Arlington Town

Middlesex County, Massachusetts

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Arlington Town Hall is located at 730 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA 02476.
Phone: 781‑316‑3000.


First settled around 1635, Arlington was incorporated in 1807 with the name of West Cambridge. The name was changed shortly afterward in honor of those buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Beginnings [1]

The story of Arlington begins just after the Revolution. Industrial development started with the establishment of William Whittemore and Company (1799), card manufacturers, founded on the invention of Amos Whittemore of a machine for the manufacture of cotton and wool cards.

Prosperity was blighted in 1812 by the general wartime depression, culminating in the sale of the Whittemore plant to a New York firm, and Arlington lost its main industry. In 1827, after the expiration of the original patents, card manufacturing was revived, but never regained its vigor, and when the factory burned down in 1862, it was never rebuilt.

In 1832, James Schouler, a calico printer, moved from Lynn to Arlington. Other lesser enterprises combined to give the town a sense of industrial importance which temporarily seemed justified. By 1850 the Wood Ice Tool Company and Gage, Hittinger and Company, ice-cutters who shipped Spy Pond Ice to various parts of the world, were established. Arlington's industrial importance was at its crest.

Agriculture developed parallel to industry, but was accompanied by far less acclaim. Natural conditions and proximity to Boston markets made truck gardening the chief gainful occupation, and by 1850 Arlington produce became famous along the North Atlantic seaboard.

Just as industrial development reached a climax and then declined, so did agriculture. Farms were broken up into house lots as the increasing residential value of the land, coupled with proportionate increases in tax assessments, made it unprofitable for market-gardening.

The early city fathers had been faced with such knotty problems as the purchase of a town hearse, or the installation of a public bathtub for the use of the inhabitants, but to be in the custody of the treasurer. Their successors had to gird themselves for a different sort of task a struggle against outside turnpike companies seeking franchises through Arlington along routes considered inimical to the town. Hardly was the battle won, and hardly were the roads established along routes agreeable to all, when the victory crumbled to dust. Businessmen of Arlington and Lexington built a railroad to Cambridge in 1846 and turnpikes lost their significance. Horsecar lines (1859) and electric lines (1897) followed, and Arlington developed into a residential suburb.

  1. Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for Massachusetts, Massachusetts: A Guide to Its Places and People, American Guide Series, The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1937.

Nearby Towns: Boston City • Brookline Town • Burlington Town • Cambridge City • Lexington Town • Malden City • Medford City • Melrose City • Stoneham Town • Wakefield Town • Winchester Town •

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