Winchester Town Hall
Location in Middlesex County in Massachusetts
|• Type||Representative town meeting|
|• Total||6.3 sq mi (16.3 km2)|
|• Land||6.0 sq mi (15.6 km2)|
|• Water||0.3 sq mi (0.6 km2)|
|Elevation||62 ft (19 m)|
|• Density||3,522.8/sq mi (1,354.9/km2)|
|Time zone||Eastern (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||Eastern (UTC-4)|
|Area code(s)||339 / 781|
|GNIS feature ID||0618247|
Winchester is a town located in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, eight miles north of downtown Boston. It is an affluent bedroom community for professionals who work in the greater Boston area. The population was 21,374 at the 2010 United States Census.
The land on which Winchester now sits was purchased from Native Americans by representatives of the settlement of Charlestown in 1639, and the area was first settled by Europeans in 1640. In the early years of the settlement, the area was known informally as Waterfield, a reference to its many ponds and to the river which bisected the central village. In its second century, the area was referred to as Black Horse Village, after the busy tavern and hostelry in its center.
Until the middle of the 19th century, Winchester comprised parts of Arlington, Medford, Cambridge, and Woburn. The movement toward incorporation of what, by this time, was called South Woburn was likely precipitated by the rise of the Whig Party in Massachusetts (History of Winchester, Massachusetts by H. S. Chapman and Bruce W. Stone, 1936, 1975).
The Whigs sought to split a new jurisdiction away from heavily Democratic Woburn and found enough supporters in the burgeoning village to organize a movement toward incorporation. Representatives of the planned new town selected the name Winchester in recognition of Colonel William P. Winchester of nearby Watertown, who pledged $3,000 toward the construction of the first town hall. Upon the signature of then Governor Briggs, the town of Winchester was officially incorporated on April 30, 1850. Unfortunately, Colonel Winchester did not live to visit the town that had honored his family name. He succumbed to typhoid fever within months of its incorporation.
The town's early growth paralleled improvements in transportation. Prior to incorporation, the Middlesex Canal, linking the Merrimack River to Boston, was completed through then Waterfield. It flourished from 1803–36, until the Boston and Lowell Railroad completed a line which neatly bisected the town and provided it with two stations. Able to deliver passengers as well as goods, the railroad soon bankrupted the canal and spurred more people to move to the area. The first church was built in 1840, the Post Office followed in 1841, and soon after incorporation town schools were started. Industries small and large followed, including the Beggs and Cobb tannery and the Winn Watch Hand factory which would operate well into the 20th century.
By the time of the Civil War, to which Winchester lent many citizens, the need for a municipal water supply became apparent. Engineers convinced a skeptical public to fund a dam in the highlands to the east of town. The structure blocked the creek which flowed from the Middlesex Fells and produced the first of three reservoirs which continue to provide clear water today.
In the early 20th century, growth continued apace as Winchester evolved from its agri-industrial roots into the bedroom community it is today. A rich mix of immigrants (the Irish in the northern and eastern neighborhoods, a smattering of African-Americans who flocked to the New Hope Baptist Church in the highlands, and finally Italians who came to work in the westside farms and live in the "Plains" to the east) complemented Winchester's Yankee forbears. The constant in these times of change and up to the present day has been the public spirited efforts of all to continue to maintain the innate physical charm of the town.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 6.3 square miles (16.3 km²), of which 6.0 square miles (15.6 km²) is land and 0.2 square miles (0.6 km²) is water. The total area is 3.97% water.
The town is roughly bisected by a central valley which is the remnant of the original course of the Merrimack River. After glacial debris effectively rerouted the Merrimack north to its current location, all that remained of its original course through present day Winchester is the Aberjona River and the several ponds it feeds en route to the Mystic Lakes on Winchester's southern border.
On its eastern third, the valley rises steeply into the wooded hills of the Middlesex Fells Reservation, in which lie the North, Middle, and South Reservoirs. The western edge of the valley yields to Arlington and Lexington heights, and the boundaries with those two towns. To the north, the town's longest border is shared with Woburn.
Winchester has several major bodies of water, including the Mystic Lakes, Wedge Pond, Winter Pond, and the Aberjona River, as well as several minor bodies of water such as Sucker Brook and Sachem Swamp.
As of the census of 2000, there were 20,810 people, 7,715 households, and 5,724 families residing in the town. The population density was 3,446.3 people per square mile (1,330.3/km²). There were 7,908 housing units at an average density of 1,309.6 per square mile (505.5/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 93.10% White, 0.68% African American, 0.14% Native American, 4.62% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.27% from other races, and 1.17% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.01% of the population.
There were 7,715 households, of which 35.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 64.1% were married couples living together, 8.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.8% were non-families. 21.9% 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 2.65 and the average family size was 3.13.
In the town the population was spread out with 25.7% under the age of 18, 3.9% from 18 to 24, 27.3% from 25 to 44, 26.0% from 45 to 64, and 17.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 88.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.9 males.
According to a 2008 estimate, the median income for a household in the town was $125,952, and the median income for a family was $200,000+. Males had a median income of $100,000+ versus $70,847 for females. The per capita income for the town was $68,479. The median home value was $838,420, compared to a U.S. average of $180,000. About 1.3% of families and 2.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.0% of those under the age of 18 and 2.3% ages 65 or older.
Overall Winchester is safe with crime well below the U.S. average. The most common crime is property crime, with 62 burglaries reported in 2010. Violent crimes are very low, with five murders and five rapes reported in 10 years.
Winchester has five elementary schools (Ambrose, Lincoln, Lynch, Muraco, and Vinson-Owen) and one middle school, McCall Middle School. Considered one of Boston's elite public high schools, Winchester High School was founded in 1850. Winchester public schools have achieved superior performances on the MCAS exams since their inception, and the district is consistently ranked by editorial reviews such as Boston Magazine as one of the best in Massachusetts. The Winchester High School sports teams are known as the "Sachems."
Founded in the 1920s, the Children's Own School is among the earlier surviving Montessori schools in the United States. The building it occupies, a former farmhouse, is considered locally historic. The school's founder, Ms. Dorothy Gove, was an acquaintance of Maria Montessori, giving her a firsthand opportunity to learn the Montessori concept of learning. Today the school operates as a private, non-religious, Montessori school for children of ages three to six, with classes of up to 25 children.
St. Mary's School is a parochial school of St. Mary's Parish, which opened 134 years ago. The school opened in 1914 and has over 200 students in grades pre-K through 5. The school building also serves as the Sunday school for the parish during Sunday services. The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Acera School is a small private school founded in 2010 in Melrose which moved to Winchester in 2013. It offers K-8 education in small multi-age classrooms, and focuses on high-ability children, STEM education and fostering creativity.
Winchester has two "Zone 1" stops on the MBTA Commuter Rail Lowell Line: Wedgemere and Winchester Center. The stops are in easy walking distance of one another. The Lowell Line runs from Lowell to Boston's North Station, where one can connect with the "T", Boston's subway system.
There are bus lines going through Winchester to nearby communities such as Medford, Arlington, and Cambridge. Bus route No. 134 runs between North Woburn and Wellington Station on the MBTA's Orange Line in Medford. Bus route No. 350 runs from the Burlington Mall to Alewife station in Cambridge on the MBTA's Red Line. A commuter express bus runs from Cummings Park in Woburn to Boston during rush hours. Nearby Anderson Regional Transportation Center off I-93 (Commerce Way exit) has Logan Express shuttle bus service to Boston's Logan Airport every 30 minutes, and a paid shuttle service to Manchester New Hampshire Airport (reservations required in advance).
Winchester's town government of Selectmen and Town Meeting members has remained essentially unchanged for most of its existence. Since the completion of the present Winchester High School in 1972, with population growth leveling off, town leaders have had more time and funds to devote to maintaining rather than molding Winchester's character. Winchester's flavor has little departed from the place that a 1970s survey listed as "one of the top fifteen suburbs" in the nation (Ladies Home Journal, August 1975).
In December 2010 Winchester was among 18 Massachusetts communities to earn the "Green Community" designation by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (bringing the total number of green communities in the state up to 53). In 2011 Winchester was selected as one of four communities to participate in the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) Solarize MASS pilot program. The program provided incentives to home owners to install rooftop solar electric systems. During that year, 35 residents contracted to have solar systems installed, resulting in 165 kW of solar installations. The town's Energy Coordinator, Susan McPhee and the town's Energy Management Committee have received numerous Green Community Grants from the state, which have helped Winchester reduce energy consumption and save the town money. Most recently, in July 2014, Winchester received a $250,000 Green Communities Grant which helped to offset the cost of installing 1668 cobra-head LED street lights. It is estimated that the LED streetlight conversion will reduce the town's electricity costs by $50,000 each year.
Across the Main Street bypass from the high school sits the Jenks Seniors Center, town-developed housing for seniors. Wedge Pond, home to Borggaard Beach and Splash Park, is a popular swimming spot which is continually monitored to ensure safe water quality levels. The Kiwanis Club hosts its annual fishing derby on the pond, while the Rotary Club runs its auction nearby. Adjacent to the beach are the Packer Tennis Courts, comprising fifteen clay courts. The Winton Club, founded in 1911, raises funds in support of the Winchester Hospital.
Originally popular for canoeing, the Winchester Boat Club now serves locals wishing to sail casually or competitively on the Mystic Lakes. In the summer it is a popular meeting place for local families and their children. Likewise, the Winchester Swim and Tennis Club provides a large swimming pool, five hard tennis courts, and bocce courts to members. The Winchester Country Club offers an 18-hole course—open to members only—in the Myopia Hill neighborhood, which was named after the Myopia Club based there in the late 19th century. The EnKa Society, a revived high school society, continues to raise money for community groups and activities through its annual street fair and carnival. And every year, as for over a century, thousands of fans attend the annual Thanksgiving Day football contest between Winchester High School and its long-time traditional rival, Woburn.
A new Black Horse Tavern opened on August 9, 2010, in Winchester Center on the former site of the Black Horse Bootery, which was demolished in 1892. According to the Massachusetts Historical Society, the town’s original Black Horse Tavern was built in 1742 and served as an important meeting place during the American Revolution.
Instead of municipal trash pickup in the town, Winchester operates a refuse transfer station and recycling center off Swanton Street. Residents currently pay $190 per family annually for a permit to dispose of their trash at this location, colloquially referred to as "The Dump."
As it is a transfer station, trash is not disposed of at the site; rather the town pays to have it trucked away for incineration or dumping. Although it costs as much to operate the transfer station as it would curbside trash pickup, the Selectmen decided that the social interaction of citizens at the site far outweighed the convenience of a more conventional trash service. Local political candidates even make occasional appearances at the dump on Saturdays, shaking voters' hands and handing out literature. Often, high school sports teams will hold fundraisers at the dump offering to pick up trash, usually on a Saturday, for a small donation.
There are private haulers in Winchester, for residents who wish to avoid bringing their trash and recyclables to the dump.
The site started as a primitive landfill in the 1940s and 1950s. "Going to the dump" was a Saturday ritual for many families that dated back to when it was a real 'dump' or landfill.
In the 1960s, a gas-fired incinerator was built on one side of the property. The remainder of the property was used for non-combustible waste such as appliances and metal. The incinerator was forced to shut down in the 1970s because of environmental concerns about the untreated smoke from the incinerator's furnace. With the closure of the incinerator, the site was converted to the transfer station that is there now.
Other town services include full-time police and fire departments, the Winchester Board of Health, the Town Clerk, the Post Office, Water and Sewer Department, and the Public Works Department.
Winchester also has a Chamber of Commerce located on the platform of the "Winchester" station of the MBTA Commuter Rail.
In the 2012 United States Senate election, Winchester voted 52% for Republican Scott Brown and 48% for Democrat Elizabeth Warren.
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