Browse Exhibits (3 total)


The ideas of recreation, leisure, and play for all grew in popularity during the late 18th century and early 19th century as work days became shorter and city children found themselves without places to go when not at work or school. Recreation and playground movements took hold in cities as they developed more public spaces and parks.  With the establishment of the Playground Association of America in 1906, many cities, including Somerville, began to sponsor supervised playgrounds for the children of the city during the summer months.  

Though the Recreation Department was not formally established in Somerville until 1917, supervised play, sponsored in part by the city and the Playground Association of America, began in 1909. This program grew in popularity very quickly with the Somerville Journal reporting on July 13, 1917 "Large Attendance of Children Marks Season’s First Day of Organized Recreation on Eight Different Fields and School Yards--Patriotic Work a Feature...The throngs that were present on each ground on Monday was a strong evidence of the popularity of organized play among the children of the city.”

The photograph collection of the Recreation Department covers the 1920s through the 2000s with the bulk of the materials ranging from the 1950s-1990s. These photographs capture childhood memories of summertime, friendship, and play in addition to documenting the growth of the Recreation Department into a community where residents of all ages, not just its children, can participate in recreational, leisure and play activities. 

Also included with the photograph exhibit is an oral history with Richard Liberatore, Acting Chair of the Recreation Commission.

One Hundred Years of Show Biz

The Somerville Theater is celebrating its centennial. With such a long history, it isn't surprising that traces of its past landed in unexpected places.

The papers of Laurence Howard, Executive Clerk of the Board of Health is one example.  Howard worked at City Hall between 1905-1930. Outside of his professional duties, he attended plays at the Somerville theater, and belonged to the fraternal organization the Dramatic Order of the Knights of Korrasan.    

In honor of the Somerville Theater's one hundred year anniversary, we present the documents of a theater lover and regular attendee from the 1920s.

A Different Somerville: The City in the Early Twentieth Century as Seen Through Board of Health Records

The records in this exhibit came to the archives via the City Hall attic.  The Historic Preservation Office safeguarded the letters and reports Laurence Howard, Executive Clerk until they were delivered to the Archives in the summer of 2013.  These records were inventoried and scanned by Simmons College intern, Rachel Stanton.

Laurence Howard was the Executive Clerk of Somerville from the 1900s to the 1930. Just like today the Board of Health oversaw a wide range of activities to protect public health.  However, the conditions in Somerville, the state of medical care, and national issues were very different.

If you can't read the text in the document, you can click on the image to see a larger version, and to see full documents when there are multiple pages.