Woburn Ma

Woburn Ma

Woburn is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts. It is located 18 miles northwest of Boston and 40 miles west-northwest of Cape Ann.

Woburn was settled in 1640 as part of Charlestown. The area was initially named Mistick by Thomas Dudley, “a fit place to build a town upon.” However, after the first meeting house was completed in June 1642, the settlement was officially named “Woburn” after Dudley’s ancestral home of Woburn, Bedfordshire, England.


In 1799, when the Middlesex Canal opened, Woburn became a critical way station for freight from the interior towns to be loaded onto barges on its way to Boston Harbor.

As a result, many small industrial sites grew up along the banks of the canal.

The following year, 1824, saw the completion of the Boston and Lowell Railroad, which spurred industrial and commercial development in the area.

In 1908, The Woburn National Guard would be called into federal service to fight in World War I.

Four years later, as a direct result of that war, Chestnut Hill Academy opened its doors to provide education for veterans’ children. Then, in 1927, Ralph Jones built Rambler Stadium, which holds 5500 people today.

The Town of Woburn

The name “Woburn” first appeared on a deed signed by Governor Thomas Dudley on June 2, 1640. However, the first settlement began sometime before this date, likely near the Shawsheen River, where a Native American trail intersected a meandering brook known as Cat Hole Brook (named for its habit of producing echoing sounds like cats’ wailing).

This intersection attracted settlers who wished to take advantage of the transportation possibilities the location offered.

The brook was dammed, and a grist mill and sawmill were erected around 1640, followed by the first inn in the area, also called “Woburn” (now the Woburn Historical Society building).

Woburn has initially been part of Charlestown and was mainly worked as a cow pasture for that community.

However, in 1732 it became its town and eventually had enough land to sustain itself independently from other communities.

On February 24, 1824, with an initial population of just 429, Woburn separated from Middlesex County as territories such as Billerica (1738), Burlington (1680), Stoneham (1840), Winchester (1737), Chelmsford (1726), and Reading (1644) were set off.

Woburn became a town with parts of several different communities, each with its own distinct culture and flavor that survives today.

For example, the Abbot-Downing Company made the world’s first horse-drawn truck in 1834. It was also a significant employer of many Woburn residents due to its large factory complex along Harris Street near Centralville.

In the early 20th century, Woburn had become a city with several subdivisions known as districts for workers of the Boston & Maine Railroad: North Woburn, East Woburn, Midvale, South Wilmington, and Wellington. In 1912 these six small communities incorporated themselves into one new district called Woburn. In 1960 it became a city but had been known as “the City of Six Districts” before that time.

In 2002 the city was divided into six official neighborhoods with unique characteristics and identities: North Woburn, Cherry Brook, Pinehurst, Brighton Hill-North Woburn, South Woburn (including some of East Woburn), and West Woburn. The boundaries for these areas are not fixed in stone and shift from time to time based on local preference.

The area today known as Centralville is currently referred to by many residents simply as “Woburn.” However, it has been absorbed under various names such as the Brickyard District or even just “downtown” over the last century.

Woburn’s Population Back in The Days

The city’s population reached nearly 21,000 by 1950 with the annexation of the North Industrial Section (1912), Centralville (1924) areas just north on Route 38/119 from Burlington, and the Abbot-Downing Co. (1958), which was the primary producer of napalm during World War II.

The Burns Square

More correctly called Centralville, Burns Square is a small but busy square surrounded by stores on the corner of Main Street and Broadway. The area around Burns Square has been in almost continual use since Woburn’s settlement in 1640.

Burns Square celebrated its 250th birthday with yearlong activities throughout 2001.

Centralville underwent many changes starting in 1820 when it became home to numerous mills along the Shawsheen River. By 1850, over 20 buildings clustered around the feeder canal that fed water power to run machinery at manufacturing plants within Centralville.

Shoe and Business Industry in Woburn

The North Wilmington part of town had many shoe factories, and the southern end of the city was home to an instrument manufacturer and other small companies.

The Boston & Maine Railroad was built through Woburn in 1842, and its leading shops were located about a mile west of Centralville along Main Street just north of Route 38.

A new downtown grew up around this area after the Centralville businesses closed down.

For much of the 20th century, downtown Woburn served mainly as a commercial district for nearby residential communities with only a few restaurants or stores. Still, by the late 1990s, it had become more self-sufficient, with many shops, professional services, and restaurants opening their doors. Today, there are three large grocery chains within two (3 km) of downtown Woburn and other major retailers. However, the central shopping district is still in Burlington and Winchester.

Centralville was added as a historic district to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004 as an essential 19th-century mill village that retains much of its original character and fabric.

Woburn’s Economy Today

Woburn’s economy today is much more diversified than it was in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There is no dominant industry and only three significant companies headquartered within city limits: Woburn-based Fidelity Investments (with over 5,000 employees), a large division of Rockwell Automation (more than 1,000 workers), and Clearwater Analytics (about 150).

The largest employers as of 2011 were as follows:

1. City of Woburn 2,900

2. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. 2,100

3. National Technical Systems 1,800

4. Raytheon Co. 1,500

5. Steward Healthcare System Inc./Parker Hannifin 1,300

6. Waltham-based Fidelity Investments 1,150

7. Rockwell Automation Inc. 1,000

8. Clearwater Analytics LLC 800

9. Fabrinet 500

10. PriorityOne 500

11. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Massachusetts 440

12. The Jordan Hospital 420 Source: City of Woburn MA Economic Development Department

Woburn has an active foreign population with students from over 40 countries attending the local colleges and universities, including the University of Massachusetts Boston, Northeastern University, Wentworth Institute of Technology, Bentley University, and Saint Anselm College.

Tourism in Woburn MA

Since a century ago, Woburn has been a significant site for tourism due to its convenient location between Boston and several other notable regions such as the North Shore, Merrimack Valley, Metrowest, historic towns of Lexington, and Concord. Historic sites include:

Woburn Mansion – built-in 1845 by one of the first mayors of Woburn

Hancock Shaker Village – famous Shaker community, located here in the 1800s

Woburn Abbot Public Library – built in 1896

Foley House Inn – oldest existing house in Woburn MA

King’s Chapel & Burying Ground – the oldest church in Woburn from 1745

Many people travel to the city for its Historical Society and associated events and sites at nearby attractions.

Things to Do in Woburn, MA

1. Shopping – The city’s central shopping district is on Route 38 (Lincoln St.) north of the center of town at the Woburn Mall and Burlington Mall with other stores nearby, including South Shore Plaza, which is about 10 miles away.

2. Historical Sites – Downtown living tour, Victorian trolley rides, Mayflower II park, Deepwood Estate Park & Museum, etc.

3. Parks – Stony Brook Reservation (over 200 acres), McGuire Memorial State Forest (over 600 acres), Woburn Heritage State Park (about 200 acres)

4. Museums – Abbot Public Library, Foley House Inn & Museum

5. Restaurants – Numerous restaurants are located downtown and close-by, such as Woburn’s Historic District.

6. Sports Venues – George Wright Golf Course costs $5 for 18 holes on weekdays, Youth Baseball Field, etc.

7. Entertainment – Regent Theatre is still an operational theater from the 1920s with weekly shows playing on weekends along with the Paul Moody Cultural Center lobby has live music events during most weekends of the year; Voke Park (over 100 acres) includes a roller rink, two miniature golf courses, batting cages, basketball courts & playground equipment; Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University hosts dog agility classes within its open-field which owners and their pets can participate together.

8. Annual Events – The Woburn Festival, Rock’ n Ribs BBQ & Blues Festival, Spinners’ Expo at the Hynes Convention Center, etc. Note: A few of these events might overlap on one day or another since they occur within a 4-month timeframe during Summer to Fall of every year. These weekend-long events are free to attend along with many others, which charge a small entry fee for attendees who want unlimited access throughout the entire day/weekend or otherwise pay as they go.

9. Libraries – Foley House Inn & Museum, Woburn Public Library

10. Colleges & Universities – Bentley University, Bunker Hill Community College, Eastern Nazarene College, Massasoit Community College, Northeastern University, Salem State University, Saint Anselm College (3 miles away), UMass Boston (6 miles away), Wentworth Institute of Technology (2.5 miles away)

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