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Ayer #66: Central MA’s Best Communities

Monday, June 25, 2012



Coming in at 66th in Central Mass is the town of Ayer. 

Located in the Nashoba Valley, Ayer was home to Camp Stevens, a training ground for volunteers in the Civil War, and later Fort Devens, which was established to train soldiers for World War I.  Fort Devens has been decommissioned, and repurposed it with housing developments, a growing business park, a new hotel, restaurants, several public and private schools, a disc golf course, and a golf course. 

Ayer boasts proximity to Routes 2 and 495, making it a gateway to all of Massachusetts. This small town has a historic downtown area as well as several major corporate headquarters.  Students attend school in the recently formed Ayer-Shirley Regional School District.

Ayer ranks last in affordability, thanks to a median home price of $250,000 and a median household income of just over $55,000. The town is slightly above average for its arts and culture, and slightly below the average for safety and education.

A look at Ayer's train station from yesteryear.

Ayer by the numbers

Established: 1871
Population: 7,427
Median household income: $55,863
Median housing price: $250,000

2012 Best Communities rankings
Overall ranking: 66
Affordability ranking: 72
Education ranking: 36
Economic condition ranking: 70
Safety ranking: 49
Arts & Culture ranking: 23

History in a nutshell:

Although small, the town of Ayer served as a regional railroad hub during the industrial boom and thus developed a commercial center that connected both the north-south and and the east-west lines and regions. Also, in 1935 Ayer built the largest Nordic ski jump in North America, which, however, only survived one winter season due to the lack of interest faced by the hardships of the Great Depression. Despite these financial setbacks, Ayer continued to develop various industries--such as Cains and Pepsi--and retained its historical downtown and rails servicing Boston.

Famous residents:  

Robert Frazier, Poet and writer
Mike Gillian, Longwood University men's basketball coach
Jamie Morris, NFL running back
Joe Morris, NFL running back
Betty Anne Waters, Lawyer featured in the 2010 film Conviction
Norbert Wiener, Child prodigy

Famous residents source: Wikipedia 
Additional reporting by Grace Fenton


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