Tag Archives: Curtatone

Prettying Up Union Square

Deriving its name from the Civil War era, Union Square was once a major recruitment center for the Union Army. Today it is a melting pot where the working class of East Somerville intersects with the city’s fashionable western parts, and is one of the oldest and largest commercial areas in town.

There is much to say about bustling Union Square, but for today I wanted to write specifically about one step that was taken a few years ago to better the community through art and the active involvement of its residents, a hallmark of Mayor Curtatone’s legacy.

In 2005 the Somerville Arts Council held a design competition for local artists and craftsmen to design and build street furniture. The competition was based on 4 objectives: to engage local artists/craftsmen in design and fabrication, to recognize the city’s cultural diversity, to celebrate Union Square’s unique character, and to create beautiful and innovative new street furniture designs. The uncommon furniture can be found throughout Union Square.

Glass-top benches: Aaron Binkley; copper benches: Mitch Ryerson; trash barrel covers: Christina Lanzl, Phil Manker; engraved design on glass: Heather Townsend, Jeff Czekaj, Julie Chen, Wes Boyd.


DAILY TRIVIA: The Queen Anne residential building at 113 College Ave. became a major national focus in 1968 for an alternative Jewish religious movement; it is still the home of the Havurat Shalom community.


Just the Facts

According to the 2000 demographic census, Somerville is New England’s densest city, housing 76,000 residents in only 4.1 square miles. This equates to more than 18,000 people living in every square mile of space!  Its landscape is dotted with mostly triple-decker homes barely an arms’ length apart in some spots.

This makes it all the more impressive how many accolades the city has received for its well-organized government. In 2006. Somerville was recognized for being the best run city in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Mayor Joe Curtatone deserves much praise for implementing SomerStat, a data-driven style of government that he modeled after New York City’s CompStat and Baltimore’s CitiStat programs.  With it came the creation of the 311 Somerville helpline. Accessible from any phone in the city by dialing 311, residents can call the line anytime with a myriad of questions, which will either be answered immediately or assigned a case number and followed up on accordingly. I once called to report a stretch of my road with several broken street lights. I received a call back the following day thanking me for my report, and the lights were fixed within the next couple of weeks. For such a large community, the communication between city government and residents is worth calling out as exceptional.

View of Boston from the Winter Hill section of Somerville


DAILY TRIVIA: The 1842 census lists the population of Somerville as 1,013.


Fresh Veggies in the Wintertime

One of the things that’s made this snowy winter remotely tolerable is the implementation of the Somerville Winter Farmers Market.  It runs every Saturday from 10 am -2 pm at the old Armory building on Highland Street. The last market of the year will be on March 26, so if you’ve been meaning to check it out you best get a move on. It’s also worth mentioning that credit and debit cards are accepted, according to their Facebook page.  I wish I’d noticed that before heading over there this morning, since I forgot to grab cash.

Pies from Cook's Farm and Bakery in Springfield, MA

The Market is part of a bigger city-wide campaign to Shape Up Somerville; its aim is to increase access to healthy foods for Somerville residents.  There are vendors serving up just about everything you could imagine: fresh produce, fish, meat, bread, pies, nuts, sauces, pastries, wine, chocolate – and everything is locally/regionally grown and produced. There’s even live music to entertain you while you peruse, and also… isn’t it cool to have a reason to visit the Armory?

Click photos to enlarge

The Grownup Noise performing at the Winter Market on March 12.

Armory Building, Highland Ave.


DAILY TRIVIA: Utne Reader named Somerville’s Davis Square as one of the 15 Hippest Places to Live in 1997.