Armenians of Boston, Massachusetts and surrounding area
The City of Boston is characterized by its beautiful natural setting on the Atlantic coast with the Charles River cutting through to the port. Historic sites dating to the American Revolution are found throughout the city and surrounding towns. Greater Boston also hosts numerous world-class universities, colleges, and conservatories. A “sports-mad” town, Boston’s teams are regularly national champions.
Armenians who settled on the East Coast of the United States at the end of the nineteenth and start of the twentieth centuries clustered around industrial towns with the most employment opportunities. In Massachusetts this included Worcester, Lawrence, Whitinsville, and the Boston area. They congregated where they could find accommodation and jobs. In Lawrence, they settled close to the American Woolen Company, and in Watertown, near the Hood Rubber Factory. In the Merrimack Valley, Armenians were well known for the many farms they owned and operated. All around Boston, Armenians started small businesses: tailor shops, shoe stores, bakeries, rug repair stores, jewellery shops, and groceries. Some businesses grew much larger, becoming household names.
Early on, Armenians founded core establishments: churches, coffeehouses, libraries, and community centers where immigrants from all backgrounds could mingle. Armenians also gathered informally on beaches, in parks, and in each others’ backyards for picnics, music, dancing, playing cards, and tavli. Armenians lived in neighborhoods where residents were well acquainted and much involved in each other’s lives.
In time, residents began to move from industrial to suburban areas. The growth of chain businesses in the 1960s and 70s affected the small-scale businesses which Armenians owned. With new generations, other kinds of businesses were created and many Armenians began to enter professions. Numerous Armenians have been involved in civic life, some holding office. More recently, Boston has become a tech innovation and entrepreneurial center. Meanwhile, Armenians became more dispersed and moved, for example, from Watertown to Newton, Winchester, Haverhill, and further.
With these changes also came new kinds of community and diaspora centers. These organizations include the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), the Armenian Museum of America, the Armenian Cultural Foundation, the Armenian International Women’s Association, Project SAVE Armenian Photograph Archives, a branch of the Armenian Assembly, and the beautiful Armenian Heritage Park with its ever-changing Genocide memorial in downtown Boston.
Institutions, old and new, continue to serve as gathering places for Armenians of the area. In addition to the institutions mentioned above and the Armenian Apostolic, Protestant, and Catholic churches, there are also schools, dance and music classes, Knights and Daughters of Vartan, regular festivals and dinners, professional organizations, charities such as The Armenia Tree Project, and others.
Boston reaches beyond its community borders through the wide reach of two publications based in Watertown, the Armenian Mirror Spectator and the Armenian Weekly, read across the Anglophone world both in print and online. The Cambridge-Yerevan Sister City Association has been active since 1987.
Photo Credit: Chloe Barran, Pamela Young