Boynton Yards is a largely industrial neighborhood located southeast of Union Square between the Fitchburg Railroad tracks and the Somerville/Cambridge border. Much of the neighborhood was originally part of the Miller's River, a winding tidal stream that once extended inland to Union Square. The Miller's River was used as an open water sewer and dumping ground for local industry. In 1874, Somerville decided to fill in the polluted river by removing the top of nearby Prospect Hill to use as filler. Over time, residential streets were laid to the east of Prospect Street and near the border with Cambridge. The central part of the area, however, was occupied by railroad sidings and surrounded by industrial buildings, including several meatpacking facilities. Consistent with the growth of the automobile industry in the 20th century, many businesses opened to serve auto-related uses including repair shops and parts dealers, some of which continue to operate today.
In the early 1980s, the City approved an urban revitalization plan for Boynton Yards resulting in the demolition of buildings, clean up of industrial wastes, construction of three light-industry buildings, and construction of South Street to support truck traffic. Businesses such as RCN, DHL, Verizon, and Members Plus Credit Union opened locations in the area. In 1989, the Gentle Giant moving company moved into its own warehouse on Harding Street, and has since grown its operations to include seven cities across the U.S.
In 2012, Somerville passed a new revitalization plan that included an updated vision for Boynton Yards as a transit-oriented mixed-use district. Today, Boynton Yards is a neighborhood on the cusp of transition, due in part to its strategic location near the future Union Square Green Line MBTA station. In recent years, new businesses have opened, taking advantage of lower rents and large industrial facilities. Taza Chocolate, a stone-ground chocolate factory, opened in 2006. Green City Growers, which installs and maintains vegetable gardens for homeowners, businesses, and schools, also bases its operations in the neighborhood.
More recently, Groundwork Somerville transformed two parking lots on South Street into Somerville’s first urban agricultural farm. Produce is sold at the Somerville Mobile Farmers’ Market, donated to local food pantries, and used for special events and healthy eating workshops. In 2015, Slumbrew Brewing Company opened a brewery and taproom on Ward Street. In November 2015, a New York real estate firm announced plans to place up to 400 residential units and 500,000 square feet of retail and commercial street on 3.5 acres off of South Street.
Union Square Revitalization Plan (Oct 2012). City of Somerville.
Mark Jaquith, “Miller's River” (Oct 8, 2008). Cambridge Community Television.
Steve Mulder, “The History of Prospect Hill.” MulderMedia.
Rabiet, Scott William, “Design for the Boynton Yards Industrial Area” (1992). Thesis (M. Arch.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Architecture.
"Somerville, Massachusetts: Area and Site Guide" (Sept 2008), City of Somerville.
Last updated: 11/15/2015
Image: South Street Farm, photo courtesy of City of Somerville ResiStat Blog.
Image: Slumbrew Boynton Brewery
Image: Boynton Yards, Draft Union Square and Boynton Yards Neighborhood Plan (Oct 2015)
Draper Map, Somerville (1852). Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.