Touted as “The Town of Homes,” Belmont projects the image of the ideal bedroom community. Whereas agriculture and minor industries supported the town economy throughout most of its history, by the early twentieth century Belmont had become a residential extension of the metropolitan core.
Belmont nestles between the Fells Uplands defined by Wellington (or Belmont) Hill and Meetinghouse Hill in nearby Watertown. Between lies a valley containing the principal commercial districts of Belmont Center, Cushing Square, and Waverley Square. Part of the Cambridge and Watertown land grants, the Belmont area remained an agricultural district throughout the colonial period. In the early nineteenth century, Belmont and adjacent areas of Watertown welcomed the creation of substantial rural estates, such as J. P. Cushing's Bellmont, located near Cushing Square, where a lavish ornamental grounds and greenhouses surrounded the mansion, all now vanished.
When the Fitchburg Railroad extended from Fresh Pond in Cambridge across Belmont in 1843, new stations at Wellington (now Belmont Center) and Waverley attracted nuclear suburban communities. This residential growth led to a petition to incorporate as a separate community in 1859, modifying the name of Cushing's estate for the new town. Agriculture and animal husbandry, however, continued to dominate land use, especially fruit and vegetable gardens for the Boston market and purebred Holstein cattle at Winthrop Chenery's Highland Stock Farm. Increased railroad traffic and the extension of streetcar lines from Harvard Square (HS1) to Waverley Square and Belmont Center at the end of the century constantly eroded the agricultural base of the community. The Belmont population doubled every fifteen years from 1880 to 1910, with a substantial foreign-born element, primarily from Ireland. By 1935, residential expansion began to decline as most of the community had been developed. Since World War II, Belmont has seen only modest population growth.
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