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A substantial spine of red Medford granite, running north and south, splits this community into two halves. The meeting of this ledge with the Mystic River marks the division between the Boston Basin and the Fells Uplands, the head of navigation and the site of the town's historic importance for shipbuilding. Here Governor Matthew Cradock built a bridge in 1638 that became the shortest early connection between Boston and communities to the north. (The 1888–1890 replacement of that original bridge still stands.) Rum distilling in the colonial period connected Medford to the triangular trade routes with the Caribbean and England and brought slave populations to this town. Along the Mystic River, important clay deposits allowed the development of a brick industry from 1660 through the early twentieth century. In 1803 Thatcher Magoun introduced shipbuilding, which began a dominant industry until shortly after the Civil War. By the early nineteenth century, transportation routes through the center of Medford divided the town into an industrial eastern section and a more affluent western zone, both focused on the commercial core of Medford Square. The last quarter of the nineteenth century witnessed the demise of shipbuilding and rum distilling, replaced by more diverse industries. The founding of Tufts University (MD1) in 1852 along the southern border with Somerville and the setting aside of the Middlesex Fells Reservation in the 1880s and 1890s across the northern third of Medford further defined distinct community zones. Medford incorporated as a city in 1892 and enjoyed steady population growth until a peak in 1945 of 67,000. Important buildings from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries witness the evolution of this complex city.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan

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