While the Belmont Hill neighborhood is characterized by mansions, most residents live in more modest homes. There are three primary commercials areas in Belmont, including Belmont Center, Cushing Square, and Waverly Square. For more than 70 years, Belmont Center enjoyed having a major department store – first Filene’s, and later Macy’s – at its core. That space is now occupied by other retail stores and restaurants.
Belmont, like much of this region of Massachusetts, was first settled by Europeans in 1630. Belmont was settled as an agricultural community, and was part of Watertown at the time. In 1638, Watertown paid the local Native Americans for the land, officially establishing the town.
The railroad then shaped the future of the town. As ice became a large industry at nearby Fresh Pond, a railroad was built to transport the ice. It soon extended further west through what would become Belmont and into Waltham. With small villages springing up around the stations at Waverly, Wellington, and Hill’s Cross, the residents came together in the 1850s led by John Perkins Cushing. As he funded much of the incorporation, the new town was named after his estate, “Bellmont” in 1859.
Belmont remained agricultural, sending its produce into the Faneuil Hall Marketplace for sale. It was especially known for tomatoes, cucumbers, berries, celery, and other small fruits. During the early 1900s, the population exploded with artists, scientists, physicians, and other professionals, who saw Belmont as an ideal place to building large estates for their families. The economy then shifted from traditional farming to commercial greenhouses, which persisted until the 1980s. Today the town is primarily residential with several retail areas.