Local History

August 31st 2016

Blog by Kathryn Smith, author of “The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency.”

Thanks, Cathy, for letting me be your guest blogger today.

Missy LeHand was one of Somerville’s most famous residents in the 1920s-1940s, when she was the private secretary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Especially during her White House years, 1933-1941, every visit to her family home at 101 Orchard Street generated an interview by the Boston... Read Post

July 15th 2016

Have you ever taken a stroll in Somerville, to come across an octagon shaped house with all the windows boarded up and cameras leering down at you? Well, if you know what I'm talking about, you've seen the Round House at 36 Atherton Street in Somerville. Although, it may not be as mysterious as we all think. The house was built by Enoch Robinson sometime around 1847, right after the locksmith and designer moved to Somerville. He lived in the house with his wife, three daughters, one son and... Read Post

April 15th 2016
One of SPL's most valuable resources for Somerville history is the Somerville Journal, the city's oldest newspaper. We have the complete run of the paper in hard copy and microfilm from the 1870s to the present. Reading old issues is fascinating. Not only do they give a sense of how important newspapers were for news and entertainment before competition from radio, television and the Internet, they also reveal the issues that were on people's minds that seldom make it into the history books. ... Read Post
September 4th 2015
Our latest staff profile is of Kevin, who you will recognize if you've ever been to the second floor of the Central Library. “I'm Kevin. First and foremost, I work at the reference desk answering questions for library users, trouble shooting computers, helping people find books, and suggesting books to people who aren't sure what they want. I speak Spanish, so I often help Spanish-speaking patrons. I also select books for the Library in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Chinese. I find it... Read Post
July 14th 2015
Last week we asked you to share your stories of how the Library has impacted your life or the life of a loved one.  Over the last few days we've received some amazing responses, and they're too good to keep to ourselves.  Here's one for a start, and we'll post more soon! When I was a senior in Somerville High School in 1957, I applied for a job as a librarian in the Somerville Public Library on Highland Avenue near the high school.  I was hired part-time to help repair the plastic covers of... Read Post
June 4th 2014
Postcard from 1930

Somerville Public Library’s central branch is marking its centennial this year. Way back in January of 1914, the Italian Renaissance-style building at 79 Highland Avenue opened for patrons after its dedication on Dec. 17, 1913. Famed library architect Edward Lippincott Tilton designed the new building. According to the Somerville Journal in an article dated Dec. 12, 1913, the library was constructed at a cost of $125,000 (which is $2,993,333 in today’s dollars).... Read Post
June 3rd 2014
Books for Somerville Reads 2014 have arrived and are now available at all SPL locations! Somerville Reads is a project that promotes literacy and community engagement by encouraging people all over the City to read and discuss the same book. The book that has been selected for 2014 is Dark Tide: the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 by Stephen Puleo. A companion children's book has also been selected: The Great Molasses Flood: Boston, 1919 by Deborah Kops. Both of these authors will be... Read Post
August 12th 2013
It's official: Whitey Bulger has been found guilty - of a whole lot of stuff - and will presumably be spending the rest of his life behind bars.  Many of us would like to forget all about the notorious thug but, human nature being what it is, a fair number of us want to know all there is to know about Whitey and his doings.  To that end, here's a list of relevant books available through the Minuteman Library Network. Whitey: the Life of America's Most Notorious Mob Boss by Dick Lehr and... Read Post
July 15th 2013
This month we're happy to have Somerville High School juniors and seniors at the library doing research on the history of Assembly Square. They're employees of a collaboration between Federal Realty, Artists for Humanity, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation and the City of Somerville. "Based on what we find out, we're going to make suggestions for a sculpture, " said SHS senior Larry Barnes. The sculpture will in some way embody the history of Assembly Square and will placed in... Read Post
May 31st 2012
Last night yours truly and Kristi Chase of the City's Historic Preservation department gave a presentation on genealogical and house history research. Since most people remember research processes when they're given concrete examples, we took one house in Somerville and explained how to use library resources and local government document to find out how the house had been altered over the course of its existence and to find out who lived there since it was built. So technically, the... Read Post
April 20th 2012
As usual, there's a lot going on at the Library and all over the City this weekend!

* Saturday at the Central Library from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., we invite you to join us for the Somerville Reads Potluck Celebration featuring great food, prizes, and music by the Michael J. Epstein Library. This is part of the Mayor's Urban Agriculture Initiative - you can read about related events happening around the City here.

* Sunday at the Walnut Street Community Garden at 1:00 p.m.,... Read Post
April 19th 2012
Join us at the Central Library this Sunday at 2:00 p.m. as Paul and Rachel Revere ride again!

Set in 1805, the dramatization animates the "Spirit of the Day," as Paul and Rachel recount the exciting tale of life in Boston's North End when America was still a British Crown Colony. Paul Revere married Rachel Walker in 1773, following the death of his first wife, Sarah, who died after the birth of their sixth child. Rachel took on the care of the children, and with Paul had six more... Read Post
March 26th 2012
The Director’s “Meet, Mingle, Read” series continues at the Central Library this Wednesday (March 28th) at 7:00 p.m. Join us in welcoming authors Ron Driscoll and John Powers who will discuss their new book, Fenway Park: A Salute to the Coolest, Cruelest, Longest-Running Baseball Stadium in America (Running Press). Since it opened in 1912, Fenway Park has become an iconic destination for baseball fans everywhere and a source of great civic pride for generations of New Englanders. Home to the... Read Post
October 12th 2011
Fall might just be the best time of year for exploring the outdoors in New England. I love walking in beautiful natural places like Mt. Auburn Cemetery and Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary. I used to be a regular visitor to the Arnold Arboretum too, but haven't wanted to go back there since the demise of Corky, the Arboretum's much-loved cork tree. Running a hand over Corky's smooth bark and sitting on that inviting low branch that parallelled the ground was always the highlight of an Arboretum... Read Post
August 19th 2011
An SPL blog reader recently suggested to me that I write about "crazy books in the collection."  With over 200,000 volumes SPL definitely has its share of those (among my favorites are a slim little volume on the guys who figured out how to embalm Lenin and a book about the first scientific studies of the duck-billed platypus*) However, one of the best places to seek out unusual reading material is the Local History Room at the Central Library. It's used primarily by genealogists, historic... Read Post

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