Exploring Somerville’s Davis Square

Ed Greable Blogger October 19, 2018

A major intersection in the northwestern section of Somerville, Davis Square is a vibrant retail, commercial, dining and nightlife district located just four miles from downtown Boston. As such, it is a popular destination for those who live in Somerville as well as Boston and its surrounding communities.

The History of Davis Square

Officially designated as a square in 1883, Davis Square was named in honor of Person Davis. A grain dealer who moved to the area in 1850, Davis built his estate near the area that is now Grove, Elm and Morrison streets. As a result, roads and rail connections in the area were strengthened, thereby allowing West Somerville to urbanize.

During the 1870s and 1880s, Davis Square quickly grew into an active commercial center with residential construction following in the 1890s. By 1900, brick paving was introduced to the area as Davis Square continued to expand and increase in importance as a major commercial and transportation center for the area. In 1914, the Somerville Theater opened and began hosting silent films and burlesque shows. Thirteen years later, the trains were re-routed and Davis Square experienced a downturn. Things turned back around, however, in the late 1970s when the Somerville Office Planning and Community Development and the Davis Square Task Force combined its efforts to formulate the Davis Square Action Plan.

After the Davis Square Action Plan was adopted, other local officials and citizen groups got involved to help rebuild the square to its former glory. The Red Line station in Somerville at Davis Square was soon created, serving as the cornerstone for downtown redevelopment. Other projects included in the plan were the development of the Somerville Community Path, the Buena Vista parking garage, the Harvard Vanguard office building and the Ciampa Manor senior housing building.

Davis Square Today

Today, Davis Square boasts 100,000 square feet of office and retail space, including public open space and a parking garage. In 1997, the square was listed as one of the fifteen “hippest places to live” in the United States by Utne Reader and Cushman & Wakefield rated the square as one of the “Top 100 Cool Streets” in North America in 2016.

With more than 200 businesses in the area, Davis Square is home to a number of food and entertainment establishments. The area is also rich in arts and culture, with the Somerville Theater showing movies and live performances. Its satellite gallery of Museum of Bad Art is a popular attraction, while the Public Radio International show and Living on Earth are both recorded in studios at Davis Square. Davis Square also hosts several events and festivals throughout the year, including the ArtBeat festival, the HONK! Festival of brass bands and free public polka dances in the summer.

Davis Square Real Estate

As the area has built up, the prices of real estate have gone up with it. The first million dollar condo sale in Davis Square occurred in 2005, officially transforming it from an affordable, working-class neighborhood to being home to some of the priciest properties in Somerville. Homes there now are among the most expensive in eastern Massachusetts.

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