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Devens, Massachusetts
Devens Charity Chili Cookoff
Devens Charity Chili Cookoff
"More Than A Home. A Community"
Location in Worcester County and the state of Massachusetts.
Location in Worcester County and the state of Massachusetts.
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Middlesex and Worcester
Town Ayer, Shirley, and Harvard
 • Total 6.8 sq mi (17.7 km2)
 • Land 6.8 sq mi (17.5 km2)
 • Water 0.08 sq mi (0.2 km2)
 • Total 1,840
 • Density 269.2/sq mi (104.0/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s) 978

Devens is a regional enterprise zone and census-designated place in the towns of Ayer and Shirley, in Middlesex County and Harvard in Worcester County in the U.S. state of Massachusetts. It is the successor to Fort Devens, a military post that operated from 1917 to 1996. The population was 1,840 at the 2010 census.


The area itself is named after jurist and Civil War general Charles Devens. In 2011, the CDP tried to secede from Ayer, Shirley, and Harvard and become the 352nd town in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts but failed the vote, Some residents are still looking to suceed to become a town.

Military Use

The area operated as Fort Devens from 1917 to 1996. In that time, a formerly sleepy area was developed into a fort that was later redeveloped into the industrial area of Devens. Federal Medical Center, Devens was established as a federal prison on the grounds of the former base.

Civilian use

The U.S. Army post which resided at Fort Devens was officially closed in 1996 after 79 years of service. The process for land distribution for all parcels on the former Fort Devens allowed the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Shriver Job Corps, Massachusetts National Guard, Massachusetts Veterans and MassDevelopment to acquire the land. The bulk of the land was purchased by MassDevelopment for $17 million. MassDevelopment is a quasi-public development authority that has been given the task of turning Devens into a residential and business community. Since the closing of the military base, many of the existing buildings have been renovated or reconstructed; housing developments now exist, along with a growing business park, a new hotel, restaurants, two disc golf courses and a golf course. Veterans of the Army Security Agency have also expressed interest in building a museum there, as Fort Devens was their principal training facility for nearly twenty-five years.

On the political side, a comprehensive disposition process has been ongoing since 2003, charged with determining the future governance of Devens. During 2005 and 2006 it was determined that the governance scenario best suited for the regional stakeholders was to create a new independent town. On October 24, 2006, a vote to confirm the disposition recommendation for future governance was voted down by 2 of the 6 stakeholders, the adjoining towns of Harvard and Ayer (residents of Shirley, the Devens residents, MassDevelopment and the Devens Enterprise Commission supported the resolution). On November 7, 2006 during the State elections the second opportunity to vote on Devens disposition had only Harvard voting against the scenario with the towns of Ayer and Shirley supporting Devens as a town. Devens's disposition will now be determined by another disposition process or by the state legislature. Residents of Devens vote in either Harvard or Ayer but still have no elected representatives that have municipal authority in Devens. MassDevelopment maintains the utilities (such as gas, electricity and water) and contracts out public safety services such as firefighting and police.

Devens is home to New England Studios, a recently opened film studio.

Recreation and Places of Interest

There are two areas opened to the general public in Devens:

Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge is located to the south side of the former Fort Devens base.

Fort Devens Historic District is located to the north of the former Fort Devens.


Devens is a non-operating school district. It currently contracts with the town of Harvard for educating its children. However, Devens is the home of the Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School. Parker is a public charter school with students from about 30 towns in the central Massachusetts area.

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