By Mike Sullivan, WBZ-TV
SOMERVILLE – Contractors working on a Somerville home renovation uncovered a bit of history hidden beneath the exterior siding.
They are messages from the past, political graffiti dating back to 1925. The writing on the walls promotes John J. Murphy for Mayor. He would go on to become Somerville’s first democratic mayor in 1929, but he lost the race in 1925 to Leon Conwell by less than 800 votes.
“This reflects the current politics in a lot of ways. There were demands for recounts, a lot of claims of shady dealings,” said Nicole Gustas, a nearby neighbor who was a historic researcher for documentaries created by major TV networks like National Geographic or the Discovery Channel. “Murphy had a lot of complaints that republicans were pulling down his banners. If they are tearing down your banners, painting a house so they can’t tear it down, seems like the next logical opportunity. You had a lot of people walking through here as they were going down to catch the train into Boston. A lot of people would have seen that.”
Gustas says the Hudson Street property has been under renovation for a few years, but this is the first time the siding has been removed. She was one of the first people to spot the red writing and had to look into it.
“For a history nerd like me this was exciting,” laughed Gustas.
Part of the graffiti pushes people to go vote for Murphy on November 3. Another part says, “Play Safe.”
“John J. Murphy, his big campaign policies were, number one, he wanted to build a gym for the high school. Number two, he wanted to increase funding for the police,” said Gustas, explaining the reason behind “Play Safe” written on the wall. “The republicans had just spent over $300,000 renovating city hall, which was a lot more than that in modern terms. A lot of residents were outraged that the money was not going towards schools and police.”
Gustas said at that time Somerville was a republican hot spot, however the demographics were changing. She said Murphy eventually ushered in a run of democratic mayors in the city.