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The area that is now Lexington was first settled circa 1642 as part of Cambridge, Massachusetts. As the population increased, Lexington was incorporated as a separate parish, called Cambridge Farms, in 1691. This allowed the residents to have their own local church and minister, although they were still under jurisdiction of the Town of Cambridge. Lexington was incorporated as a separate town in 1713. It was then that it got the name Lexington. How the town received its name is the subject of some controversy. One view is that it was named in honor of Lord Lexington, an English peer. Another view is that it was named after Lexington (which was pronounced and is today spelled Laxton) in Nottinghamshire, England.
In the early colonial days, Vine Brook, which runs through Lexington, Burlington, and Bedford, and then empties into the Shawsheen River, was a focal point of the farming and industry of the town. It provided for many types of mills, and in the 20th Century, for farm irrigation.
Battle of Lexington
On April 19, 1775, what many regard as the first battle of the American Revolutionary War was the Battle at Lexington. On the night of April 18, the British Army had sent out 800 grenadiers and light infantry soldiers on foot from Boston, with the intention of destroying Colonial gunpowder and cannons that were being stored in Concord, as well as capturing two leaders of the Sons of Liberty, John Hancock and Samuel Adams, who were staying in Lexington. Hancock and Adams were warned of the danger by two alarm riders, Paul Revere and William Dawes, who alerted the countryside of the British movements. When the British soldiers arrived on the Lexington Common not long after sunrise, they faced 77 men of the Lexington militia, commanded by Captain John Parker. Someone-still unknown to this day--fired a shot, provoking an exchange of musket fire between the two sides. Eight Lexington militia men were killed, dozens more wounded. After the rout, the British marched on toward Concord. There, several hundred militia and minute men from nearby towns assembled near the Old North Bridge to turn back the British and prevent them from capturing and destroying the Colony's stores of gunpowder and military equipment.
Today, the town annually commemorates the battle on the Battle Green in the Downtown with a reenactment, as part of its Patriots Day festivities.
Painting of the Battle of Lexington
For decades after the Revolutionary War, Lexington grew modestly while remaining largely a farming community, providing Boston with much of its produce. Many of these farms became dense housing developments and subdivisions by the 1970s. Lexington always had a bustling downtown area, which remains to this day. Lexington began to prosper, helped by its proximity to Boston, and having a rail line (originally the Lexington and West Cambridge Railroad, later the Boston and Maine Railroad) service its citizens and businesses, beginning in 1846 until 1981. In 1984, Due to the rapid urbanization that occurred in many other suburbs like Lexington, The MBTA proposed expanding the Red Line through Lexington, terminating in Bedford. Despite Lexington and Bedford being on board with the idea, Arlington residents lobbied against the plan and it was shot down by the Board of Selectmen.
Lexington, as well as many of the towns along the Route 128 corridor, experienced a jump in population in the 1960s and 70s, due to the high-tech boom. Today, many companies are still moving into Lexington, with Takeda and BAE Systems both having huge offices. The urbanization and massive job growth resulted in soaring property values, and the school system becoming nationally recognized for its excellence. The town participates in the METCO program, which buses minority students from Boston to suburban towns to receive better educational opportunities than those available to them in the Boston Public Schools.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 16.5 square miles (42.8 km2), of which 16.4 square miles (42.5 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.4 km2), or 0.85%, is water.
There were 11,530 households, out of which 38.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 66.0% were married couples living together, 7.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.1% were non-families. 20.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.66 and the average family size was 3.10.
In the town, the population was spread out, with 26.4% under the age of 18, 3.5% from 18 to 24, 22.7% from 25 to 44, 28.5% from 45 to 64, and 19.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 44 years. For every 100 females, there were 88.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.5 males.
In 2018, the mean home price was $910,584, and the median price of a house was $1,050,821. According to a 2018 estimate, the median income for a household in the town was $191,350, and the median income for a family was $218,890. Males had a median income of $101,334 versus $77,923 for females. The per capita income for the town was $70,132. About 1.8% of families and 3.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.2% of those under age 18 and 3.4% of those age 65 or over.
By race, the median household income was highest for mixed race households, at $263,321. Hispanic households had a median income of $233,875. Asian households had a median income of $178,988. White households had a median income of $154,533. Black households had a median income of $139,398. American Indian or Alaskan Native households had a median income of $125,139.
As of 2010, Lexington has the second highest Asian population in Massachusetts, reflecting 25.4% of the population. 20% of Lexington residents were born outside of the United States. This racial diversity is largely reflected in the Lexington Public Schools, where Asians compose over 40% of the student population, which has led the district to its well known academic excellence. According to U.S. News & World Report, Lexington High School is the fourth best in the state. Many who move to Lexington do so for the outstanding education opportunities in the town.
Government and Politics
The town uses a five-member Select Board. The day-to-day operations are handled by a Town Manager hired by the Select Board. A Representative town meeting, acts as the legislative body, made up of 203 members, including 21 citizens elected from each of nine precincts for three-year staggered terms, At-large member positions include the Select Board, Town Counsel, Town Clerk and the School Committee chairman. Article LXXXIX Section 8 of the Massachusetts Constitution permits towns with a population greater than 12,000 to adopt a city form of government. The Town of Lexington meets the population requirement to become a city, but has not done so, in part because it would lose its ability to engage citizens in local government under the Representative Town Meeting form of government.
Engraved memorial bricks lining the Lexington Depot sidewalk
Historic Mullikan Oak Tree, September 2012
Old Belfry in Belfry Hill Park, Clarke Street. Its plaque reads: "This belfry was erected on this hill in 1761 and removed to the Common in 1768. In it was hung the bell which rung out the alarm on the 19th of April 1775. In 1797 it was removed to the Parker Homestead in the south part of the town. In 1891 it was brought back to this hill by the Lexington Historical Society. Destroyed by a gale in 1909. Rebuilt 1910."
Lexington is home to the Lexington Symphony, which performs regularly at Cary Hall.
Lexington is most well known for its history and is home to many historical buildings, parks, and monuments, most dating from Colonial and Revolutionary times.
One of the most prominent historical landmarks, located in Lexington Centre, is the Lexington Common, commonly known as the Lexington Battle Green, and known by locals as the Battle Green or the Green. The Lexington Battle Green is known for being the site of the Battle of Lexington, where the "shot heard round the world" was fired. A statue of the captain of the Lexington Militia, John Parker, stands on the Battle Green. The statue is known as the Minuteman Statue by locals. A historical reenactment of the Battle of Lexington takes place on the Battle Green every year on Patriots' Day as part of the Patriots' Day celebrations.
Another important historical monument is the Revolutionary Monument, the nation's oldest standing war memorial (completed on July 4, 1799) and the gravesite of those colonists slain in the Battle of Lexington.
Other landmarks of historical importance include the Old Burying Ground (with gravestones dating back to 1690), the Old Belfry, Buckman Tavern (circa 1704-1710), Munroe Tavern (circa 1695), the Hancock-Clarke House (1737), the U.S.S. Lexington Memorial, the Centre Depot (old Boston and Mainetrain station, today the headquarters of the town Historical Society), Follen Church (the oldest standing church building in Lexington, built in 1839), and the Mulliken White Oak (one of Lexington's most distinguished and oldest trees).
The Great Meadow, a.k.a. Arlington's Great Meadows, is a sprawling meadow and marshland located in East Lexington, but owned by the town of Arlington, Lexington's neighbor to the east.
Willards Woods Conservation Area, a small forest of conservation land donated years ago by the Willard Sisters. Willards Woods is referenced in the classic Saturday Night Live skit "Donnie's Party".
Wilson Farm, a farm and farm stand in operation since 1884.
The Lexington Community Center is a meeting place for Lexington residents.
Notable Lexington neighborhoods include Lexington Centre, Meriam Hill (and Granny Hill), Irish Village, Loring Hill, Belfry Hill, Munroe Hill, Countryside (sometimes referred to as "Scotland"), the Munroe District, the Manor Section, Four Corners, Grapevine Corner, Woodhaven, Liberty Heights and East Lexington (fondly "East Village", or "The East End").
Marrett Square, at the intersection of Marrett Road and Waltham Street, is the location of some light shopping and dining.
The "Old Reservoir," sometimes referred to by locals as "The Res," used to provide drinking water to Lexington residents and surrounding areas. Now it offers a place to swim and picnic in the summer time. In the winter, when it freezes over, it is used as an ice skating area.
Book publisher D.C. Heath was founded in 1885 at 125 Spring Street in Lexington, near the present day intersection of Route 128 and MA Route 2, and was headquartered on that spot until its 1995 sale to Houghton Mifflin.
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