Chelsea, Massachusetts

Chelsea, Massachusetts
Chelsea, Massachusetts
—  City  —
Soldiers' Monument

Location in Suffolk County in Massachusetts
Coordinates: 42°23′30″N 71°02′00″W / 42.39167°N 71.0333333°W / 42.39167; -71.0333333Coordinates: 42°23′30″N 71°02′00″W / 42.39167°N 71.0333333°W / 42.39167; -71.0333333
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Suffolk
Settled 1624
Incorporated 1739
 - Type Council-manager government
 - City Manager Jay Ash
 - Deputy City Manager Ned Keefe
 - Total 2.1 sq mi (5.5 km2)
 - Land 1.8 sq mi (4.7 km2)
 - Water 0.3 sq mi (0.8 km2)
Elevation 10 ft (3 m)
Population (2010)
 - Total 35,177
 - Density 17,365.0/sq mi (6,702.3/km2)
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)
ZIP code 02150
Area code(s) 617 / 857
FIPS code 25-13205
GNIS feature ID 0612723

Chelsea is a city in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States directly across the Mystic River from the city of Boston. It is the smallest city in Massachusetts in land area, and the 26th most densely populated incorporated place in the country.



The area was first called Winnisimmet, meaning "good spring nearby," by the Massachusett tribe which once lived here. It was settled in 1624 by Samuel Maverick, whose palisaded trading post is considered the first permanent settlement at Boston Harbor. In 1635, Maverick sold all of Winnisimmet, except for his house and farm, to Richard Bellingham. The community remained part of Boston until it was set off and incorporated in 1739, when it was named after Chelsea, a neighborhood in London.

In 1775, the Battle of Chelsea Creek was fought here, the second battle of the Revolution, at which American forces made one of their first captures of a British ship. Part of Washington's army was stationed here during the Siege of Boston.

Chelsea originally included North Chelsea—all of Revere, Winthrop and parts of Saugus. In 1846, North Chelsea was set off as a separate town. Reincorporated as a city in 1857, Chelsea developed as an industrial center, producing rubber and elastic goods, boots and shoes, stoves and adhesives. It became home to a naval hospital (designed by Alexander Parris) and soldiers' home. But on April 12, 1908, nearly half the city was destroyed in the First Great Chelsea Fire. In 1973, the Second Great Chelsea Fire burned 18 city blocks.

Chelsea Square looking north up Broadway after Great Fire of 1908

In September 1991, Massachusetts enacted special legislation to place Chelsea into receivership. Governor William Weld named James Carlin as the first receiver followed by Lewis "Harry" Spence. This was the first time since the Great Depression that a major United States municipality had such an action taken against it. Events preceding the action included failed financial intervention by the state, a political stalemate over the city's budget, deepening economic decline and a spiraling fiscal crisis. Fortunately, Chelsea had no publicly held long-term debt—thus, a solution to its problems could be explored in isolation of creditors.

A charter change in 1995 led by the receivership through a community process designed an efficient council-manager form of government, which has focused on improving the quality of service the city provides to its residents and businesses, while establishing financial policies that have significantly improved the city's financial condition. Increased emphasis on economic development and capital improvement has led to an influx of new business and homebuyers. In 1998, Chelsea was named winner of the All-America City Award. The community is home to a Carnegie library built in 1910.

National Register listings in Chelsea

The follows places in Chelsea are listed on the National Register of Historic Places:


According to the United States Census Bureau, Chelsea has a total area of 2.1 square miles (5.4 km2), of which, 1.8 square miles (4.7 km2) of it is land and 0.3 square miles (0.78 km2) of it (14%) is water. Located on a peninsula in Boston Harbor, Chelsea is drained by Chelsea Creek and sits on the Mystic River just North of downtown Boston.

Major features include:

  • Bellingham Square, at the intersection of Broadway, Washington Avenue, Hawthorne Street, 5th Street, and Bellingham Street. It is surrounded by the Bellingham Square Historic District.
  • Bellingham Carey Mansion. It was headquarters for George Washington's men during the Battle of Chelsea Creek. It now resides as a monument and it and everything in it are restored and available for touring.


Historical populations
Year Pop. ±%
1790 472
1800 849 +79.9%
1810 594 −30.0%
1820 642 +8.1%
1830 771 +20.1%
1840 2,390 +210.0%
1850 6,701 +180.4%
1860 13,395 +99.9%
1870 18,547 +38.5%
1880 21,782 +17.4%
1890 27,909 +28.1%
1900 34,072 +22.1%
1910 32,452 −4.8%
1920 43,184 +33.1%
1930 45,816 +6.1%
1940 41,259 −9.9%
1950 38,912 −5.7%
1960 33,749 −13.3%
1970 30,625 −9.3%
1980 25,431 −17.0%
1990 28,710 +12.9%
2000 35,080 +22.2%
2001* 35,799 +2.0%
2002* 35,941 +0.4%
2003* 35,802 −0.4%
2004* 35,506 −0.8%
2005* 35,181 −0.9%
2006* 35,372 +0.5%
2007* 36,419 +3.0%
2008* 36,403 −0.0%
2009* 37,483 +3.0%
2010 35,177 −6.2%
* = population estimate.
Source: United States Census records and Population Estimates Program data.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11]
Old Pratt House in 1908

As of the census[12] of 2000, there were 35,080 people, 11,888 households, and 7,608 families residing in the city. The population density was 16,036.8 people per square mile (6,184.7/km²), placing it among the highest in population density among U.S. cities.[13] There were 12,337 housing units at an average density of 5,639.9 per square mile (2,175.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 57.95% White, 7.25% Black or African American, 0.48% Native American, 4.69% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 22.94% from other races, and 6.58% from two or more races.[14] Hispanic or Latino of any race were 48.42% of the population.

There were 11,888 households out of which 36.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.9% were married couples living together, 20.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.0% were non-families. 28.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.87 and the average family size was 3.50.

Fitz Public Library in c. 1905

In the city the population was spread out with 27.3% under the age of 18, 10.6% from 18 to 24, 34.6% from 25 to 44, 16.3% from 45 to 64, and 11.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 100.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 99.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,161, and the median income for a family was $32,130. Males had a median income of $27,280 versus $26,010 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,628. About 20.6% of families and 23.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 28.8% of those under age 18 and 20.9% of those age 65 or over.



Schools in Chelsea include:

Chelsea has four elementary schools, including one that is bilingual and two that require uniforms, three middle schools, and one high school. The Chelsea school system has historically been towards the bottom of the state's test score rankings. It's plagued by high mobility among students, meaning that a very high percentage of students move in or out over the course of the year, and the dropout rate is high. In 1988, the school board made the unprecedented move of delegating its authority for control of the school district to Boston University. In June 2008, the partnership with Boston University ended, and the schools returned to full local control. Chelsea also has only one private school, St. Rose of Lima, left as the others closed. It is located on Broadway near city hall and as of 2009, has an enrollment of about 350.

Sites of interest

  • Apollinaire Theatre Company[20]
  • Bellingham-Cary House[21]
  • Chelsea Public Library[22]
  • Walnut Street Synagogue
  • Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home Foundation [23]

Notable residents


  1. ^ "TOTAL POPULATION (P1), 2010 Census Summary File 1, All County Subdivisions within Massachusetts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 13, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Massachusetts by Place and County Subdivision - GCT-T1. Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  3. ^ "1990 Census of Population, General Population Characteristics: Massachusetts". US Census Bureau. December 1990. Table 76: General Characteristics of Persons, Households, and Families: 1990. 1990 CP-1-23. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  4. ^ "1980 Census of the Population, Number of Inhabitants: Massachusetts". US Census Bureau. December 1981. Table 4. Populations of County Subdivisions: 1960 to 1980. PC80-1-A23. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  5. ^ "1950 Census of Population". Bureau of the Census. 1952. Section 6, Pages 21-10 and 21-11, Massachusetts Table 6. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1930 to 1950. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  6. ^ "1920 Census of Population". Bureau of the Census. Number of Inhabitants, by Counties and Minor Civil Divisions. Pages 21-5 through 21-7. Massachusetts Table 2. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1920, 1910, and 1920. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  7. ^ "1890 Census of the Population". Department of the Interior, Census Office. Pages 179 through 182. Massachusetts Table 5. Population of States and Territories by Minor Civil Divisions: 1880 and 1890. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  8. ^ "1870 Census of the Population". Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1872. Pages 217 through 220. Table IX. Population of Minor Civil Divisions, &c. Massachusetts. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  9. ^ "1860 Census". Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1864. Pages 220 through 226. State of Massachusetts Table No. 3. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c.. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  10. ^ "1850 Census". Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1854. Pages 338 through 393. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c.. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  11. ^ "1950 Census of Population". Bureau of the Census. 1952. Section 6, Pages 21-7 through 21-09, Massachusetts Table 4. Population of Urban Places of 10,000 or more from Earliest Census to 1920. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  12. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  13. ^ Demographics of the United States
  14. ^ "Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2007-09-13. 
  15. ^ Bunker Hill Community College -- Chelsea Campus
  16. ^ Chelsea High School
  17. ^ Everest Institute, Chelsea Campus
  18. ^ Excel Academy Charter School
  19. ^ Phoenix Charter Academy
  20. ^ Apollinaire Theatre Company
  21. ^ Bellingham-Cary House
  22. ^ Chelsea Public Library -- a Carnegie library
  23. ^ Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home

Further reading

  • A listing is available of printed reports in the city archives.
  • M. Chamberlain. A documentary history of Chelsea: including the Boston precincts of Winnisimmet, Rumney Marsh, and Pullen Point, 1624-1824. Boston: Printed for the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1908. Google books

External links

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