Charlestown, Massachusetts

Charlestown is the oldest neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts. Originally called Mishawum by the Native Americans, it is located on a peninsula north of the Charles River, across from downtown Boston, adjoining the Mystic River and Boston Harbor. Charlestown was laid out in 1629 by Thomas Graves. It was originally a separate town and the first capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It became a city in 1848 and was annexed by Boston on January 5, 1874.

Originally a Puritan English city during the Colonial era (a time to which many of the neighborhood’s structures date), Charlestown was founded in 1628 and settled July 4, 1629 by Thomas Graves and about a hundred others who preceded the Great Migration. John Winthrop’s company stopped here for some time in 1630, before deciding to settle across the Charles River at Boston.

The territory of Charlestown originally included what is now Melrose and Malden (both until 1649), Stoneham (until 1725), Somerville (until 1842), Medford, Everett, Woburn, Burlington and parts of Arlington and Cambridge. On June 17, 1775, the Charlestown Peninsula was the site of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Much of the battle took place on Breed’s Hill, overlooking the harbor and the town, only about 400 yards from the southern end of the peninsula. Bunker Hill is near the northwest end of the peninsula, close to Charlestown Neck and about a mile from the Charles River.

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