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Chelsea is a city in Suffolk Countymarker, Massachusettsmarker, United Statesmarker directly across the Mystic River from the city of Bostonmarker. 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 Bostonmarker until it was set off and incorporated in 1739, when it was named after Chelseamarker, a neighborhood in Londonmarker.

In 1775, the Battle of Chelsea Creekmarker 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 Bostonmarker.

Chelsea originally included North Chelsea—all of Reveremarker, Winthropmarker and parts of Saugusmarker. 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. This was the first time since the Great Depression that a 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 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.


Chelsea is located at .

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.5 square miles (6.4 km²), of which, 2.2 square miles (5.7 km²) of it is land and 0.3 square miles (0.8 km²) of it (16661.69%) is water. Located on a peninsula in Boston Harbor, Chelsea is drained by Chelsea Creek.

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 Districtmarker.


Old Pratt House in 1908
As of the census 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. There were 12,337 housing units at an average density of 5,639.9/sq mi (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.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.
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's 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 Universitymarker. In June 2008, the partnership with Boston University ended, and the schools returned to full local control. Chelsea also has only one private school while the other closed down leaving only one large parochial on Broadway.

Sites of interest

  • Apollinaire Theatre Company
  • Bellingham-Cary House
  • Chelsea Public Library
  • Walnut Street Synagoguemarker
  • Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home Foundation

Notable residents


Further reading

  • A listing is available of printed reports in the city archives.

External links

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