A Brief History of Newton

Newton, Massachusetts is a city of close to 90,000 people. To give some geographical context, it borders Boston to the East, specifically the neighborhoods of Brighton and West Roxbury. It also shares boundaries with Brookline, Watertown, Waltham, Weston, and Needham. Newton’s first immigrants ventured out beyond Boston in 1630. The area was incorporated in 1688 and became a city in 1873. Newton is known as the “Garden City”. Although the city’s nickname comes from relatively unknown origins, it is still used today to signify the various parks and ‘green space’ the city has. On a personal level, I’m not sure that Newton is overly green, but there is certainly a sharp divide between Newton and other Boston suburbs like Brookline, Medford, Waltham etc., which are more densely populated and closely resemble the concrete village’s that many Newtonians fear their own city will one day become.

Newton’s history is relatively unappealing compared to some neighboring cities, especially when compared to other Boston suburbs like Concord and Lexington. The city simply never had any major Revolutionary War events, or for that matter any Wikipedia worthy footnotes. In some ways, that is what has kept Newton ‘off the maps’, but there are still many interesting facts below the surface. Newton experienced its first boom when many wealthy aristocrats, sick of paying taxes to Cambridge, bought land in the area. One of which was William Claflin, the 27th governor of Massachusetts. Up until the 1900’s, he owned acres of land in West Newton, but over the generations his family slowly sold it. By the 1980’s the last of his land was gone. Stories like the one mentioned above are a dime a dozen in the city, similar to many established places across the country, but few are as interesting as that of (Redacted), the current owner of the (Redacted).

I reached out to (Redacted), a friend’s mother, as all reliable records point towards the (Redacted) being the oldest home in the city. According to (Redacted), the home belonged to one of Newton’s first settlers, and their descendants, for eight generations. The (Redacted) was even moved from its original foundation to its existing location by horse and carriage. Eventually, a man bought the house and lived in it for sixty years before selling it to the (Redacted) family. What is interesting about historic Newton is not the city’s prominence as a whole, but the individuals who have made it throughout the years. People like William Hull, the first governor of Michigan, and William Claflin, mentioned above, lived just hundreds of feet from each other, on land where I proudly call home today; all while other members of high society made their homes in the surrounding hills and valleys. Hundreds of years later, I am convinced future leaders of our state and country are simply walking around in plain daylight, but it is just a tad harder to pick them out in the bustling suburb Newton has become.

Today, Newton has a mayor-council government. This is a type of local government where a mayor and council are democratically elected. Newton’s charter is set up in the strong-mayor form, which means that our mayor actually serves as an executive for the city, and is not known as a mayor in title only, like in a weak-mayor system. Our mayor serves a four-year term, and is paid $125,001 yearly (Dame, towards bottom of page, Jan. 9 2016). This salary was raised a few years ago after a Blue Ribbon Commission agreed that the former compensation was too low.

Newton’s current (2017) mayor is Setti Warren. Mayor Warren was first elected in 2009 and took office in 2010, and is currently the cities first and only African-American mayor. What makes that fact intersecting is that in 2010, the governor of Massachusetts was Deval Patrick, and the president was Barack Obama, whom were both black. This made Newton the first city to have a black mayor, black governor and black president (Goodnough, par. 4), a truly insurmountable feat for an affluent city known as (Redacted) by others in the surrounding area, to make reference to Newton having a sizeable (Redacted) population and often electing a (Redacted) mayor. One thing Newton does not have is a large (Redacted) population: As of the 2010 census, barely 2.5% of the city’s population self-reported being of (Redacted) (Govt., US).

Newton schools are often regarded as some of the best in Massachusetts, potentially even in the nation. There are twenty-two public schools in Newton; 16 elementary schools, four middle school and two high schools (Newton North High School and Newton South High School), with roughly 12,650 students enrolled at any given time. A central staff headed by the Superintendent, runs the schools. The boss of the Superintendent is a democratically elected School Committee consisting of nine members (one from each City Ward (essentially a precinct)), one of whom in the Mayor. Although the School Committee runs the schools as well, using about 50% of the city budget, the majority of chatter from local residents occurs inside the chambers of the City Council, who tend to deal with slightly more pressing matters… (contact Cyrus for the full version. Please also note information in the above text may be inaccurate and all users should validate any and all statements with their own sources.)