Winthrop — named after the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s second governor, John Winthrop — was settled in 1630, making it one of the oldest towns in the country. Despite its diminutive size, it has been home to writer Sylvia Plath, musician Steven Van Zandt, Governor Edward King, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, and several professional athletes.
But all that star power hasn’t gone to its head. Despite being one of the top 10 most densely populated communities in Massachusetts, Winthrop maintains its small-town feel.
“There’s still a pharmacy [Brown’s] where the old folks sit around and complain about the government,’’ says Town Manager Jim McKenna, and that quaint atmosphere is what realtor Jim Polino first mentions to prospective clients, too. “People still know each other by their first name,’’ he says. “If you move here, you’ll know who your neighbor is.’’
There are some decent restaurants in Winthrop, a few shops, the beaches, and a park or two — along with one of the town’s top tourist attractions, the circa 1637 Deane Winthrop House — but people don’t come to Winthrop to do a lot; they come for precisely the opposite reason: to escape having to do a lot.
BY THE NUMBERS
Number of boat slips
Pricing is competitive at Winthrop’s six yacht clubs and marinas, which also have a total of roughly 300 moorings. If you want to get in this summer, call now; spots are a still available. The only drawback: Depending on where you keep your boat, parking can be a bit of a hassle.
Total landmass, in square miles
Winthrop is on a peninsula that juts into Boston Harbor. At one end is 60-acre Deer Island, part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, and at the other is the protected Belle Isle Marsh, where locals run their dogs. Housing and commercial space get the part that’s left over.
Median sale price for a single-family home in 2013, according to The Warren Group, which tracks real estate trends. Winthrop has a mix of house styles ranging from basic New England three-deckers to midcentury ranches to ornate Victorians.
Miles of shoreline
Winthrop Beach and Yirrell Beach make about a third of that waterfront open to the public. The former is undergoing a $17 million restoration; the latter is only 25 minutes from Rowes Wharf on the town ferry.
PROS & CONS
Winthrop is the kind of place that would do Norman Rockwell proud, yet it’s less than a half-hour from downtown Boston. Buses pick up all around the peninsula and transfer to Orient Heights Station on the Blue Line, just five stops from State Street.
Even though airplane manufacturing has come a long way since Logan International Airport started giving its famous “Massport windows’’ to homeowners along the flight paths, most parts of Winthrop still get some noise from runways. Residents say they get used to it.
The state has helped Winthrop make lemonade out of lemons on Deer Island, where a state-of-the-art sewage treatment plant takes up two-thirds of the land. The remaining third is parkland with a nearly 3-mile perimeter trail that has gorgeous Harbor Island views.
Getting on and off the peninsula by car during rush hour can be challenging, as the only options are the Saratoga Street Bridge to East Boston and Winthrop Parkway and a few side street entrances to Bennington Street in Revere.
Elizabeth Gehrman is a frequent Globe contributor. Send comments to [email protected]