Why begin a tour of Somerville in Boston? Sullivan Square stands on what was once a narrow neck of land between Charlestown and “Charlestown Beyond the Neck” — the present Somerville. Being in a narrow place between larger land masses made Sullivan Square a place where transportation routes naturally converged, and various transportation facilities developed here over the years. Changes in the transportation routes and facilities in Sullivan Square have had and will continue to have an important impact on the evolution of the Assembly Square/Mystic Riverfront area.
As you face the upper level of Sullivan Station, look for the Middlesex Canal commemorative plaque to the right of the entrance. The Middlesex Canal was a major engineering accomplishment in its day, and it helped establish industry in this country by making possible the development of the early textile mills in Lowell. Completed in 1803, the canal ran from the Merrimack River at Lowell to the Charlestown Mill Pond, from which point goods could be transshipped to Boston. Turn around (with your back to the station): imagine the canal in front of you, cutting through the center traffic island of Sullivan Square; the Charlestown Mill Pond was off to your right, on the other side of Cambridge Street. There were two Sullivans closely associated with the canal: James Sullivan, governor of Massachusetts from 1807 until his death in 1808, was the first president of the Middlesex Canal Corporation, and his son, John Langdon Sullivan, was appointed superintendent of the canal in 1808.