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Chelmsford, Massachusetts facts for kids

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Town of Chelmsford
First Parish Church
First Parish Church
Official seal of Town of Chelmsford
Let the children guard what the sires have won.
Location in Middlesex County in Massachusetts
Location in Middlesex County in Massachusetts
Country  United States
State  Massachusetts
County Middlesex
Region New England
Settled 1652
Incorporated 1655
Named for Chelmsford, Essex
 • Type Representative town meeting
 • Total 60.0 km2 (23.2 sq mi)
 • Land 58.7 km2 (22.7 sq mi)
 • Water 1.4 km2 (0.5 sq mi)
75 m (246 ft)
 • Total 36,392
 • Density 606.5/km2 (1,569/sq mi)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP Codes
01824, 01863
Area code(s) 351/978
FIPS code 25-13135
GNIS feature ID 0618220

Chelmsford is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts in the United States. It is located 24 miles (39 km) northwest of Boston. Besides the city of Lowell on its northeast, it is surrounded by four towns: Tyngsborough to the north, Billerica to the east, Carlisle to the south, and Westford to the west. Chelmsford is bordered by the Merrimack River to the north and the Concord River to the east.

Named after Chelmsford, Essex, England, the town was incorporated in May 1655 by an act of the Massachusetts General Court. When Chelmsford was incorporated, its local economy was fueled by lumber mills, limestone quarries and kilns. The farming community of East Chelmsford was incorporated as Lowell in the 1820s; over the next decades it would go on to become one of the first large-scale factory towns in the United States because of its early role in the country's Industrial Revolution. Chelmsford experienced a drastic increase in population between 1950 and 1970, coinciding with the connection of U.S. Route 3 in Lowell to Massachusetts Route 128 in the 1950s and the extension of U.S. Route 3 from Chelmsford to New Hampshire in the 1960s.

Chelmsford has a representative town meeting form of government. The current town manager is Paul Cohen. The town has one public high school—Chelmsford High School, which is ranked among the top 500 schools in the nation—as well as two middle schools, and four elementary schools. The charter middle school started in Chelmsford became a regional charter school (Innovation Academy Charter School) covering grades 5 through 12, now located in Tyngsborough. Chelmsford high school age students also have the option of attending the Nashoba Valley Technical High School, located in Westford. In 2011, Chelmsford was declared the 28th best place to live in the United States by Money magazine.


Settlers from the adjacent communities of Woburn and Concord founded Chelmsford. An act of the Massachusetts General Court in the last week of May 1655 town incorporated Chelmsford, and it was named after Chelmsford, England. The nearby communities of Groton and Billerica were incorporated at the same time. Chelmsford originally contained the neighboring town of Westford, and parts of Carlisle, Tyngsborough, and a large part of Lowell (formerly known as East Chelmsford). Both the Middlesex Canal and Middlesex Turnpike, major transportation routes, were built through Chelmsford in the first part of the 19th century.

1899 Chelmsford public library Massachusetts
Chelmsford Public Library

The Chelmsford militia played a role in the American Revolution at the Battle of Lexington and Concord and the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775, the latter where Colonel Moses Parker (namesake of the Parker School) and Captain Benjamin Walker of this town were killed.

Ralph Waldo Emerson opened a school in Chelmsford in 1825, closing it after a few months to take over his brother's school in Roxbury.

Chelmsford was the birthplace of the Chelmsford Spring Co. in 1901, which later became the Chelmsford Ginger Ale Company, acquired by Canada Dry in 1928. The ginger ale plant, rebuilt in 1912 after a disastrous fire consumed the original plant, stood on Route 110 until its demolition in 1994. The Chelmsford brand of golden ginger ale continued to be manufactured by Canada Dry for decades. It is currently manufactured by Polar Beverages for DeMoulas/Market Basket supermarkets, based out of neighboring Tewksbury.


Weather chart for Chelmsford, Massachusetts
temperatures in °F
precipitation totals in inches

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 23.2 square miles (60 km2), of which 22.6 square miles (59 km2) is land and 0.5 square miles (1.3 km2), or 2.29%, is water. Chelmsford is bordered by two sizable rivers: the Merrimack River to the north, and the Concord River to the east.

Chelmsford consists of several neighborhoods. In addition to the town center, smaller areas include South Chelmsford, West Chelmsford, East Chelmsford, North Chelmsford and The Westlands. North Chelmsford, an industrial village, is distinct from the rest of the town to the extent that it has many of its own town services. The northern parts of Chelmsford tend to be more urban and densely populated, while the south is generally more rural.

Like much of the rest of Massachusetts, Chelmsford has a humid continental climate according to the Köppen climate classification. Summers are typically warm and humid, while winters tend to be cold, windy, and snowy. The level of precipitation is roughly consistent throughout the year.


Typical houses in Chelmsford, Mass
Typical houses in Chelmsford, Mass
Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1850 2,097 —    
1860 2,291 +9.3%
1870 2,374 +3.6%
1880 2,553 +7.5%
1890 2,695 +5.6%
1900 3,984 +47.8%
1910 5,010 +25.8%
1920 5,682 +13.4%
1930 7,022 +23.6%
1940 8,077 +15.0%
1950 9,407 +16.5%
1960 15,130 +60.8%
1970 31,432 +107.7%
1980 31,174 −0.8%
1990 32,383 +3.9%
2000 33,858 +4.6%
2010 33,802 −0.2%
2020 36,392 +7.7%
* = population estimate.
Source: United States Census records and Population Estimates Program data.

As of the US census of 2010, there were 33,802 people, 13,313 households, and 9,328 families residing in the town. The racial makeup of the town was 88.6% White, 1.1% African American, 0.1% Native American, 8.4% Asian, 0.4% from other races, and 1.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2% of the population.

Historic places in Chelmsford


Chelmsford is located at the intersection of the major US highways of I-495 and U.S. 3. Also found in Chelmsford are state routes 3A, 4, 27, 40, 110, and 129.

Chelmsford Center is a notorious junction of roadways. The heart of the town center is Central Square - the junction of routes 4, 110, the end of 129, and Westford Street. The Square is affectionately known as 'Chicken Corner' to locals. Until the 21st century, lights there were seen as non-'historic', crossing the 1 acre (0.40 ha) of pavement with no controls save a few stop signs was akin to a game of Chicken. Drivers would wait in long lines of cars to enter the square, where they often would invent their own lanes, waiting for a relatively safe chance to cross. In 2004, the town was forced to put in stoplights and lane markers. They were necessary to control the traffic-clogged center. In addition to the Square, Chelmsford Center is a series of merging and splitting roads, many one-way, including the beginning of route 27.

Chelmsford is home to the former Drum Hill Rotary. This rotary was the cause of many accidents that occurred due to its small overall size and ability for vehicles to gain speed. It formed the intersection of U.S. Route 3 (exit 32), Route 4, Drum Hill Road, and Westford Road. The rotary was demolished in 2003. It was replaced with a four intersection square with traffic lights, and is now called Drum Hill Square. This was part of a widening project for U.S. Route 3 between Interstate 95 (Route 128) and the New Hampshire state line.

Freight travels daily through Chelmsford over the tracks of the historic Stony Brook Railroad. The line currently serves as a major corridor of Pan Am Railways' District 3 which connects New Hampshire and Maine with western Massachusetts, Vermont, and New York.

The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail runs 6.8 miles (10.9 km) through Chelmsford, including the Central Square intersection.

The LRTA bus routes 15, 16 and 17 connect Chelmsford to the Lowell train station on the MBTA Commuter Rail Lowell Line.


The Chelmsford public schools district serves students in pre-Kindergarten through twelfth grade. Data below are from Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE); class sizes are for 2008–2009 school year.

Active Schools
Name Grades Enrolment
Charles D. Harrington Elementary School Pre-K–4 586
Byam Elementary School K–4 536
Center Elementary School K–4 521
South Row Elementary School K–4 473
Col. Moses Parker Middle School 5–8 757
C. Edith McCarthy Middle School 5–8 947
Chelmsford High School 9–12 1412
Defunct Schools
Name Status
North School Building burned down in 1981.
Westlands Elementary School Closed due to budget cuts in 2008. Building repurposed as home for Chelmsford Community Education and Chelmsford Integrated Preschool ("CHIPS") programs.
George R. Quessy School Building no longer standing.
Highland School Interior rebuilt as residential.
McFarlane School Interior rebuilt as residential.
Chelmsford High School (1st) High School moved into new building. Building repurposed as Town Hall offices.
Chelmsford High School (2nd) High School moved into new building in 1974. Building repurposed as C. Edith McCarthy Middle School.
Murdoch Middle Public Charter School Became Innovation Academy Charter School and moved to new campus in Tyngsborough in 2008. Building repurposed as Middlesex Sheriff's Office Training Academy.

All expenditures considered, the Chelmsford public schools district spent $10,070 per pupil as of 2008, which was lower than the state average of $12,449. This was an increase of almost $400 from Chelmsford per-pupil spending in 2007. As of 2008 per-pupil allocation, $3,937 went to classroom and specialist teachers, $333 to administration, and $185 to instructional materials, equipment and technology.

In 2009, Chelmsford High School ranked 66th out of 150 public high schools considered by Boston Magazine. The ranking took into account many statistics associated with quality of education and academic performance, including the school's 14.5:1 student–teacher ratio. In the 2006–2007 school year, the average SAT scores for Chelmsford High School were 527 in the reading section, 519 in writing, and 535 in math. Chelmsford High School performed significantly better than the state average in the English, math and science portions of the 2009 Grade 10 MCAS tests, scoring 89, 87 and 77 out of 100, respectively.

Notable people

  • Josiah Gardner Abbott (1814–1891), born in Chelmsford, politician
  • Keith Aucoin (born 1978), former NHL player
  • Jeff Bauman (born 1986), author and Boston Marathon bombing survivor
  • Phil Bourque (born 1962), former NHL player
  • Gerry Callahan, sports columnist and radio host
  • Dawn Clements (1958–2018), artist
  • George Condo (born 1957), painter
  • Bill Cooke (born 1951), former NFL player
  • Dan Curran (born 1976), former NFL player
  • Edward DeSaulnier (1921–1989), state legislator and judge
  • Gururaj Deshpande, venture capitalist and entrepreneur
  • Jack Eichel (born 1996), NHL player
  • Steve Hunt (born 1958), jazz pianist and composer
  • Ulysses John "Tony" Lupien (1917–2004), Major League Baseball player and college baseball coach
  • Jon Morris (born 1966), former NHL player
  • Colleen Mullen (born 1980), college basketball coach and former player
  • Sandra Newman (born 1965), writer
  • Benjamin Pierce (1757–1839), born in Chelmsford, Governor of New Hampshire and the father of U.S. president Franklin Pierce
  • Jeffrey Snover, Microsoft Technical Fellow and inventor of PowerShell
  • Peter Torkildsen (born 1958), former chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party and former congressman
  • John Traphagan (born 1961), author and professor of religious studies and anthropology
  • Kristen Wilson (born 1969), actress
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