() is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, located just north of Boston. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 77,478 and was the most densely populated municipality in New England. It is also the 17th most densely populated incorporated place in the country. It was established as a town in 1842, when it was separated from the urbanizing Charlestown.
Somerville was first settled in 1630 as part of Charlestown. It was known as "Charlestown beyond the Neck" because it was part of the Massachusetts mainland, not the Charlestown Peninsula. (Charlestown Neck was the narrow strip of land that joined the two.) The incorporation of Somerville in 1842 separated the largely rural town from the urbanizing Charlestown.
The original choice for the city's new name after breaking away from Charlestown was Walford, after the first settler of Charlestown. However this name was not adopted by the separation committee. Mr. Charles Miller, a member of this committee, proposed the name "Somerville" which was chosen. It was not derived from any one person's name. A report commissioned by the Somerville Historical Society found that Somerville was a "purely fanciful name" (though "Somerville" is a surname of Franco-British origin).
Traffic on the Middlesex Canal began its famous journey from the mouth of the Charles River in Charlestown (now part of Boston) to Lowell by going through East Somerville, where several historical markers can be discovered today.
Historically Somerville encompassed many of the less desirable railway and industrial lands squeezed between the Charles River to the southwest and the Mystic River to the northeast. For all its problems, Somerville's late 1800s and early 1900s industrial revolution left behind a rich historical record of Sanborn Maps, apparently invented in Somerville in 1867, and subsequently used for fire insurance appraisal across the USA. The delicate, detailed original Sanborn Maps are on display at the main branch of the Somerville Public Library.
Somerville's industrial past left one special legacy, the invention of Fluff, the marshmallow creme. In 1914, the city became the home of the original Economy Grocery Store, which later grew into the Stop & Shop grocery chain.
One of the earliest American flags was raised on Prospect Hill, above Union Square, on January 1, 1776.
Somerville was once colloquially referred to as "Slummerville", on account of its blue-collar residents and its reputation for crime, especially in the city's east, where James "Buddy" McLean and Howie Winter and the "Winter Hill Gang" were based. The city also had a very high car theft rate, once being the car theft capital of the country, and its Assembly Square area was especially infamous for theft. However, after the gentrification period the city went through in the 1990s this name became less prevalent. More recently, lobbying by grassroots organizations is attempting to revive and preserve Somerville's "small town" neighborhood environments by supporting local business, public transit, gardens and pedestrian/bike access.