The neighborhood on the other side of the Fellsway is known as Ten Hills. The site of Governor John Winthrop’s house in the seventeenth century and of Captain Robert Temple’s elegant mansion in the eighteenth century, Ten Hills was reduced to clay pits for brickmaking in the second half of the nineteenth century.
In 1900 the Metropolitan Park Commission, the forerunner of the MDC, acquired land along the Mystic River in Ten Hills and built Shore Drive. A portion of the shore became a popular bathing beach, with a wooden bath house built by the City of Somerville between 1906 and 1908, side by side with continued industrial uses of the riverfront. Houses began to be built in Ten Hills after World War I. A planned amusement park did not take shape, but a new bath house was built some time between 1925 and 1947. Ultimately the beach was closed due to water pollution attributed at the time to the adjacent rendering plant. Water quality in the Mystic River has improved over the last twenty years due to the closing of several combined sewer overflows; improved herring runs are a sign of this. The water column is technically swimmable if is not raining, but the sediments which would be stirred up by swimming are probably unhealthy and make swimming inadvisable.
Today all of the riverfront land along Shore Drive is owned by the MDC. There was a bit of political drama involved in the acquisition of one portion of this land: in 1966 the MDC acquired one parcel secretly by eminent domain just as a developer was about to present plans for a high rise apartment complex to the Somerville Planning Board. Most city politicians were upset by the taking, but residents who attended a hearing afterwards were overwhelmingly in favor of the MDC’s action.
Next : Mystic River: Part 1 of 3