Aerial drone view shows updated Broadway Plaza in July. / Town of Arlington photoAerial drone view shows updated Broadway Plaza in July. / Town of Arlington photo

Where history meets modern sidewalks

UPDATED July 20: An estimated 50 people attended the Tuesday, July 19, ribbon cutting at Broadway Plaza in Arlington Center. 

Arlington Chamber of Commerce representatives, town officials and project partners celebrated the completion of the Arlington Center sidewalk project, finished in early July.

Speakers, according to a town news release, included Town Manager Sandy Pooler and Chamber Executive Director Beth Locke.

See more photos >> | Watch video >>

Frederick A. Laskey, director of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), and local chamber representatives supplied gift bags, including coupons while supplies last.

Participating businesses include the Regent Theatre, Charlie’s Barkery, Sweat Fixx, Ready Set Kids, Zhen Ren Chuan Martial Arts and Arlington Body & Brain.

The project is one component of ongoing improvements to the Mass. Ave. corridor, the release says. 

“We are excited about the town’s recent investments in Arlington Center,” Locke said in the release. “Beautification of our business districts is high on the chamber’s agenda. A visually appealing downtown attracts businesses and visitors, increases property values and improves community spirit.”

As part of the project, sidewalks on Mass. Ave. and Broadway from Franklin Street to Pleasant Street were replaced in summer 2020 during the height of the pandemic.

Project includes water-main work, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant features

This work included replacement of brick walks with ADA-compliant surfaces as well as construction of ADA-compliant crosswalks and ramps. Plaza reconstruction included plaza surface replacement, tree plantings, benches and new landscaping.

“The new sidewalk and plaza surfaces make for a more accessible experience for visitors to Arlington Center,” Pooler said. “We appreciate the patience of area business owners, residents and patrons who visited during the project and are grateful for our collaboration with the MWRA for the reconstruction of Broadway Plaza.”

The Broadway Plaza reconstruction was scheduled after the sidewalk replacement to allow the MWRA to work beforehand on the water main running underneath the area. Because the MWRA needed to include restoration of the plaza in the project, its leaders agreed to spend those funds on the town’s sidewalk plan. The MWRA agreed to coordinate the restoration of the plaza and fund 70 percent of the $350,000 for its reconstruction.

“Our 10-mile Weston Aqueduct Supply Main 3 was installed in the 1920s and 1930s and is a critical supply for more than 250,000 residents in Arlington and seven other communities,” Laskey said in the release. “Arlington has been a great partner, and we really appreciate the patience and cooperation of the many businesses that have been impacted. Hopefully, this beautiful new plaza will attract a lot of new customers.”

VHB, of Watertown, designed the project. The reconstruction of the sidewalks was performed by Allessandro Corp. of West Bridgewater, and the MWRA water work and the plaza reconstruction was done by Albanese D&S Inc. of Dracut.

Information about the Arlington Center sidewalk project

Project overview plan

Broadway Plaza plan

Tree inventory

Additional project information may be found at at

What's behind the historical marker?

Cooper Tavern marker at Broadway Plaza. / Town of Arlington photoCooper Tavern marker at Broadway Plaza. / Town of Arlington photo

In 1775, no Starbucks stood at what is today Mass. Ave. and Medford Street. At that site was Cooper's Tavern.

A historic marker at the renovated Broadway Plaza outlines the tale:

Here stood Cooper’s Tavern,
in which
Jabez Wyman
Jason Winship
were killed by the British
April 19, 1775.

Richard A. Duffy, town historian, provides some backstories.

“There are images of a building constructed in 1826 that replaced Cooper’s Tavern, known variously over time as the West Cambridge Hotel and the Arlington House hotel.

Cooper's Tavern postcard circ 1908Cooper's Tavern circa 1908. / Robbins Library postcard

“During the U.S. centennial celebrations of 1875, the owner got the idea to paint “Cooper Tavern 1775” on the Medford Street façade. The paint stuck, despite the derision of many at the nerve of so boldly claiming a fictitious historical connection.

“And the Cooper name stuck until the building was replaced in 1925 by the present one; Cooper’s Spa was a soda fountain and lunchroom on the spot of [the extant] Starbucks.”

Duffy, who provided the postcard at left, noted that it shows the original placement of the granite tablet, near the corner and facing Medford Street.

The tablet was erected in 1877, and the wording on it made plain that it marked the "site" of Cooper Tavern, despite the building looming above with that name painted on its side, Duffy wrote.

He provided a quotation regarding the owner of the Arlington House who decided to add "Cooper Tavern -- 1775" to the gable ends of his building. Arlington historian and genealogist Marietta Peirce Bailey wrote in 1907 that "a paint brush is a slimsy foundation on which to build a relic of past days."

As for the real Cooper Tavern, Duffy wrote, there is nothing in the historical record to suggest that it was demolished because of the murders that took place there, just as the Jason Russell House continued to be a private residence and working farm following the loss of life on the site on April 19, 1775.

Other sources

An online Cambridge historical source reports: “Benjamin Cooper and his wife, Rachel Cooper, owned Cooper’s Tavern. It, like Blue Anchor Tavern, was a local watering hole made famous by its involvement in Revolutionary events.

“On April 19, 1775, in the thick of the British retreat from the Battle of Lexington and Concord to Boston, Jason Winship and Jabez Wyman were enjoying a drink at Cooper’s Tavern. Unfortunately for them, it was on the route of the British soldiers’ fleeing to safety, to Boston.

“A month after the incident, Mrs. Cooper was interviewed and described the dramatic scene, 'the King’s regular troops under the command of General Gage, upon their return from blood and slaughter, which they had made at Lexington and Concord, fired more than one hundred bullets into the house where we dwell, through doors, and windows…

“'The two aged gentlemen [Winship and Wyman] were immediately most barbarously and inhumanly murdered by them, being stabbed through in many places, their heads mangled, skulls broke, and their brains out on the floor and walls of the house.'”

“These two men, along with another Cantabridgian, were buried at the Old Burying Ground.

Learn more about this marker and others in Arlington >> 

Here is the site in 1906 >> 

April 25, 2022: Broadway Plaza reconstruction advances


Sept. 22, 2021: 9 trees to be removed from Broadway Plaza after some object

This news announcement was published Sunday, July 17, 2022. It was updated to correct the date of the event. YourArlington regrets the error. It was updated July 18, to add sidebar, and July 19, after the ribbon cutting, as well as July 20, to add photo/video link.