Compared to the metropolitan vibe of the greater Boston area, Watertown seems more like a small New England town. There are six neighborhoods: City Center, Bemis, Common Street/Belmont Street, East Watertown, Lexington Street/Highland Avenue, and North Beacon Street/Mount Auburn Street. Many people consider houses for sale in Watertown, MA because it is within a reasonable commuting distance to Boston, while being more affordable than the city.
Houses for Sale in Watertown, MA
Watertown is to the west of Boston, with Cambridge directly between them. Watertown is located on the north bank of the Charles River, except for a small enclave south of the Charles where Route 16 crosses the river. To the south of Watertown is Newton, to the west is Waltham, and to the North is Belmont. Many people consider houses for sale in Watertown, MA because it is within a reasonable commuting distance to Boston, while being more affordable. Compared to the metropolitan vibe of the greater Boston area, Watertown seems more like a small New England town. There are six neighborhoods: City Center, Bemis, Common Street/Belmont Street, East Watertown, Lexington Street/Highland Avenue, and North Beacon Street/Mount Auburn Street. The population is about 35,750.
English Puritans founded Watertown in 1630 as one of Massachusetts Bay Colony’s first settlements. At that time, the first colonists called this settlement Saltonstall Plantation. Richard Saltonstall was one of the leaders of the first group to settle here. When colonists first settled Watertown it was much larger, but it ceded parcels to Cambridge. Over the 18th and 19th centuries, Watertown contributed more parcels to other newly formed towns. The first was Weston in 1712, followed by Waltham in 1738, then Lincoln in 1754, and finally Belmont in 1859.
Residents of Watertown gained the distinction in 1632 of being the first colonists to mount a protest against taxation without representation. They were opposed to paying a tax to support the building of a new stockade fort in Cambridge. This was a catalyst to the establishment of representative democracy in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Around 1632, Thomas Mayhew built Massachusetts Bay Colony’s first gristmill in Watertown, and in 1662, the town added one of the first of America’s woolen mills. Watertown gained a reputation as New England’s most significant cattle and horse market before the turn of the 18th century. During this time, prosperous estates were the hallmark of the town.
In the years that lead up to the American Revolution, the Sons of Liberty counted many Watertown residents among its membership. Residents of Watertown were among the protesters participating in the Boston Tea Party in 1773. When the call, in April 1775, for Minutemen to assemble at Lexington in response to the sortie from Boston of British Regulars, about 134 Watertown residents joined in what was to become the first skirmish of the American Revolution. Many of these Watertown Minutemen joined the first Colonial forces to lay siege to Boston.
Israel Bissel, a resident of Watertown, was the first post rider to bring news of the Battle of Lexington down the Old Post Road to Philadelphia, leaving word along the way in Connecticut and New York. He rode 345 miles in four days and six hours. While Bissel’s ride was immortalized in the poem “Ride, Israel, Ride”, by Marie Rockwood, neither she nor her poem ever achieved the notoriety of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and “Paul Revere’s Ride”.
The Watertown Meeting House hosted the Massachusetts Bay Provisional Congress in 1775 from April to July, and hosted the Massachusetts General Court from 1775 through 1778. While the British occupied Boston, the Executive Council held meetings at the Edmund Fowle House in Watertown. In addition, Edmund Fowle House is where the newly founded United States signed its first treaty with a foreign nation on July 19, 1776. This treaty was a military alliance with the Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy, and Maliseet people to provide troops for the Continental Army. While not all of the Mi’kmaq First Nations Districts ratified the Treaty of Watertown, the United States still honors it today. Regardless of birthplace, Mi’kmaq citizens can join the United States Armed Forces, and some have served in recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The United States Army established the Watertown Arsenal as an ordinance depot in 1816. Alexander Parris, who also designed Boston’s Quincey Market, was the architect of the initial complex of twelve buildings. With the advent of the American Civil War, this depot expanded greatly to accommodate the manufacture of coastal and field gun carriages. Further expansion occurred early in the 1890’s to convert Watertown Arsenal from a depot into a manufacturing complex.
To meet the United States military ordinance demands during World War I, Watertown Arsenal further expanded to three times its size. World War II saw another, though smaller expansion. After the Watertown Redevelopment Authority acquired nearly half of the arsenal complex in 1968, the remaining facility became the United States Army Materials and Mechanics Research Center, until 1995, when it converted to civilian use. The American Society of Civil Engineers registered the Watertown Arsenal site in its list of Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks. The United States National Register of Historic Places also lists the Watertown Arsenal site.
The median home value in Watertown, MA is about $500,000. This city is a mix of suburban and urban. About 52% of residents own their home. Over 40% of all homes, including apartment buildings, are pre-1940 construction. About 24% of homes in Watertown are single family, and many are two or three family. Average annual appreciation rate since 2000 is almost 3.5%.
There is no train service in Watertown, MA. There is frequently heavy traffic during rush hour near Watertown Square. Boston is about 10 miles away, and outside of the peak rush hour traffic, the drive takes about 20-30 minutes. Aside from the commuter hours, the easy availability of the sights and resources of metropolitan Boston is a good reason to look at houses for sale in Watertown, MA.
The MBTA Watertown Yard Parking Lot is located at 20 Watertown Street. It has 200 parking spaces, but no overnight parking. The daily rate is a reasonable $2.50, both weekdays and weekends. Monthly pass is $43.75. MBTA bus lines 52, 57, 502, and 504 stop here. The 502 is an express bus to Copley, and the 504 is an express bus to Downtown Boston.
The MBTA 59 bus line has stops along Watertown Street. The 70 and 70A bus lines have stops along Main Street and Arsenal Street. The 71 line has stops along Mount Auburn Street.
Parking near Houses for Sale in Watertown, MA
There is a municipal parking lot with meters at Watertown Square, and most of the commercial areas have meters as well. Residences, businesses, and employers mostly provide parking spaces. Free parking is available on most of Watertown’s residential streets, but there is a restriction for overnight street parking in the winter.
Education near Houses for Sale in Watertown, MA
Watertown Public Schools enroll almost 2,600 students. There are three elementary schools: Hosmer Elementary at 1 Concord Road, Cunniff Elementary at 246 Warren Street, and J R Lowell Elementary School at 175 Orchard Street. Watertown Middle School is at 68 Waverly Avenue, and Watertown High School is located at 50 Columbia Street.
There are a number of private schools in Watertown:
Atrium School is located at 69 Grove Street. There are 130 students in pre-kindergarten and K-8. The student to teacher ratio is 4:1. This school follows the progressive education philosophy that emphasizes teaching the students how to think, rather than focusing on the content or rote learning. Development of this philosophy began in the 1890’s.
Perkins School for the Blind, located at 175 North Beacon Street, located to Watertown in 1912. On campus, it has around 200 students and a student to teacher ratio of 2:1.
Saint Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School is located at 47 Nichols Avenue. This private, Christian school serves about 170 students from pre-kindergarten through 5th grade. The student to teacher ratio is 12:1.
Jewish Community Day School, located at 57 Stanley Street, is a private, Jewish school with 184 students from Kindergarten through 8th grade. The student to teacher ratio here is 6:1.
Beacon High School is located at 917 Belmont Street. It is a private special education alternative school. There are 57 students enrolled in grades 7-12. The school specializes in providing a therapeutic environment helping students with learning, emotional, and behavioral challenges. The student to teacher ratio is 5:1.
Landmarks & Historic Places near Houses for Sale in Watertown, MA
The Edmund Fowle House and Museum
The Edmund Fowle House and Museum is located at 28 Marshall Street. The Historical Society of Watertown is located here, and they display many of their artifacts in the house. Built in 1772, it is the second oldest house in the city. From July of 1775 through September of 1776, it served as the headquarters of the Massachusetts government Executive Council during the American Revolution. On the third Sunday of every month, it is open from 1pm to 4pm for guided tours. Organizations can rent the Edmund Fowle house for meetings and functions.
The Abraham Browne House
The Abraham Browne House is located at 562 Main Street. Captain Abraham Browne, whose grandfather was one of the first settlers of Watertown, built this house between 1694 and 1701. It is Watertown’s oldest house. The building had deteriorated badly when renovation began in 1919. It is a rare remaining example of New England “one-over-one” style. Historic New England maintains Abraham Browne House as a museum, opening it up a few afternoons per year to the public. Abraham Browne was captain of the local militia and a land surveyor.
Perkins School for the Blind
Perkins School for the Blind, located at 175 North Beacon Street, is world famous and holds affiliations with organizations in 67 different countries. In the United States, it is the oldest school dedicated to teaching young adults and children who are blind, as well as those with deafblindness and multiple disabilities. The campus also houses the Grousbeck Center for Students and Technology and the Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library. The Perkins School developed both the Perkins Brailler and the more advanced SMART Brailler. Perkins School for the Blind also manufactures this equipment.
The Grousbeck Center for Students and Technology provides blind and visually impaired people with access to technology to help them improve their independence and socialization. This facility includes a Student Center with accessible music, video games, and movies; an internet radio studio where students can learn to produce and host radio shows; and a music room equipped with instruments and software that are adapted for the students’ use.
The Perkins School for the Blind has a museum, which is open to the public. Individuals and groups of up to 20 people can schedule one to two hour programmed tours. The School requires at least two weeks’ notice.
The Perkins Brailler was a significant breakthrough to allow easy and more rapid access to producing written braille materials. A woodworking teacher at the school, David Abraham, developed the machine in collaboration with Edward Waterhouse, a Perkins School math teacher, in 1951. In 2008, the Perkins School developed a newer model that is lighter and quieter, which includes a carry handle and introduced an erase key. The Perkins Brailler allows people to emboss braille letters onto paper in a manner similar to a typewriter.
David S. Morgan invented the SMART Brailler, which Perkins School introduced in 2011. This new machine combines the mechanical Brailler with text-to-speech technology using sensors to detect the mechanical motions of the machine. Software provides multi-lingual support. The languages supported include American and British English, German, Arabic, French, Polish, Turkish, Italian, Russian, and Portuguese. The Perkins School also supports the machines it produces with service, accessories, and spare parts.
Armenian Library and Museum of America
Armenian Library and Museum of America is located at 65 Main Street in the building that was formerly Coolidge Bank. This museum is home to North America’s most extensive Armenian artifact collection with over 20,000 pieces. This collection contains over 3,000 textile pieces, including 180 fine artwork rugs woven with inscriptions in Armenian. Many of the artifacts date back to ancient and medieval times. It is an amazing collection. Both the public and membership can attend scheduled literary and cultural programs.
The Library includes over 27,000 titles, as well as a collection of oral history. There are rotating exhibits, which change an average of fourteen times a year. The programs the Armenian Library and Museum offer include musical performances, food tastings and lessons in traditional dance. The hours are Thursday through Sunday from 12pm to 6pm. Wednesdays are open only by appointment. Groups can arrange tours by appointment. This is truly another one of the great cultural reasons to consider houses for sale in Watertown, MA.
Mount Auburn Cemetery
Mount Auburn Cemetery is located in Watertown’s eastern end, and is accessible from Mount Auburn Street. It opened in 1831, and many of the prominent citizens of Boston found their final resting place here. Henry Alexander Scammell Dearborn, working with Alexander Wadsworth and Jacob Bigelow, designed this parklike garden cemetery. It was the first of its kind in the United States. The landscaped grounds and monumental memorials evoke a restful peacefulness. Developed as a place for contemplation and the appreciation of nature, this is a place intended for people to visit. It was a sharp contrast from the stark, bleak style of the burying grounds of the Colonial Era.
This arboretum contains over 5,500 trees of over 700 varieties and species. There are many pathways and over ten miles of roads in the 174 acres of Mount Auburn Cemetery. The rolling landscape includes grassy enclaves and the memorial statuary includes seated bronze portraits, angelic figures, and even a sphinx. It seems like another world, far removed from the 21th century.
The grounds encompass three historic buildings worthy of note. Storey Chapel is a Potsdam sandstone structure built in the style known as English Perpendicular. Bigelow Chapel has newly restored stained glass windows and is made of granite in Gothic Revival style. It is quite a fantastic structure. In the heart of Mount Auburn Cemetery, at the highest point of Mount Auburn’s summit, 125 feet above the Charles River, is the George Washington Tower. It is a 62-foot granite tower that looks like it should be part of a medieval castle. Visitors who climb it get a view of distant Boston that is exceptional. George Washington Tower is open April through October.
The public can reserve the chapels for memorial services. Washington Tower and the chapels are also popular venues for wedding ceremonies. All visitors are welcome, provided they are respectful of the surroundings. Parking on-site is available. The gates to access Mount Auburn Cemetery are open 8am to 5pm. Washington Tower is open from 8am to 4pm. This unique space is yet another reason to look for houses for sale in Watertown, MA.
Commander’s Mansion is located at 440 Talcott Avenue. The U.S. Army assigned Captain Thomas J. Rodman as the commandant of the Watertown Arsenal during the Civil War. He was already famous for developing a new process for casting large canon and developing new designs this made possible. Commissioning this extravagant mansion for his living quarters in his new assignment was the cause of a Congressional inquiry. Commander’s Mansion was, at the time, one of the largest and most expensive commander’s residences in any American military post.
Commander’s Mansion is a three story brick, 12,700 square foot structure built in Victorian Italianate style. The interior is very ornamental, having heavy moldings, marble fireplaces, and medallion ceilings. There was extensive use of premium decorative woods, such as chestnut, cedar, butternut, and black walnut. The ceilings are thirteen feet high on the first floor, and eleven feet high on the second. With modern renovations, Commander’s Mansion is now a beautiful venue available for special events, such as weddings. The Town of Watertown is the owner and operator of this property. Residents of Watertown qualify for a 20% discount when renting this venue. The National Registry of Historic Places recognized Commander’s Mansion in January 1976.
The Plumbing Museum
The Plumbing Museum is located at 80 Rosedale Road. Formerly an icehouse, it is now a museum dedicated to the development and history of the industry of plumbing. Some artifacts on display date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The exhibits illustrate the development of piping and fixture technology through the years. Among the antique artifacts on display are ornamented sinks, claw-foot tubs, and early commodes. The Plumbing Museum is available for private events and weddings and it is open to the public Monday through Friday by appointment.
Watertown Free Public Library
Watertown Free Public Library, located at 123 Main Street, has a reputation of being one of the area’s better local libraries. The original librarian, Solon Whitney, had the main part of the current building constructed in 1884. The library built additions and updated the building through the 20th century. In 2006, major reconstruction and renovation modernized and doubled the size of the library, while retaining the core elements of the original building. The Watertown Free Public Library maintains an art collection that includes works by prominent local artists, including paintings by Ellen Robbins and sculpture by Harriet Hosmer.
Red Leaf Café is located on the library’s first floor. It offers reportedly excellent sandwiches, snacks, and salads. Patrons can reserve rooms for private study and public meetings. The second floor is home to the T. Ross Kelly Family Gallery, which hosts exhibits on a monthly basis. The library hosts winter concerts, book groups, classes, and community discussions. Watertown Free Public Library plays an active role in the community, another aspect attracting people to seek houses for sale in Watertown, MA. The library is open seven days a week, Monday through Thursday 9am to 9pm, Friday 9am to 7pm, Saturday 9am to 5pm, and Sunday 1pm to 5pm.
The Charles River Greenway follows the north bank of the Charles River most of the length of Watertown. There are great views up and down the river from the Charles River Greenway Bridge, which is non-vehicular and gives access to part of the Greenway on the south bank. Easy access to this tree line riverside promenade is a good reason to consider houses for sale in Watertown, MA.
Cultural Events near Houses for Sale in Watertown, MA
Faire on the Square Festival is an annual hometown event held near the end of September at Saltonstall Field behind the Town of Watertown Administration Building. There are dozens of exhibit booths for local organizations, businesses, churches, service organizations, and clubs. It is like a miniature state fair with live music by various performers and groups, street performers, a beer garden, demonstrations by area dance teams, and food vendors. The whole town gets together as a community. This small town ideal is a reason to consider houses for sale in Watertown, MA.
The Dorothy and Charles Mosesian Center for the Arts is located at 321 Arsenal Street, in the former Watertown Arsenal complex. This regional arts center offers musical performances, performing and visual art productions, literary and art discussions, workshops, and classes. This is the home of the New Repertory Theater, a professional company with a reputation for thought-provoking and powerful productions. The Main Stage Theater seats 340 people and the more intimate Black Box Theater seats ninety. The Watertown Children’s Theater is also located here. For 35 years, they have offered classes and productions by children. This is another outstanding reason to join this community and seek out houses for sale in Watertown, MA.
Some Unique Restaurants near Houses for Sale in Watertown, MA
Jana Grill & Bakery
Jana Grill & Bakery is located at 2 Watertown Street. This family run restaurant specializes in Armenian cuisine, and draws on Caucasian, Mediterranean, and Lebanese traditions, as well. They offer Georgian flatbreads fresh baked from scratch, charcoal grilled meats of various delicious sorts, and both hot and cold appetizers. They bake their own Armenian lavash bread and offer a wonderful array of homemade sauces. This is a great place to experience an authentic cuisine not widely available in the Boston area. The reviews are almost all five star. They are open Sunday through Thursday 10:30am to 9:30pm, and Friday and Saturday 10:30am to 10:30pm. This is one of the unique, delicious experiences available near houses for sale in Watertown, MA.
La Bodega is located at 21 Nichols Avenue. They offer Spanish Basque and Uruguayan cuisine together with crafted cocktails and a finely curated selection of wines. This unique restaurant is inside a refurbished 1950’s railroad dining car. They serve interesting small plates of savory meats, vegetables, and tasty sauces. It is a very personable, intimate place, served by the owners, themselves. La Bodega is a welcome relief from the formulaic corporate chain operations that saturate the market. They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30pm to 10pm. This is another unique gem found near houses for sale in Watertown, MA. The reviews are almost all five star.
Red Lentil Vegetarian & Vegan Restaurant
Red Lentil Vegetarian & Vegan Restaurant is located at 600 Mount Auburn Street. The chef is passionate about producing fine meatless cuisine. He comes from a unique background of Indian and French cooking. They combine seasonal New England ingredients with unique blends of spices in expert preparations. There are several hundred five star reviews. This restaurant is a wonderful treat near houses for sale in Watertown, MA. They are open Monday through Thursday from 11am to 9:30pm, Friday 11am to 10pm, Saturday 9am to 10pm, and Sunday 9am to 3pm and 5pm to 9:30pm.
What it is Like to Live in Watertown, MA
It is quieter and less intense in Watertown, MA than in many of the surrounding towns or the city of Boston itself, and living here is more affordable. There are parks to enjoy, community events, and cultural outlets. Many of the residents are from families that have lived here for generations and many new residents decide to stay here. Most of the residential areas are peaceful streets with trees and one to three family houses. Even though Watertown is part of the greater Boston area, it is like living in a small New England town here.