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Hidden History

An unexpectedly hip shopping district with an industrial legacy

Finished Amphitheater


e’re as surprised as you are at how well Assembly Row has turned out, after the Somerville neighborhood’s history as a long-neglected industrial wasteland on the Mystic River side of elevated I-93. Now it’s an unexpectedly cool collection of high-end apartments, premium outlet stores, good restaurants and bars, six acres of running and cycling trails, a Legoland Discovery Center, and other entertainment with a water view (and, at the other end, a great view of the Boston skyline) you never knew was there. In short, Assembly Row is a living example of America’s shift from making things to buying them. The secrets? Look closely as you shop to see the last surviving trusses from the Ford assembly plant that gave the place its name, and where the company made everything from World War II tanks to Edsels before pulling out in 1958 and leaving Somerville with a blighted mess that took decades to develop. And while we might have thought twice before memorializing one of history’s greatest product failures, check out the bottom of the columns of the Avalon apartments. That’s the logo of the Edsel.



From the time of the invention of the automobile until well into the 20th century, Massachusetts produced more cars than Detroit, from Rolls-Royces for the American market in Springfield to Fords in Cambridge and then Somerville, to Buicks, Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, and Chevrolets in Framingham. The Framingham General Motors Plant, at Loring Drive and Western Avenue, was the last to close, in 1989. It’s now a warehouse.

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