Forget “Slummerville,” Davis Square Celebrates Three Decades of Cool

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It’s really important that we get one thing straight: Davis Square is cool, will be cool and has been cool … for the better part of the last 30 years.

So, if you’re one of those jokers that calls the city “Slummerville,” allow me to drop some knowledge on you.

First, a history lesson … some facts that you simply can’t refute.

Davis Square is nestled between Tufts and Harvard — two awesome universities. It means Tufts and Harvard students, faculty and alum live or at least hang out in the area.

I know what you might be thinking. Tufts and Harvard folks surely prefer to live in the more trendy Harvard Square. But if you’re thinking this, you’re wrong.

First, much like the flux capacitor, something happened in 1985 that changed the city of Somerville forever: the Red Line was extended to Davis Square.

Davis Square, at the time a popular congregation spot for locals and some university folks, immediately became a desirable, affordable and, most importantly, train-accessible alternative to the more expensive Harvard Square and Boston proper.

Second, some of you might be thinking: “yeah, maybe some people moved to Somerville in the 80s and 90s, but that didn’t make it was cool or trendy.”

Au contraire.

I’m going to defer to lifelong Somerville resident and Somerville News Reporter Jimmy Del Ponte recalling the Davis Square of past in his “On The Silly Side” column:

If you walked through Davis Square in the 90′s you might see a guy with a huge boom box on his shoulder grooving to Baby Got Back by Sir Mixx-A-Lott, Mmm Bop by Hanson or Vogue by Madonna. Being a rocker, I was listening to REM, Smashing Pumpkins, or Clapton’s latest hit. Cars driving through Davis Square no doubt blasted MC Hammer’s Can’t Touch This. I’m not sure because I was at Barnaby’s (formerly The Coronet and later Redbones) holding court with the regulars. The 90′s saw a cast of characters in that joint with names like The Skipper, Bobby Polaroid, Peter Pizza, Chuckie, Harry the Hat, Uncle Paul, Magic, Bobby Doughnuts, Johnny M, and Big Bill. I remember when all those fancy micro brews started being popular and we got to try them out first. That was a long time ago, and it has been a very long time since I enjoyed an upstart brew and a pickled egg. We would never have stood for anything with the word slum in it. It still rubs a lot of us the wrong way.

As Mr. Del Ponte tells us, Somerville has housed a hotbed of artists for decades in Davis Square. That hasn’t changed. Today, only New York has more artists per capita than the City of Somerville.

Also, did you notice Del Ponte’s mention of “slum”? I hope you did. “Slummerville” strikes a chord with the locals. It strikes a chord with me. It should now strike a chord with you.

To add to this litany of evidence proving Somerville’s coolness, most of the haters out there have no clue that in 1997 the Utne Reader named Davis Square in Somerville “one of the 15 hippest places to live in the U.S.” The article illustrates how Somerville is in an era of socio-economic change shared by many other working-class and industrial areas of the country.

Somerville is only going to get cooler when the Green Line extension is completed later this decade. For the city’s successful efforts lobbying for the Green Line extension, Somerville was a 2009 All-America City Award (AAC) recipient. (VIDEO alert: check out Somerville’s AAC Award Recipient Presentation where Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone leads a group of impassioned Somerville residents arguing for the extension to happen by 2014.)

The coolness doesn’t end there, but that’s enough of a history lesson for now.

I will spend future posts reporting why Somerville is the center of the Greater Boston universe.

For now, I’m going to let this history lesson soak in.

It may not be the first time, but it certainly will not be the last: Davis Square is cool. Period.