The previous squares in our series (Davis, Porter, Harvard) are great sites to visit for food and drink, but Powder House is a different story. That’s not to say there’s nothing to eat there—by all accounts, brunch at Tu Y Yo, an authentic Mexican restaurant on Broadway, is worth your time—but it’s not the most remarkable thing. Powder House Square is unique as a curious outcrop of green space surrounded by residential properties, with a single frond of shops and restaurants.
The square is known locally as Powder House Circle because of its large six-directional rotary, which sits a half mile equidistant from Davis, Teele, and Ball squares. And if the thought of a large rotary appeals to you, try out this exciting road traffic fact: Broadway, which passes through Powder House Square, is one of Somerville’s oldest highways, dating back to the 17th century, when it ran from Charlestown to Menotomy (now Arlington).
On one side of the rotary, there’s Nathan Tufts Park, home to the 18th century powder house from which Powder House Square draws its name. The Old Powder House was built in 1703 as a windmill, and was converted to a powder magazine after being sold to the Colonial Government of Massachusetts in 1747. In September 1774, the British secretly sailed up the Mystic River and removed the gunpowder from the magazine, causing panic and uprising, and considered now to be the dress rehearsal for the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Once the British were defeated, the powder house was then converted for use as, of all things, pickle storage.
The powder house still stands, and the grass surrounding it is scattered with bronze memorials of its former uses. The green doesn’t stop there: On the other side of the rotary is the beautiful Tufts campus. And even the rotary has a listed park in its center. Heck, even the funeral home looks pretty remarkable!
It may not sound the most exciting place in the world, but residents get a lot of use out of the distinctive park, with families flocking to the grass in summer. And with only a short walk to Davis Square, a vibrant nightlife isn’t far away.