Somerville was first settled in 1630 as a part of Charlestown but became its own entity in 1842 when it was separated from Charlestown due to its mainly rural population. Somerville was officially incorporated as a city in 1872. By the early 1900s, Somerville itself had become a densely packed urban area, featuring immigrants from across Europe. As a part of Charlestown, areas existing in modern-day Somerville were critical military positions in the American Revolution. The historic Powder House - now considered one of the most distinct historic ruins in Massachusetts - housed gunpowder for Revolutionary soldiers during the war. During the British invasion, Somerville (Charlestown) was part of the route ridden by Paul Revere on his famous "Midnight Ride." Most notably, Prospect Hill was the site of the raising of the first Grand Union Flag, under the orders of General George Washington, on January 1, 1776.
Today, the city is an eclectic mix of blue-collar families, young professionals, college students and recent immigrants from countries as diverse as El Salvador, Haiti, and Brazil. One-third of Somerville residents are foreign born, and there are more than 50 spoken languages in Somerville schools. Somerville, located just two miles north of Boston occupies slightly over 4 square miles. Its population of 74,963 (2005) includes many immigrants from all over the world, making Somerville the most densely populated and ethnically diverse community in New England and one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the nation. Rich in both history and culture, the city houses numerous intriguing sites, businesses, and restaurants for every style.
Only New York has more artists per capita than the City of Somerville; the local artists make the City one of the most vibrant and exciting arts centers in the country. With several umbrella groups sponsoring events - such as ArtsUnion, Brickbottom Artists Association, and the Somerville Arts Council - there are always new exhibits or events to explore. Somerville's arts scene is showcased each summer at the weekend-long ArtBeat Festival. Hosted by the Somerville Arts Council, ArtBeat transforms Davis Square into one of New England's largest and most innovative arts destinations.
Somerville is defined by its city squares. It is known for its large number of squares, which help mark neighborhood boundaries while also featuring bustling businesses and entertainment centers. Among the most active today are Davis Square, Union Square, Ball Square,Teele Square, and Magoun Square. The city recently received national recognition as a model of innovation and efficiency for their 311 customer service helpline and SomerStat, a data-driven style of managing government services. Somerville is the only community in Massachusetts to employ 311, and the only city in the country to employ both a 311 customer service help line and a Connect-CTY mass outreach program.