Eagle Feathers #10 – Somerville is a Perfect Ten
By Bob (Monty) Doherty
Just as David Letterman has a Top Ten List that he shares with his audience on a nightly basis, Somerville has a top-ten list of fun and interesting facts that I’d like to share with you. Somerville is unique in that it is shaped like the American eagle. Since this the 10th edition of Eagle Feathers, I thought it might be fitting to honor the eagle this week by showcasing a top-ten list of Somerville firsts:
1. The Blessing of the Bay, the first ship built in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, was launched from the Ten Hills section of Somerville on July 4, 1631. The ship was the forerunner of the United States Navy.
2. The first American flag was flown on Prospect Hill, Somerville, January 1, 1776.
3. The first Governor of Massachusetts was John Winthrop. Winthrop lived in Ten Hills
4. The first Governor of Connecticut was John Winthrop, Jr. He also lived in Ten Hills. Before moving from what is now Somerville (formerly Charlestown) to Connecticut, he founded the first iron works in the nation in Saugus, MA.
5. The first mansion built by Charles Bulfinch was the Barrow mansion on Cobble Hill, Somerville. In 1793, the structure was said to have been the most beautiful residence in New England.
6. McLean Hospital, which was also designed by Bulfinch and is one of the most renowned psychiatric hospitals in the country, had its beginnings on Cobble Hill, Somerville.
7. The first Civil War memorial in the country built with public funds was erected in the Somerville Cemetery in 1863.
8. The first outside telephone line in the world went from Court Street, Boston to #1 Arlington Street, Somerville. Phone numbers one, two, three and four were Somerville numbers.
9. America’s first millionaire, Elias Haskell Derby, lived on Ten Hills and his driveway became Temple Street, Somerville. Derby Street, which is off of Temple Street, is named after him.
10. The first revolutionary forts used to oppose the British Army were built in Somerville. The first battle of the Revolutionary War was fought on April 19, 1775. It began in Lexington and ended in what is now Somerville.