The Town of Winthrop is a municipality in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States. The population of Winthrop was 17,497 at the 2010 U.S. Census. It is an oceanside suburban community in Greater Boston situated at the north entrance to Boston Harbor, close to Logan International Airport. The town is on a peninsula, 1.6 square miles (4.2 km2) in area, connected to Revere by a narrow isthmus and to East Boston by a bridge over the harbor inlet to the Belle Isle Marsh Reservation. Settled in 1630, Winthrop is one of the oldest communities in the United States. It is also one of the smallest and most densely populated municipalities in Massachusetts.
The town is named after John Winthrop (1587–1649), second governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and an English Puritan leader. On 8 April 1630, Winthrop departed from the Isle of Wight, England on the ship Arbella, arriving in Salem in June where he was met by John Endecott, the first governor of the colony. Winthrop served as governor for 12 of the colony's first 20 years of existence. It was Winthrop who decided to base the colony at the Shawmut Peninsula, where he and the colonists founded what is now the city of Boston.
The town was settled in 1630 by English Puritan colonists as Pullen Poynt. In 1775, residents of what is now Winthrop, Revere, and Chelsea played a key role in the Battle of Chelsea Creek of the American Revolutionary War. It was officially incorporated in 1852. It is one of the four municipalities in Suffolk County (the others are the cities of Boston, Revere, and Chelsea). It is located on a peninsula, at the beginning of the North Shore, with seven miles (11 km) of shoreline that provides views of the ocean to the east and of the Boston skyline to the west.
Originally part of an area called Winnisimmet by the Native Massachusett tribe, the peninsula was annexed by Boston in 1632 and within five years became the grazing area for farm animals of the rapidly growing Boston colony. In 1637 it was divided into 15 parcels of land that were given by Governor John Winthrop to prominent men in Boston with the stipulation that each must erect a building on his land within two years. Few, if any, of these men ever lived here, but their farms prospered. One of these early houses, built initially during the first half of the 17th century, and rebuilt in 1675, was the home of Governor Winthrop’s youngest son, Deane Winthrop, who lived there until his death in 1703. This house is still standing and is maintained, for public viewing, by the Winthrop Improvement and Historical Association.
In 1739, what is now Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop withdrew from Boston due to governmental control disputes and became the Town of Chelsea. Again the desire for more local control resulted in Revere and Winthrop seceding from Chelsea in 1846 to become North Chelsea. Shortly thereafter, in 1852, Winthrop was incorporated as a town in its own right with a Board of Selectmen and Town Meeting form of government. In 1920, Winthrop was the second town in the Commonwealth to apply for and receive a Charter for a Representative Town Meeting, which continued to 2006.
Winthrop adopted a home rule charter in 2005 with a council-manager form of government and is no longer governed by a representative town meeting. It is now classified as a town with a city form of government. The new Town Charter, which took effect in 2006, was passed in a special election. The Board of Selectmen and Town Meeting were abolished, and legislative powers were vested in an elected Town Council. Executive power, largely ceremonial, resides in the Council President, who is popularly elected. An appointed Town Manager serves as the head of administrative services. On July 26, 2007, the Winthrop Sun Transcript reported that a movement was beginning to abolish the Town Council and return to a Representative Town Meeting. The multi-step process to reverse the changes made by the 2006 charter is quite complex, so it remains to be seen what form of government Winthrop will have going forward. As of 2011, no changes have been made to Winthrop's form of government.
Deer Island, though within the city limits of Boston, is located in Winthrop Bay. It ceased to be an island in the 1930s when Shirley Gut, which separated it from Winthrop, was filled in. The island has a sordid past as an internment camp for Native Americans during King Philip's War, a quarantine station where many immigrants died, and the site of a county jail. Today the island is home to the mammoth Deer Island Waste Water Treatment Plant, which provides sewage treatment for the Boston area.
Winthrop has a weekly newspaper, the Winthrop Sun Transcript, which reports local news, current events, happenings, and concerns.