Art by Anna Shapiro

A Very Brief History of Somerville

Somerville has a long standing history of being an urban industrial city. The artist team of Dedalus Wainwright and Anna Shapiro propose to address the unique industrial history of the city of Somerville in the three panels of the Porter Square Mall Elm St. Wall. Each panel represents a period in Somervilles industrial history, spanning over 3 centuries juxtaposing three elements: A map from the time period represented (18th, 19th and 20th Centuries); an image of an object manufactured in that time period; and a human hand manipulating the object, to represent the imposing nature of industry and the hands of the workers who support the industry from within.

Ship Building

18th Century. The industrial theme is shipbuilding. From the first ship built in the colonies to the last, built at the end of the 18th century, Somerville played a major role in the maritime trade history of New England. In the heyday of shipbuilding in the 1800s there were10 shipyards within a mile along the Mystic river alone. This panel incorporates a human hand guiding the ship, emblematic of the notion of the white mans myth being divinely guided to whatever adventures and trade lay ahead.

Brick Making

19th Century. The theme here addresses Somervilles history of brick making. Somerville's location, close to Boston and Charlestown, assured early development of markets for the city's bricks and slate. Many of the new settlers, including a large number of Irish immigrants, worked in the various brickyards of Somerville, producing as many as 1.3 million bricks a year by hand or 5.5 million with a new patented press. Development explosions in other parts of the country increased the demand for bricks and at the highest point of production, 24 million bricks were being made a year in the 12 brickyards in the city.

The Edsel

20th century. The theme is that of the auto industry. In 1914,Ford Motors opened its second Boston-area factory on the banks of the Mystic River in what is now the Assembly Square Mall (named in honor of its industrial history). The brief but influential history of Fords Edsel plant at Assembly square mall is near legend in Somerville. The story of the Edsel is the story of a real lemon.

The artists

Allston MA

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