Newton was settled in 1630 as part of “the newe towne”, which was renamed Cambridgein 1638. Roxbury minister John Eliot convinced the Native American people of Nonantum, a sub-tribe of the Massachusett led by a sachem named Waban, to relocate to Natick in 1651, fearing that they would be exploited by colonists. Newton was incorporated as a separate town, known as Cambridge Village, on December 15, 1681, then renamed Newtown in 1691, and finally Newton in 1766. It became a city on January 5, 1874. Newton is known as The Garden City.
In Reflections in Bullough’s Pond, Newton historian Diana Muir describes the early industries that developed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in a series of mills built to take advantage of the water power available at Newton Upper Falls and Newton Lower Falls. Snuff, chocolate, glue, paper and other products were produced in these small mills but, according to Muir, the water power available in Newton was not sufficient to turn Newton into a manufacturing city, although it was, beginning in 1902, the home of the Stanley Motor Carriage Company, the maker of the Stanley Steamer.
Newton, according to Muir, became one of America’s earliest commuter suburbs. The Boston and Worcester, one of America’s earliest railroads, reached West Newton in 1834. Wealthy Bostonian businessmen took advantage of the new commuting opportunity offered by the railroad, building gracious homes on erstwhile farmland of West Newton hill and on Commonwealth street. Muir points out that these early commuters needed sufficient wealth to employ a groom and keep horses, to drive them from their hilltop homes to the station.
Further suburbanization came in waves. One wave began with the streetcar lines that made many parts of Newton accessible for commuters in the late nineteenth century. The next wave came in the 1920s when automobiles became affordable to a growing upper middle class. Even then, however, Oak Hill continued to be farmed, mostly market gardening, until the prosperity of the 1950s made all of Newton more densely settled.
Each April on Patriots’ Day, the Boston Marathon is run through the city, entering from Wellesley on Route 16 (Washington Street) where runners encounter the first of the four infamous Newton Hills. It then turns right onto Route 30 (Commonwealth Avenue) for the long haul into Boston. There are two more hills before reaching Centre Street, and then the fourth and most infamous of all, Heartbreak Hill, rises shortly after Centre Street. Residents and visitors line the race route along Washington Street and Commonwealth Avenue to cheer the runners.
From Watertown to Waltham to Needham and Dedham, Newton is bounded by the Charles River. The Yankee Division Highway, designated Interstate 95 but known to the locals as Route 128, follows the Charles from Waltham to Dedham, creating a de facto land barrier. The portion of Needham which lies east of 128 and west of the Charles, known as the Needham Industrial Park has become part of a Newton commercial zone and contributes to its heavy traffic, though the tax revenue goes to Needham.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.2 square miles (47.1 km2), of which 18.0 square miles (46.6 km2) is land and 0.2 square miles (0.5 km2) (0.82%) is water.
Newton has grown around a formation of seven hills. “The general features of Newton are not without interest. Seven principal elevations mark its surface, like the seven hills of ancient Rome, with the difference that the seven hills of Newton are much more distinct than the seven hills of Rome: Nonantum Hill, Waban Hill, Chestnut Hill, Bald Pate, Oak Hill, Institution Hill and Mount Ida.”
As of the census of 2010, there were 85,146 people, 32,648 households, and 20,499 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,643.6 people per square mile (1,793.2/km²). There were 32,112 housing units at an average density of 1,778.8 per square mile (686.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 79.6% White, 11.5% Asian, 2.5% African American, 0.07% Native American, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.71% from other races, and 1.46% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latinoof any race were 4.1% of the population (0.7% Puerto Rican, 0.6% Mexican, 0.4% Colombian, 0.3% Guatemalan, 0.3% Argentine). (2010 Census Report: Census report Quickfacts.com)
Newton, along with neighboring Brookline, is known for its considerable Jewish and Asian populations. The Jewish population as of 2002 was estimated as roughly 28,002.
There were 31,201 households out of which 31.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.2% were married couples living together, 8.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.3% were non-families. 25.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. As of the 2008 US Census, the average household size was 2.60 and the average family size was 3.11. In the city, the population was spread out with 21.2% under the age of 18, 10.3% from 18 to 24, 28.2% from 25 to 44, 25.2% from 45 to 64, and 15.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females, there were 86.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $107,696, and the median income for a family was $136,843. Males had a median income of $95,387 versus $60,520 for females. The per capita income for the city was $56,163. About 3.6% of families and 5.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.2% of those under age 18 and 9.4% of those age 65 or over.
As of 2015, 21.9% of the residents of Newton were born outside of the United States.
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Newton has an elected strong mayor-council form of government. The council is called the City Council. The mayor is Ruthanne Fuller. Fuller is the first woman to be elected Mayor of Newton.
The elected officials are:
Mayor: Ruthanne Fuller, the city’s chief executive officer and appoints the Chief Administrative Officer.
The City Council, Newton’s legislative branch of municipal government, is made up of 24 members – sixteen Councilors-at-large and eight Ward Councilors. Councilors are elected every two years.
Note: Councilors for 2018 and 2019 are listed below. The first listed person in each ward is the Ward Councilor, while the other two are elected at large.
Ward One: Maria Scibelli Greenberg, Alison Leary and Allan Ciccone Jr.;
Ward Two: Emily Norton, Jake Auchincloss and Susan Albright;
Ward Three: Barbara Brousal-Glaser, Andrea Kelley and James Cote;
Ward Four: Chris Markiewicz, Leonard J. Gentile and Joshua Krintzman;
Ward Five: John Rice, Deborah Crossley and Andreae Downs;
Ward Six: Brenda Noel, Greg Schwartz and Victoria L. Danberg;
Ward Seven: R. Lisle Baker, Rebecca Walker-Grossman and Marc Laredo; and
Ward Eight: Cheryl Lappin, Richard A. Lipof and David Kalis.
Newton also has a school committee which decides on the policies and budget for Newton Public Schools. It has nine voting members, consisting of the Mayor of Newton and eight at-large Ward representatives, who are elected by citizens. In addition to these voting members, there are two non-voting student representatives; one from each high school.
School Committee members for 2018 and 2019 are listed below.
Ward One: Bridget Ray-Canada;
Ward Two: Margaret Albright;
Ward Three: Anping Shen;
Ward Four: Diana Fisher-Gomberg;
Ward Five: Steve Siegel;
Ward Six: Ruth Goldman;
Ward Seven: Kathleen Burdette-Shields;
Ward Eight: Matthew Miller.
The City of Newton Police Department is one of the most progressive departments in the state and has 139 sworn officers. The Newton Fire Department is fully paid and operates three ladder companies and six engine companies from six stations.
Mismanagement of Middlesex County’s public hospital in the mid-1990s left the county on the brink of insolvency, and in 1997 the Massachusetts legislature stepped in by assuming all assets and obligations of the county. The government of Middlesex County was officially abolished on July 11, 1997. The sheriff and some other regional officials with specific duties are still elected locally to perform duties within the county region, but there is no county council or commission. However, communities are now granted the right to form their own regional compacts for sharing services.
These are the remaining elected officers for Middlesex County:
Newton Junior College, operated by the Newton Public Schools, opened in 1946 to serve the needs of returning veterans who otherwise would not have been able to continue their education due to the overcrowding of colleges and universities at that time. It used the facilities of Newton High School (now Newton North High School) until its own adjacent campus was built. It closed in 1976 due to declining enrollment and increased costs. The availability of such places as UMass Boston contributed to its demise. According to the city, its former campus is now “Claflin Park,” a 25-unit multi-family development.
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The city’s community newspapers are The Newton TAB, a weekly print paper published by the Community Newspaper Company, and owned by Gatehouse Media. The Newton Patch covers daily local news out of Newton and offers a platform for locals to post opinion, events, news tips and blogs on the community online platform as well.The Newton Voice. The Newton community is also served by its high school publications, including Newton North High School‘s Newtonite and Newton South High School‘s Lion’s Roar and Denebola. The Boston Globe occasionally covers Newton.
Residents of Newton have access to a state-of-the-art television studio and community media center, NewTV, located at 23 Needham Street in Newton Highlands. Newton is also home to NECN, a regional news network owned by NBC.
Auburndale Cove is a multipurpose picnic and recreational area on the Charles River just down the walking path from Norumbega Park.
Chestnut Hill Reservoir is a very popular park with residents of Newton, Brookline, and the Brighton section of Boston. Although completely within the Boston city limits, it is directly contiguous to the Newton city limits. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of Central Park in New York City and the Emerald Necklace in Boston, the park offers beautiful views of the Boston skyline, and is framed by stately homes and the campus of Boston College. Although not generally used to supply water to Boston, the reservoir was temporarily brought back online on May 1, 2010, during a failure of a connecting pipe at the end of the MetroWest Water Supply Tunnel.
Bullough’s Pond is an old mill pond transformed into a landscape feature when Newton became a suburban community in the late nineteenth century. It has been the subject of two books, Reflections in Bullough’s Pond: Economy and Ecosystem in New England,by Diana Muir, and Once Around Bullough’s Pond: A Native American Epic, by Douglas Worth. It was long maintained by the city as an ice skating venue, but skating is no longer allowed. A scene from the 2008 remake of The Women was filmed there.
The city of Newton has designated several roads in the city as “scenic”. Along with this designation come regulations aimed at curbing tree removal and trimming along the roads, as well as stemming the removal of historic stone walls. The city designated the following as scenic roads: Hobart Rd., Waban Ave., Sumner St., Chestnut St., Concord St., Dudley Rd., Fuller St., Hammond St., Valentine St., Lake Ave., Highland St., and Brookside Ave.