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Davis Square Today

Located in West Somerville, Mass., Davis Square is a true urban destination. It’s home to bookstores and boutiques, cafés and restaurants, theatres and music clubs, and much more. Davis Square also offers prime office space and houses over 200 businesses and organizations, from high-tech corporations and healthcare providers to national nonprofit organizations and countless small businesses.

Davis Square is conveniently located near Tufts University, Harvard Square and Porter Square. A stop on the Red Line subway, Davis Square is served by several MBTA bus lines and threaded by the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway.

Art Scene

The public art of Davis Square showcases the area’s distinct urban character. In fact, Statue Park in the heart of Davis Square takes its name from the statues added to the square in the 1980s as part of the MBTA’s Arts on the Line program. The statues are based on actual Davis Square residents. In 1996, the statues were spread out beyond their original locations in front of JP Licks and Store 24 to include the Holland Street T exit and Statue Park.

Named for the seven hills of Somerville, Seven Hills Park is crowned by Clifford Selbert’s sculptures. Topping seven poles, each sculpture has a symbol reflecting Somerville’s history and landscape: a cow for the old Milk Way, an apple tree for the city’s orchards and a miniature McLean’s Asylum.

Davis Square is also home to one of Somerville’s unique forms of public art: the Somerville Arts Council’s Switchbox Project. Begun in 1997 by artists Catherine Jaggi and Shoshana Phillips, the Switchbox Project aims to bring art into the city’s streets by allowing local artists to use switchboxes as canvasses for their work.

Look for work by Hoay Cheah at the intersection of Cutter and Summer Streets and works by both Phillips and Jason Chase in Statue Park. More recently, Chase painted a jolly popcorn-themed box, alluding to nearby Somerville Theatre.

* Based on information provided by the City of Somerville and the Somerville Arts Council.

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History & Heritage

Davis Square was officially designated as a square in 1883. It was named for Person Davis (1819-1894), a grain dealer who moved to the area in 1850 and built his estate near the intersection of Elm, Grove and Morrison Streets. Davis Square came into existence largely because of the widening of Elm Street (1860s) and the construction of Holland Street (1870).

Public transportation stimulated residential development in Davis Square beginning in the 1850s with the arrival of horse-pulled trains running down Massachusetts Avenue to Arlington. Another boost came with the introduction of the Lexington & Arlington branch of the Boston & Maine Railroad in 1871. Over time, Davis Square also became an active commercial center.

By the 1930s, the trains that had brought so many people to Somerville and Davis Square were closed down. This decision contributed to Davis Square’s decline in the middle part of the 20th century. Factories shut, businesses failed and residents began to move out to the suburbs. According to a planning study completed in 1980, Davis Square suffered from “a lack of competitiveness among merchants, traffic congestion, inadequate parking and an increasingly deteriorated physical environment.”

Things in Davis Square began to turn around in the late 1970s thanks largely to two entities: the Somerville Office of Planning and Community Development, and the Davis Square Task Force. Their efforts culminated in the Davis Square Action Plan, which was adopted in 1982.

The overarching goal of the Action Plan was to use the arrival of the Davis Square Red Line subway station to spur business without destroying the area’s scale and character. The plan promoted proposals including:

  • The creation of a new bicycle path along the old railway line
  • The introduction of a number of small, well-distributed parking lots
  • The designation of Davis Square as a Commercial Area Revitalization District, which qualified investors for state funding

In 1984 the Davis Square subway station opened, beginning the transformation of the area into the popular and vibrant neighborhood it is today.

The Somerville Historic Preservation Commission has more information about the city’s history.

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Maps & Directions

By Train or Bus

Davis Square is easily accessible via public transportation. Train or bus – take your pick.

Train: See the Red Line map
Bus: Take Route 89, Route 90, Route 94 or Route 96

By Bicycle

All streets in Somerville (except I-93) are open to bicycle traffic.

Riding: This handy bicycling map shows the easiest and quickest routes for cycling across town.

By Car

Prefer to take your car? Davis Square has metered parking as well as a few public parking lots.

Driving: Get directions from your starting location.
Parking: View a Davis Square parking map