Newton as a model for Framingham?

A blogger over in Framingham writes about secessionist talk in her town, and suggests that the diehard South Framinghamites consider their town to be more akin to Newton or Boston, with village/neighborhoods scattered throughout the geographical area.

As residents of Newton know, these independent neighborhood centers -- such as Auburndale, the Lake, Newton Center, West Newton, Waban, and Newton Lower Falls -- are like little towns in their own right, except they have no political or administrative power. Political power rests in a neutral part of town -- City Hall, which is planted at the intersection of Comm and Walnut far away from any neighborhood center.

Boston has a similar setup, except that it has a real downtown area as well, and the historical reality of neighborhoods like Brighton and Roxbury were that they were once independent towns that merged with Boston proper in the 1800s (Brookline, interestingly, also had this opportunity, but declined, and is now an affluent semi-urban enclave sandwiched between Boston [Allston, Fenway, and JP] and Newton).

One thing the Framingham blogger touches upon is the dividing nature of Rte. 9. It effectively cuts off south and north Framingham, and contributes to this feeling of "us vs. them". Newton has its own north/south divide as well -- neighborhoods north of the Mass Pike at one time were generally more working class and lower middle class, while those south of the Pike were more affluent. There are historical reasons for this, relating to pre-Pike transportation issues (namely, the railroad and trolley lines), immigration, and the location of mills along the Charles in northern and western parts of Newton. Real estate valuations have changed this somewhat, but there's another factor that plays into the divide as well, and that's the existence of Newton North High School and Newton South High School. Families with kids attending Newton Public Schools will get into a North/South mentality at some point because of the high schools. When I was attending high school, and even to this day, running into someone who grew up here and asking where they went to High School can create instant bonds (if you went to same school) or a little bit of suspicion -- North people have a tougher reputation (this was told to me by a friend from South) while South people are almost guaranteed to be from more wealthy families, and softer.

On the other hand, I think that the strong village mentality in Newton offsets regional affiliation to a certain extent, and also curtails the rise of secessionist talk -- although I have a feeling the Lake would secede in a heartbeat if it was politically and economically feasible to do so.


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