Welcome to the Belmont Historical Society’s website. Our mission is to promote greater understanding and appreciation of the history, residents, contributions, and structure of the town of Belmont, Massachusetts. Find out more about what we do and other information about the Society by clicking on What We Do.
In Memoriam Richard B. Betts, lifelong Belmont resident, retired Town Engineer, the official Belmont Town Historian, author of several books about the history of the Town of Belmont, a leading member of the Belmont Historical Society for 50 years, and the go-to person for anything about the history of the town died on January 30, 2016 at the age of 88. A more complete story of his life and contributions to the Town of Belmont was published in the September 2012 issue of the Belmont Historical Society’s newsletter; you may read that tribute to Richard by clicking here. His last book, an update to The Streets of Belmont and How They Were Named, was published in 2014 and is described later on this page. On May 21, 1996 Richard Betts gave a presentation of the original version of The Streets of Belmont at a Historical Society meeting. That presentation was videotaped, and the original analog tape was recently digitized by the Belmont Media Center as part of its Belmont Community Moving Image Archive. You may now view that video here.
Programs From September through May of each year (with a vacation in January) the Society presents a monthly program on a topic associated with the history of Belmont and surrounding communities. Further information about our final program of the 2015 – 2016 season is available on our Coming Events page.
Information about past programs is available on our Recent Events page. You may watch streaming videos of recent programs including our program on April 12th, 2016. Barbara Berenson, a Boston area attorney and historian, spoke on One Woman, One Vote: The New Woman and the New Century, drawing upon her research for a forthcoming book about the woman suffrage movement in Massachusetts. This lecture was presented as part of the “One Book One Belmont” program organized by the Belmont Public Library with the Belmont Historical Society again a co-sponsor. Anita Diamant’s best-selling novel The Boston Girl was selected as the featured title for One Book One Belmont 2016. These videos are provided through the courtesy of the Belmont Media Center — the links are on the Recent Events page.
Belmont Historic Preservation Awards and Recognition Each year the Belmont Historical Society invites community members to nominate projects that have furthered preservation efforts in the town for the David R. Johnson Preservation Award. David Johnson was a former President of the Society, its long-time Treasurer, and an architect with a deep interest in historic preservation. 2016 awards for projects that have made a significant contribution to the preservation of Belmont’s historic legacy will be presented at the Society’s Annual Meeting on May 18th of this year. Click here for further information and the award nomination form.
The Society also operates a Historic House Plaque Program which offers attractive exterior wooden plaques that can be used to identify historically interesting properties that are are least 50 years old. This program imposes no restrictions on the properties or special requirements on the homeowners. The plaques are distributed at the Society’s meetings in December and May of each year. Click here for further information and the application form.
Newsletter The latest issue of our quarterly newsletter (March 2016) is in the mail to all members of the Society. This issue explores the history of what is today the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Habitat Education Center and Wildlife Center located on 90 acres of land on Belmont Hill. Beginning in the late 1600’s this land was gradually cleared of its old-growth forest and divided into tracts owned by a series of old Belmont families (Prentiss, Locke, Fletcher, Sumner, and Chenery). The house that is now the Habitat Visitor Center was built in 1914 as the home of Robert and Ruth Atkins. If you did not receive this newsletter (which is one of the benefits of Belmont Historical Society membership), you are invited to review the current and past issues in the Claflin Room (see below). Of course, we always welcome new members and invite you to take an active role in the Society’s activities. To learn more and to download an application form, click on Membership.
The Claflin Room The Belmont Historical Society’s collections are housed in the Claflin Room of the Belmont Public Library. The Claflin Room is normally open to the public and staffed by a Society volunteer on the following days:
Monday afternoon from 2:00 to 4:00 pm
Tuesday evening from 7:00 to 9:00 pm
Wednesday afternoon from 2:00 to 4:00 pm
Thursday evenings from 7:00 to 9:00 pm.
Note: The Belmont Library Board of Trustees will be using the Claflin Room for its business meeting on Thursday evening, May 12th, so it will not be open to the public on those dates.
Restoration of Historic Wellington Station The photograph at the top of this web page shows the historic Wellington Station, originally built as a private school building in the 1840’s and then used as the Belmont station for the Fitchburg Railroad from 1852 until 1879. Today the Wellington Station is owned and maintained by the Belmont Historical Society and sits just outside the town center at the intersection of Concord Avenue and Common Street. In the fall of 2014 the Society submitted an application for 2015 Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding to replace the deteriorating wood shingle roof on this iconic Belmont landmark. Click here to learn more about this important piece of Belmont history and the CPA process. On May 6, 2015 the Belmont Town Meeting members approved our request of $26,300 by a unanimous vote which will allow this much-needed restoration work to proceed. The Belmont Historical Society would like to express its thankful appreciation to the Town of Belmont, its officials, and the residents of our town for approving and supporting our Community Preservation Act funding request to restore and rehabilitate the roof of our Wellington Hill Station.
New Book About Belmont The new updated edition of The Streets of Belmont and How They Were Named was published in 2014 and is now available for purchase. This book traces the development of what is now Belmont from its beginnings as a rural sparsely populated farm community through its incorporation as a separate town in 1859 and its steady growth and transition into the “Town of Homes” that it is today. The original edition has long been out of print, but Town Historian Richard Betts has completed the revision which brings the story up to the second decade of the 21st century. On May 21, 1996 Dick Betts gave a presentation of the original version of The Streets of Belmont at a Society meeting. That presentation was videotaped, and the tape was recently digitized by the Belmont Media Center as part of its Belmont Community Moving Image Archive. You may now view that video here. Click on Publications to learn more about the new update of that book and download an order form to get your own copy.
Historic Thomas Clark House The nearly three-year effort to preserve the historic Thomas Clark house on Common Street in Belmont came to an unfortunate end on August 21, 2014 when the structure was demolished. The house, which had been built in 1760 and occupied continuously until recent years, was purchased by a developer who planned to raze it and build two new homes on the land. A campaign to save the house was launched in 2011, and on February 18, 2012 the house was moved from its original site to a temporary location on town-owned land on Concord Avenue near Belmont High School. All subsequent efforts to find a permanent location for the house and an organization to restore it and maintain it failed. Consequently, the building had to be demolished after some historic items were removed. You can watch a six-minute video of the demolition process courtesy of the Belmont Media Center.
Our website is a work in progress and we will continue to update it and add content, so visit us again soon. If you have any questions about the Belmont Historical Society or comments about this website, email us at BelmontHistory1859@nullgmail.com.