Armenians in Watertown, MA
Watertown, a suburb of Boston, is one of the oldest Armenian communities in America. This small town of only 33,000, and with a land area of merely 4.2 square miles, boasts an Armenian population of 7,000 people. Armenians began immigrating to this town in significant numbers in the 1890s, attracted by rich business and educational opportunities.
Early Days: Armenians--mostly from the Ottoman Empire--started immigrating to Watertown in the late 1890s and early 1900s as a result of the Hamidian massacres. The main attraction in the city was the Hood Rubber Company. Opened in 1896, it employed up to 10,000 employees in its heighday and catered well to the immigrants of the country. The factory offered English learning classes, medical benefits, and of course a steady paycheck. Slowly word spread across the ocean about the Hood Rubber Factory and more Armenians came: by the late 1920s there were 3,200 Armenians living in Watertown and 500 working at the factory (Mirak).
Over the years, Watertown made a name for itself as a popular focal point of the Armenian Diaspora. As a result of this, more Armenians continued to come to Watertown from different parts of the world.
In 1970, the Watertown school district implemented an Armenian foreign language class into its high school curriculum. Albeight financial and personnel challenges, the class has continued, in one form or another, until this day (2013-2014 school year). In 1971 the Armenian Library & Museum of America (ALMA) was founded in Watertown and in 1988 it moved into the building on Main Street, which it still uses to this day. In 1991, immediately after the Nagorno-Karabakh War (also known as the Artsakh Liberation War), the Armenian community of Watertown proposed the renaming of a city street to "Artsakh" in commemoration of the region. Soon thereafter, the street in front of St. Stephen's Armenian Church was renamed to "Artsakh" and still stands to this day with that name.
Today: the Armenian community has certainly diminished in Watertown over the years. The heart of the Armenian community in Watertown is on the East end of Coolidge Square, known as Little Armenia. Here you will find numerous Armenian shops ranging from bakeries to liquor stores, as well as all of the Armenian churches of the city.