Lexington was first settled circa 1642 as part of Cambridge, Massachusetts. What is now Lexington was then incorporated as a parish, called Cambridge Farms, in 1691. This allowed them to have a separate church and minister, but were still under jurisdiction of the Town of Cambridge. Lexington was incorporated as a separate town in 1713. It was then that it got the name Lexington. How it received its name is the subject of some controversy. Some people believe that it was named in honor of Lord Lexington, an English peer. Some, on the other hand, believe that it was named after Lexington (which was pronounced and today spelled Laxton) in Nottinghamshire, England.
In the early colonial days, Vine Brook, which runs through Lexington, Burlington, and Bedford, and then empties into the Shawsheen River, was a focal point of the farming and industry of the town. It provided for many types of mills, and later, in the 20th Century for farm irrigation.
For decades, Lexington showed modest growth while remaining largely a farming community, providing Boston with much of its produce. It always had a bustling downtown area, which remains so to this day. Lexington began to prosper, helped by its proximity to Boston, and having a rail line (originally the Lexington and West Cambridge Railroad, later the Boston and Maine Railroad) service its citizens and businesses, beginning in 1846. (Today, the Minuteman Bikeway occupies the site of the former rail line.) For many years, East Lexington was considered a separate village from the rest of the town, though it still had the same officers and Town Hall. Most of the farms of Lexington became housing developments by the end of the 1960s.
Lexington, as well as many of the towns along the Route 128 corridor, experienced a jump in population in the 1960s and 70s, due to the high-tech boom. Property values in the town soared, and the school system became nationally recognized for its excellence. The town participates in the METCO program, which buses minority students from Boston to suburban towns to receive better educational opportunities than those available to them in the Boston Public Schools.
On April 19, 1775, Lexington was the location of the first battle of the American Revolutionary War. A British military patrol made a forced march on Lexington and Concord on information from an informant that there was a large supply of weapons and gunpowder in the area. A force of Minutemen stood on Lexington Green to fight off the British. It is not clear where or who fired the first shot of the battle, but it is known as the "Shot heard 'round the world." Every year, on the third Monday of April, the town observes Patriots' Day. Events begin with Paul Revere's Ride, with a special re-enactment of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. At 6 a.m., there is a re-enactment of the skirmish on the Battle Green, with shots fired from the Battle Green and the nearby Buckman Tavern (to account for the fact that no one knows from where the first shot was fired, or by whom). After the rout, the British march on toward Concord. The battle in Lexington allowed the Concord militia time to organize at the Old North Bridge, where they were able to turn back the British and prevent them from capturing and destroying the militia's arms stores.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 16.5 square miles (42.8 km²), of which 16.4 square miles (42.5 km²) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.4 km²), or 0.85%, is water.
There were 11,530 households out of which 38.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 66.0% were married couples living together, 7.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.1% were non-families. 20.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.66 and the average family size was 3.10.
In the town the population was spread out with 26.4% under the age of 18, 3.5% from 18 to 24, 22.7% from 25 to 44, 28.5% from 45 to 64, and 19.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 44 years. For every 100 females there were 88.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.5 males.
According to a 2007 estimate, the median income for a household in the town was $122,656, and the median income for a family was $142,796. Males had a median income of $100,000+ versus $73,090 for females. The per capita income for the town was $61,119. About 1.8% of families and 3.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.2% of those under age 18 and 3.4% of those age 65 or over.
Engraved memorial bricks lining the Lexington Depot sidewalk
Lexington is probably most well known for its history and is home to many historical buildings, parks, and monuments, most dating from Colonial and Revolutionary times.
One of the most prominent historical landmarks, located in Lexington Centre, is the Common, or as it later became known, the Battle Green, where the battle was fought, and the Minuteman Statue in front of it.
Another important historical monument is the Revolutionary Monument, the nation's oldest standing war memorial (completed on July 4, 1799) and the gravesite of those colonists slain in the Battle of Lexington.
Historic Mullikan Oak Tree, September 2012
Other landmarks of historical importance include the Old Burying Ground (with gravestones dating back to 1690), the Old Belfry, Buckman Tavern (circa 1704-1710), Munroe Tavern (circa 1695), the Hancock-Clarke House (1737), the U.S.S. Lexington Memorial, the Centre Depot (old Boston and Mainetrain station, today the headquarters of the town Historical Society), Follen Church (the oldest standing church building in Lexington, built in 1839), and the Mullikan White Oak (one of Lexington's most distinguished and oldest trees).
The Great Meadow a.k.a. Arlington's Great Meadows, is a sprawling meadow and marshland located in East Lexington, but owned by the town of Arlington, Lexington's neighbor to the east.
Willards Woods Conservation Area, a small forest of conservation land donated years ago by the Willard Sisters. Willards Woods is referenced in the classic Saturday Night Live skit "Donnie's Party".
Wilson Farm, a farm and farm stand in operation since 1884.
Notable Lexington neighborhoods include Lexington Centre, Meriam Hill (and Granny Hill), Irish Village, Loring Hill, Belfry Hill, Munroe Hill, Countryside (sometimes referred to as "Scotland"), the Munroe District, the Manor Section, Four Corners, Grapevine Corner, Woodhaven, and East Lexington (fondly "East Village", or "The East End").
Marrett Square, at the intersection of Marrett Road and Waltham Street, is the location of some light shopping and dining.
The "Old Reservoir," sometimes referred to by locals as "The Res," used to provide drinking water to Lexington residents and surrounding areas. Now it offers a place to swim and picnic in the summer time. In the winter, when it freezes over, it is used as an ice skating area.
Book publisher D.C. Heath was founded in 1885 at 125 Spring Street in Lexington, near the present day intersection of Route 128 and MA Route 2, and was headquartered on that spot until its 1995 sale to Houghton Mifflin.
^"1950 Census of Population". 1: Number of Inhabitants. Bureau of the Census. 1952. Section 6, Pages 21-10 and 21-11, Massachusetts Table 6. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1930 to 1950. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
^"1920 Census of Population". Bureau of the Census. Number of Inhabitants, by Counties and Minor Civil Divisions. Pages 21-5 through 21-7. Massachusetts Table 2. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1920, 1910, and 1920. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
^"1890 Census of the Population". Department of the Interior, Census Office. Pages 179 through 182. Massachusetts Table 5. Population of States and Territories by Minor Civil Divisions: 1880 and 1890. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
^"1870 Census of the Population". Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1872. Pages 217 through 220. Table IX. Population of Minor Civil Divisions, &c. Massachusetts. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
^"1860 Census". Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1864. Pages 220 through 226. State of Massachusetts Table No. 3. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
^"1850 Census". Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1854. Pages 338 through 393. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.