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Spreading west along the north bank of the Charles River beyond Cambridge, Watertown (1630) was one of the initial towns granted by the Massachusetts Bay Company. Fish weirs and a ford of the Charles at Watertown Square (WA5) established the early importance of the community. In 1642, a bridge was built that marked the head of navigation of the river, reinforcing the commercial importance of Watertown Square. Where industries were attracted to the bridge site, the meetinghouse was built farther east and moved westward on several occasions. The town developed in the colonial period as an East Anglian dispersed settlement along the line of Mount Auburn Street, between the meetinghouse and the bridge; the civic and commercial cores were joined at Watertown Square in the early nineteenth century. The U.S. government established an arsenal at Watertown in 1816, recognizing the transportation and industrial potential of the town. The mid-nineteenth century witnessed the explosion of Watertown's industries, with textile production, paper bag manufacture, shirt making, and laundering predominating. The industries attracted immigrants; the Irish and Italians were followed by Armenians who began to settle in East Watertown in the 1890s, making the town one of the largest centers of Armenian Americans by the early twentieth century. Although the arrival of the subway at Harvard Square (HS1) in Cambridge in the first decade of the twentieth century made Watertown an easy suburban commute by street trolleys, the industries of the community remained strong and diverse. Watertown now contains a wide range of residential neighborhoods, from two-family residences along the former trolley lines to substantial single-family houses climbing Meeting House Hill.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan

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