Wakefield is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts in the Greater Boston metropolitan area, incorporated in 1812 and located about 12.5 mi (20.1 km) north-northwest of Downtown Boston. The 73rd most populous municipality in Massachusetts, Wakefield's population was 24,932 at the 2010 census.
Wakefield was first settled in 1638 as Lynn Village. It officially separated from Lynn and incorporated as Reading in 1644 when the first church and corn mill were established. This first corn mill was built on the Mill River on Water Street, and later small saw mills were built on the Mill River and the Saugus River.
The old parish church became known as the Old or South Parish when in 1713 the North Parish was established. This North Parish later became the town of North Reading. In 1769 the West Parish was established. In 1812 the Old or South Parish of Reading separated from Reading and was officially incorporated as South Reading. At the time it was spelt South Redding, not South Reading.
The railroad was chartered and built in 1844 between Wilmington and Boston. This later became the main line of the Boston and Maine Railroad. The Boston and Maine Foundry was built in 1854 and was later reincorporated as the Smith and Anthony Stove Company. The Boston Ice Company cut and shipped ice from Lake Quannapowitt starting in 1851.
The Rattan Works (which made wicker furniture) was established in 1856 by Cyrus Wakefield. This later grew into the Wakefield Rattan Company and at one time had a thousand employees. In 1868 Cyrus Wakefield donated land and money for a new town hall, and in thanks the town voted to change its name from South Reading to Wakefield. The town hall, currently named for William J. Lee, is located at 1 Lafayette Street.
In 1856 the South Reading public library was established, which later became the Beebe Town Library. The first weekly newspaper in town was established in 1858.
One of the oldest and largest manufacturers of flying model airplane toys in the world, Paul K. Guillow, Inc. is located in Wakefield. The company is particularly notable for its extensive line of balsa wood model airplane kits.
Route 128 was built along the north edge of the town by 1958, and the American Mutual Insurance Company built its headquarters between Lake Quannapowitt and Route 128. American Mutual had over 1000 employees, most of them commuting to work via Route 128. By the late 1980s American Mutual was in liquidation due to the Woburn W. R. Grace litigation. The headquarters building was sold to the Beal Company and was home to Boston Technology Inc. which invented and manufactured corporate voice mail systems that operated on computer systems. Boston Technology merged in 1997 with Comverse Technology, a digital telecommunications equipment manufacturer, who later bought the building.
The northeastern part of Wakefield was home to an amusement park, Pleasure Island, billed as "The Disneyland of the Northeast," but the park closed in 1969 after only ten years of operation due to unseasonably cold weather that brought diminishing returns among tourists. In April 1971, a fire burned down much of the amusement park. The area now consists of several office buildings and is called "Edgewater Park".
The bicentennial of the incorporation of Wakefield took place in 2012 after the town was incorporated in 1812.
On December 26, 2000, seven workers at Edgewater Technology in Wakefield, Massachusetts were shot and killed by an Edgewater Tech employee. The 42-year-old gunman was an application supporter at Edgewater Technology.
During his trial, he stated that he was born without a soul and that God had allowed him to earn a soul by traveling back in time to kill Nazis. However, the prosecution asserted that the killings were motivated by his employer's garnishing of his wages to the IRS, as he failed to pay back taxes. He was found guilty of seven counts of first degree murder and sentenced to seven consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.
In 2008 this case was studied on the psychology program Most Evil.
The town also gained considerable attention in August 2008 surrounding the trial of alleged double-murderer Sean Fitzpatrick. He was found guilty of killing Michael Zammitti Jr. and Chester Roberts in March 2009, about two years after the event occurred.