health, Public Works and School department, developed a pesticide awareness program resulting in an Organic Pest Management Policy governing pesticide use on all town-owned property.

In 2003 the commission created the Preservation Master Plan for Fuller Brook Park in collaboration with Wellesley's Department of Public Works. This major restoration project was completed in 2017. In 2009, the commission launched the Green Wellesley Campaign advocating for sustainability by raising awareness and promoting increased environmental action. That campaign has been renamed the Grow Green Wellesley initiative, which promotes earth-friendly lawn and landscaping practices.

Green Schools

Wellesley Green Schools was established in 2006. The No Idling Campaign received an Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education Award from the state of Massachusetts in 2014.

The town's new high school opened in February 2012 and includes such elements as green vegetated roof, geothermal heat pump and Solar thermal cooling, Solar Photovoltaic system, and rainwater recovery systems.

Waste management

In 2015 the Wellesley 3R (Reduce/Reuse/Recycle) Working Group was formed to consider possible initiatives to increase recycling and reduce waste in Wellesley. The initiative is a joint-effort of the Department of Public Works, Natural Resources Commission and Sustainable Energy Committee.


Wellesley is home to the headquarters of many local, national and global businesses including Benchmark Senior Living, Blank Label Apparel, Eagle Investment Systems, EPG Incorporated, GrandBanks Capital, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Livingston and Haynes PC, Roche Bros., and Sun Life Financial U.S.

Top employers

According to Wellesley's 2018 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, [36] the top employers in the city are:

#Employer# of employees
1 Wellesley College 1,103
2 Sun Life Financial 1,035
3 Babson College 800
4 Harvard Pilgrim Health Care 446
5 Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates 350
6 Massachusetts Bay Community College 295
7 Whole Foods Market 292
8Wellesley Country Club265
9 Roche Bros. 260
10 Dana Hall School 214


Wellesley's Wonderful Weekend

Each year the weekend before Memorial Day, the town sponsors the annual Wellesley's Wonderful Weekend, which includes the annual veterans' parade and fireworks. On May 18, 2008, The Beach Boys performed in a concert on the Wellesley High School athletic fields in front of an estimated 10,000 town residents and fans. The funds for the performance, an estimated $250,000, were made as a gift by an anonymous donor and lifelong fan of the band.

Wellesley Symphony Orchestra

The Wellesley Symphony Orchestra presents classical, pops, and family concerts at Mass Bay Community College at its Wellesley campus.

Religious institutions

The town of Wellesley is home to several religious institutions. Wellesley contains two Jewish institutions including Temple Beth Elohim and the Wellesley Chabad Center. Predominantly Christian Wellesley contains many churches, including Wellesley Congregational Church, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, St. Paul's Catholic Church, Christ Church United Methodist, Wellesley Hills Congregational Church (also known as The Hills Church), First Church of Christ-Scientist, St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, the Metrowest Baptist Church, Milestone Wellesley, and Unitarian Universalist Society of Wellesley Hills, and Wellesley Friends Meeting (Quakers).


The Wellesley College campus includes greenhouses and the H. H. Hunnewell Arboretum. This is not to be confused with the neighboring private H. H. Hunnewell estate. The Elm Bank Horticulture Center is home to the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Although the entrance is in Wellesley, access is over a small private bridge over the Charles River, so Elm Bank is therefore in the neighboring town of Dover.


Events of significance to members of the Wellesley community are recorded in two local news publications: The Wellesley Townsman [37] has been published since 1906, and The Swellesley Report since 2005. Both are available online and digitized copies of the paper-based Townsman are available from the Wellesley Free Library.

Notable people

Sylvia Plath Sylvia Plath.jpg
Sylvia Plath
Nate Freiman Nate Freiman on August 23, 2013.jpg
Nate Freiman
Vladimir Nabokov Vladimir Nabokov 1973.jpg
Vladimir Nabokov
Steven Tyler Steven Tyler by Gage Skidmore 3.jpg
Steven Tyler

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  36. City of Wellesley CAFR
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  39. Eddie Yost at SABR Baseball Biography Project