Gilman Square, Somerville, MA
At its core, Gilman Square is the intersection of Medford Street, Pearl Street and Marshall Street, where an historic business district has existed since the middle of the nineteenth century. Gilman Square’s roots as a walkable neighborhood run deep. The Lowell Railroad was built through the area by 1850, and a wave of property subdivision and development quickly followed. By 1900, the handsome square was established framed by one- to four-story commercial buildings that had been constructed around the intersection of Medford Street and Pearl Street.
Residential neighborhoods were often created block-by-block, as large landowners subdivided their holdings and hired builders to construct single-, two- and three-family homes. Much like today, the demand for housing was extreme, with a booming economy attracting new residents. By mid-century, powerful social and economic forces had started to undermine Gilman Square’s neighborhood character. Public policy began to steer investment away from urban neighborhoods, and many families and business owners followed suit, beginning a forty-year exodus to the suburbs. Commuter rail service was discontinued, and Somerville’s streetcar network was phased out, cutting off access to the neighborhood.
Today, Gilman Square is embarking on its renaissance. Compared with the rest of Somerville, Gilman Square has more youth (15%) and more seniors (12%), more persons of color (34%) and more residents for whom English is a second language. There is a variety of architectural styles in Gilman Square and rental and sale rates are often more affordable than other Somerville neighborhoods (although prices have increased substantially over the past decade).
The Litchfield Block, at the core of Gilman Square, is handsome four-story, mixed-use building constructed in 1900. From roughly 1990 to 2009, the 3500 square foot ground floor was occupied by the Paddock Restaurant. Today, the space has been rehabbed by award-winning chef Ana Sortun, and her new restaurant “Sarma” opened recently. I was always a big fan of Ana’s restaurant, Oleana, in Cambridge, but Sarma is a new favorite that I frequent with my cousin, a former resident of the Gilman Square neighborhood. If you are looking for great atmosphere with food to shock your taste buds, you must try Sarma. For me, it’s such a delight to frequent Sarma as my cousin, who is a Vegan, is most accommodated by the staff that goes out of their way to offer her almost every dish on the menu with their Vegan twist. Thank you, Sarma!
The Gilman Square Green Line station is an important part of the light rail expansion from Lechmere, through Somerville and into Medford. Granite blocks will be repurposed from the site of the former Winter Hill train station, adding an historical element to the much anticipated train station, which will make the commute into Boston a breeze.
This is the neighborhood to invest in if you are thinking of purchasing a new home in Somerville. Let me take you to preview properties in this up and coming neighborhood before the new Gilman Square Station is finished. Oh, and tapas at Sarma?