The Town of Weymouth is the second oldest township in the Commonwealth, dating to 1622 when it was founded as “Wessagusset.” Renamed Weymouth in 1635, the town was boosted in that year by the arrival of 100 settlers from its namesake in England. The early settlement was incorporated into the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and slowly grew as a fishing and agricultural community.
By the time of the American Revolution, colonial Weymouth had a population of approximately 1,400. The town was graced by simple houses and churches that were wooden replicas of the brick and stone architecture of European origin. A simple network of paths and roads, tracing the most convenient routes through the varied upland terrain, linked Weymouth to nearby communities. The skeletal remnants of these early roads can be traced in some of the town’s existing streets and ways. In fact, Commercial Street has been identified as an original Native American trail.
The American Revolution was shortly followed by the Industrial Revolution, of which Weymouth was an active participant. Its impact on the town was made clear in 1837 when enough natural bog iron was discovered to support a local factory, the Weymouth Iron Works Company. The remnants of this era can be seen in a number of industrial buildings scattered throughout the town, many of which have been converted to other commercial and residential uses. During this time, Weymouth’s maritime and agricultural society transformed into a culture of manufacturing and trade. The demand for labor rose to support the new economy, and new businesses blossomed to supply the goods and services that the community required. A new style of commercial architecture emerged, as well, one of simple box-like buildings which featured pleasant facades and sufficient space inside for storage and trade. Again, the remnants of this era can be seen in several locations throughout the town, particularly in the village centers.
By the mid-1800s, Weymouth was experiencing a period of economic stability thanks to the expansion of the railroad and local financial institutions. As wealth expanded, so too did the population and the trend towards stylish homes. The number of residents grew to approximately 6,100, and new ideas about residential architecture were imported from Europe. Many of the surviving homes from this era are counted among the town’s most distinctive buildings.
When Weymouth’s iron industry declined in the face of competition from Pennsylvania steel mills, the shoe industry rose to the economic forefront. Shoe manufacturing employed about 75 percent of community residents, and along with some other manufacturing ventures, it supported Weymouth's economy through World War II. Immigration helped supply the workforce for the new businesses, and arriving cultures helped populate the town (along with the rest of the Great Boston region). Although Weymouth was linked by streetcars and railroads to surrounding communities, most of the local retail and service businesses were in close proximity to one another and within walking distance of many homes. This was an era when local corner stores thrived on foot traffic
After World War II, changes in local demographics and regional economies had a profound effect on Weymouth. Rising incomes led to a boom in automobile ownership, and the federal and state governments responded with aggressive highway improvement programs. The general population also grew rapidly, and families moved away from urban centers like Boston in great numbers. Weymouth proved to be ideally located as a bedroom community within the greater metropolitan region. As a result, the town’s population exploded. Some 21,000 new residents were added in just the 15 years between 1945 and 1960.
Bisecting the town in 1956, the opening of Route 3, combined with the elimination of commuter rail services, had further impacts on Weymouth. Better paying jobs in the city and a good road system to get there made it possible for more people to pursue the dream of earning more and living better. The majority of residents began using the expressway and other newly constructed roads to commute elsewhere for work. One by one all the shoe factories closed their doors, and the local economy shifted dramatically to small service retail businesses and some wholesale operations. By the late 20th century, Weymouth had transformed into a mature suburb of the Greater Boston region.