If you ask anyone who lives in Beverly whether they’re familiar with the Montserrat neighborhood, they’ll likely say, “of course!” But if you ask them where the neighborhood begins and ends, they might not be able to give you an accurate description.
Some Beverly residents might direct you to the Montserrat College of Art, a much more discernable landmark that first emerged in the late 1960s. But the college is technically located in downtown Beverly. Others will direct you to the neighborhoods surrounding the Montserrat commuter rail station, which would be more accurate.
Beverly is divided into 9 districts, which includes Downtown Beverly and the Montserrat neighborhood just north of it. Wikitravel lists the Montserrat neighborhood as “loosely defined,” but it has an interesting history that’s worth exploring if you’re planning to move to the Beverly area.
The Origins of Montserrat
The area that is now Montserrat was once home to the “Parramatta” house, a residence built by businessman Henry W. Peabody in the 19th century. The house was eventually leased to President William Howard Taft as the “Summer White House” in 1911 and 1912. Taft would vacation there to get away from the pressure of Washington D.C., but he inadvertently put Montserrat “on the map.”
When Montserrat gained national fame, it became a more attractive place for people to move to and vacation in. Some of the people who chose Montserrat and the Beverly area as a vacation spot decided to stay. But most of the residents were Massachusetts folks who moved in to fill much-needed roles in Beverly’s industrial sector.
According to Primary Research, a website about local history founded by two Massachusetts teachers, not much is known about the origins of the Montserrat name. The website states that “a group of researchers in 1974 were at a loss. They thought that Henry Peabody, being a world traveler, had probably chosen the name after returning from his favorite island in the West Indies, Montserrat Island.” But this hypothesis didn’t make much sense, as “Montserrat had been named at least 60 years before Henry Peabody moved there.”
The Montserrat Depot/Railroad Station
It’s difficult to say when the Montserrat neighborhood was labeled as such. But the first mention of the Montserrat name perhaps came with the Montserrat depot, a railway station installed just north of Beverly in 1874 to accommodate additional trolleys from Beverly and Salem.
The train station eventually became a great way for people to get to the North Shore from Boston and other major cities, and it was an important stop for commuters who worked in the city. The station is still a stop on the Newburyport/Rockport Line of the MBTA commuter rail.
Interestingly, researchers who produced a “Reconnaissance Survey Town Report” for the Massachusetts Historical Commission in 1986 were unimpressed with the Montserrat station: “The Montserrat station (also servicing the commuter rail), the least remarkable and authentic of Beverly’s depots, is a stuccoed one-story building with [an] overhanging hip roof,” they said. In their opinion, the station paled in comparison to the Beverly depot, which they called, “an exceptional eclectic Victorian structure of buff brick and freestone.”
The Montserrat Neighborhood Today
The Montserrat neighborhood itself is suburban, although it is somewhat more densely populated than some suburban neighborhoods. In the early 20th century, some who lived in Montserrat worked at the United Shoe Machinery Company (“The Shoe”), which is now the Cummings Center.
Today, Montserrat is a great neighborhood to buy a home in and settle down. It’s proximity to the ocean, downtown Beverly, and the commuter rail makes it an ideal location for young professionals, new families, and vacationers alike.
Image Credit: “Parramatta” Montserrat, Beverly, Mass. summer home of President Taft,” NOBLE Digital Heritage, accessed January 4, 2021,