Brighton Allston Historical Society

Brighton Allston Historical Society The Brighton Allston Historical Society holds educational events, offers publications, and runs the Heritage Museum for and with our community.

Given the fact that the former St. Gabriel's Monastery is an official city landmark partly due to the efforts of the His...
The Overlook at Saint Gabriel's

Given the fact that the former St. Gabriel's Monastery is an official city landmark partly due to the efforts of the Historical Society, thought people might be interested in the status of the new residential complex going up there- a large development of about 600 units, but 27 of them in the restored Monastery building- and through the direct efforts of the Historical Society, we were also able to get St. Gabriel's church saved, the former priest's house, and the landscaped grounds saved as well. The church is being renovated into a new community center for the complex. Change is never easy, but we are pleased that some of our old neighborhood landmarks are saved, and will live on with at least a new life and purpose.....

Restoring and reimagining a former monastery and church as a housing community featuring public open space and parks.

In honor of Memorial Day today, thought it might be nice for a brief post about our cemeteries in our neighborhood.... w...

In honor of Memorial Day today, thought it might be nice for a brief post about our cemeteries in our neighborhood.... with a few surprising facts you might not know about.

There are two main cemeteries in the neighborhood- one long since closed to new burials, while the other is still active. Both are owned by the City of Boston.

The original graveyard in the neighborhood is the old Market Street Burial Ground, a historic cemetery just outside of Brighton Center. It was established in 1764 on Market Street. just north of Brighton's First Meeting House (which stood on the Washington/Market corner). Prior to that, from the 1630's until that date, residents of what then was called Little Cambridge were buried in the Old Burial Ground in Harvard Square, since our neighborhood was an extension of Cambridge.

The Market Street Burial Ground was used until 1872, when it was closed for new burials. In addition, in an interesting footnote to history, it actually saw some of its "residents" leave in 1871- because in that year Market Street was widened, and the front part of the graveyard stood in its path. So 140 bodies were moved in that year to our other cemetery- Evergreen Cemetery on Commonwealth Avenue.

Evergreen, Brighton's second, and only still active cemetery, was laid out in 1850 on about 14 acres of land in the southern part of the town. I would define this location now as being on Comm. Ave. overlooking the Reservoir, but in 1850, neither existed- South Street was the original address of the cemetery, and the Reservoir wasn't created until 1870. In the late 1890's Comm. Ave was extended to the Newton border from Chestnut Hill Ave., and it was laid out on the old right of way of the original South Street.

And as a final note, there were actually OTHER small cemeteries within our neighborhood, at least one of which still exists. Those were the private graveyards maintained by the various Catholic religious orders. At the old St. Gabriel's Monastery grounds, the Passionist Cemetery still survives; there was also a burial ground for the Sisters of the Cenacle at the Cenacle property on Lake Street- but these bodies were moved to the main convent site in New Jersey when the Sisters sold the Cenacle grounds to EF Language School. Similarly, there was the tomb of Cardinal O'Connell at St. John's Seminary- in 2011 his body was moved to a crypt at the chapel at the Seminary.

There may have been other burial spots at the others institutions in our neighborhood, it is just that I am not individually aware of them.

Thought I'd share a topic today that may surprise many of you with the actual details buried in our history- the number ...

Thought I'd share a topic today that may surprise many of you with the actual details buried in our history- the number of hotels that once existed in our neighborhood. More than you might think.......

Again, rather than going into great historical detail here, I'd rather give you more of an overview, and give you the link to our website where Bill Marchione wrote a nice background on all of the hotels that once populated Brighton Center- 6 or 7 if I count them right:

In addition to those hotels, I'll mention an additional four that were in other parts of our neighborhood.

The reason there were so many hotels in Brighton Center is an obvious one if you know the rest of our history- the establishment of the cattle industry in Brighton during the Revolutionary War, which by the early 1800's was focused in the Brighton Center area. For much of the 1800's, Brighton was the center of livestock trading for all of New England, and that heavy commerce, with a constant stream of farmers, traders, etc., fostered the growth of a multitude of hotels. The most famous of course was the Cattle Fair Hotel, established in 1830 at the corner of Market and Washington Streets. It was enlarged to 100 rooms in the 1850's, and it had the stockyards and auction facilities right behind it until the 1880's (after that, the hotel's name changed to the Faneuil House, likely more of a lodging house set-up by that point, and it was demolished in the late 1890's).

But there were other hotels too- including one even older- the Brighton Hotel opened in 1820 in the old (1780's) Winship mansion, now the site of the Police Station, which was also very popular. It too was enlarged at some point, and was called Wilson's Hotel in its later years. It closed around 1875, and made way for the police station in the 1890's.

And there were more.... when the former 1818 built Agricultural Hall was moved from the current site of the Winship School to the corner of Washington St. and Chestnut Hill Ave around 1850, it became the Scates Hotel, lasting into the late 1800's; the Nagle Hotel on the corner of Washington and Winship Streets, opened in the 1860's, closing in 1892, with its demolition in 1922; the Rockland House, another small hotel that opened in the 1870's in what is now the Porter Belly's building at the corner of Washington and Academy Hill Road (the old Shamrock); and the Reservoir House, on the corner of Wirt and Washington. This last one physically had the most fascinating history I think- the building was actually moved to the site from Beacon Street in the 1860's, and likely housed workers building the Reservoir. Many years later, in 1912, the hotel, by then called the Court Hotel, finally closed, and the building was moved a second time, to nearby Henshaw Street, where it still stands as #60- a house set back from the street.

The final Brighton Center Hotel was probably more of a residential hotel, but it nonetheless had a dining room and advertised rooms- so worth mentioning here- the 1907 built Imperial Hotel on Market Street, which actually looks more like an addition to the 1898 built Washington (Rourke's) building right next to it.

While there was this big concentration of hotels in the Brighton Center area, other parts of the neighborhood had hotels, too- all with their own reason for existence. When the stockyards moved in the 1880's down to be adjacent to the Boston & Albany train tracks, near the Brighton Depot and the Abattoir, a new hotel was built on North Beacon Street, about where Life Street is today, to house people doing business there. It was called the Albany House- a large, 3-story brick mansard roofed building. Not sure when it closed as a hotel, but the building survived into the mid 1900's.

Three other hotels also existed in either North Brighton or North Allston, and were active in the 1800's- the Charles River Hotel stood at the intersection of Market St. and Western Ave., abutting the river, and served the commercial activity in that busy location; the St. Julien House, contained in one of the old Winship family homes on the corner of Market and North Beacon Sts.; and the Riverside Hotel, at the corner of Cambridge and North Harvard Streets. This last hotel existed because of the large Beacon Park horse trotting park right across the street- one of New England's oldest horse racing tracks. Beacon Park existed from the 1860's until the 1890's, when it became the site of the Beacon Park rail yards.

Finally, we have the modern era of lodging in our neighborhood- the circa 1960 Charles River Motel on Soldiers Field Road, later a Day's Inn, and now proposed as the site of a new residential development; the larger Days Inn about a mile east between Soldiers Field Road and Western Ave. - now transformed into the trendy "Studio Allston" Hotel- but just like the other Days Inn, is now part of the site of a proposed major new housing complex; the Best Western Terrace Motel at 1650 Comm. Ave.- ALSO the site of a soon to be new residential development (do you see a TREND here...?); the large Double Tree Suites at the corner of Cambridge Street and Soldiers Field Road; the new AC Marriott in Cleveland Circle next to the Reservoir T stop; and not yet built, but planned at Boston Landing- a new 20-story or so "boutique hotel"..........

Kind of as a follow-up to my prior posts about the Charles River bridges, I thought I would finish the topic by using th...

Kind of as a follow-up to my prior posts about the Charles River bridges, I thought I would finish the topic by using this post to showcase the rest of our neighborhood's bridges- they are probably not as interesting as the story of the river bridges, but nonetheless worth showing at least- namely, the bridges under and over the old Boston & Albany main train line through our community.

This main line was built in 1834, one of the earliest lines in New England. It was originally built as the Boston & Worcester, then later became the Boston & Albany. While bought by the New York Central in the early 1900's, most knew it as the Boston & Albany for years after that. While those railroads are all long gone, the line still is a main line from Boston heading west, with commuter rail to Worcester and Framingham, Amtrak service to Chicago, and some freight service.

Because of the topography of our neighborhood, there were originally no bridges east of Market Street- both Cambridge Street and Everett Street crossed these busy tracks at grade, with crossing gates, as did Franklin Street This didn't change until the late 1890's (more later). So the first bridge encountered actually wasn't until Market Street, where the road passed over the rail line below. This was also the location of the first train station in the neighborhood- the original Brighton Depot- just west of the bridge on the north side of the tracks. While today the next bridge going west is at North Beacon St. (with the trains over the road), in the 1830's there were actually two small bridges over the tracks between the two above streets- they connected the two parts of the old Winship Nurseries/Gardens, which had been bisected by the construction of the tracks. With the selling off of the Nursery site in the late 1850's, these two bridges most likely disappeared soon thereafter.

From North Beacon Street westwards, the train line was built up on an embankment above the Charles River marshes, and that therefore resulted in both North Beacon Street and Parsons Street passing under the tracks, which were on small overpasses. Brooks Street actually ended at the tracks, at Faneuil Depot, and wasn't extended under the rail line until about 1900.

This same time period- the late 1890's- is when major changes were made along the B & A tracks that actually altered the surrounding landscapes. Because it was getting quite hazardous to cross the busy 4-track line, the railroad embarked on a major construction project- eliminating all three RR crossings in Allston (Cambridge, Franklin, & Everett Streets) by building up the surrounding land near the tracks at two of the locations, so that new bridges could be built for the first time at Cambridge and Everett Streets, and closing off Franklin St. to horses and carriages, and replacing that crossing with a long pedestrian tunnel under the tracks.The two bridges and tunnel survived until the early 1960's, when the construction of the Mass Pike required new bridges at Cambridge and Everett Streets, and the replacement of the old tunnel with a new pedestrian bridge at Franklin Street. These changes were also made because the construction of the new Beacon Park rail yards would have made the old crossings even more dangerous.

The Mass Pike construction also of course changed all of the other bridge/underpass locations- the Market St. bridge was replaced (with a temporary bridge just west of it for the duration of the construction), and new, longer underpass bridges at Parsons and Brooks Street. The North Beacon Street underpass was actually relocated a few hundred feet east (or closer to Market Street)- prior to the Pike, the street ran straight from Market Street to the river- but now North Beacon has a curve in it that crosses under the tracks and highway much closer to Vineland Street.

Both the Parsons and Brooks Street underpasses have been enlivened for about 20 years now by historical murals from a well-known Boston area mural painter, Joshua Winer ( ) through a state grant procured by our local elected officials all those years ago, the Historical Society, the Allston-Brighton Community Development Corporation, and the Friends of Hobart Park commissioned the artist to create these colorful reminders of our neighborhood's past, and also making the walks less dreary under those bridges..... and if I may be allowed a little ego here, I'm particularly fond of one of the two murals at Brooks Street- it shows a scene of a train stopped at the old Faneuil Depot, which once stood almost above the mural.... and if you look closely at the faces of the people in the painting, some may look familiar...... one of the perks of volunteering for your neighborhood I guess was when the artist used a bunch of us as models for the people in the mural- Kevin Carragee and his daughter are patrons waiting for the train- our long-time historian Bill Marchione is the conductor- and yours truly, who has ALWAYS loved trains, finally got to be a locomotive engineer- at least at an underpass in Brighton.... ! Sorry, but I had to share that..... 😉

A little bit of follow-up to yesterday's post..... to further illustrate the level of commercial shipping on the Charles...

A little bit of follow-up to yesterday's post..... to further illustrate the level of commercial shipping on the Charles River- and the tidal nature that looked so different from today..... the first picture here is a repeat from yesterday, of a ship under construction at the Palmer Shipyard in Watertown. Well, check out some more info I found out today- of the completed boat, and its history:

Today I thought we'd go "Down by the River", if I can use a phrase, and talk about the various bridge crossings we've ha...

Today I thought we'd go "Down by the River", if I can use a phrase, and talk about the various bridge crossings we've had over the Charles River during the course of our history, both old and current.

What not everyone may realize is that up until 1908, the river was a tidal river, like many others along the coast today, and as a result saw daily fluctuation in river levels due to the tides. all the way up until the first river rapids just west of Watertown Square. Along much of the river, the twice daily low tides would expose acres of mud and salt marsh, and make crossing the river by building bridges more formidable than you may think today. In reality, before any bridge was built, both Native Americans and the later European settlers uses canoes or ferries to cross the river. Despite the many salt water marshes, there were a few high and dry spots right on the river bank, and the key one on our side of the river was an area called "The Pines", the bluff that is between Leo Birmingham Parkway and Soldiers Field Road, behind the old Martignetti's site. At one time this extended all the way to the river bank, with a sandy beach that made the water's edge accessible- and Native Americans used the location as their primary means to access the river- from the old Nonantum Native American village once located in the Kenrick Valley, where today's Commonwealth golf course is, the old foot path to the Pines largely followed the route of what is today's Nonantum and Faneuil Streets. Once the Europeans settled in our neighborhood in the early-mid 1600's, they also used the Pines as a location for a ferry service across the river, which went from there to Gerry's Landing in Cambridge- the original site of Watertown village before it moved upriver to the area near the rapids, and its water power potential (Gerry's Landing is about where the Eliot bridge is today).

The very first bridge across the river east of Watertown Square was built in 1662, on the site of today's Anderson bridge, where North Harvard Street crosses the river. This historic structure was called "The Great Bridge", because back then it was a major construction project for colonial settlers- and was the closest bridge crossing between downtown Boston and points north. If you remember the famous part of the poem about Paul Revere that has the phrase "... one if by land and two if by sea...", well, this bridge actually would have been the "one if by land" route.... which actually WAS the way Paul Revere's compatriot William Dawes traveled by in 1776.

The original bridge was of course made out of wood, and also had long trestle work across the salt marshes abutting the river. In 1860 this wooden bridge was replaced by another wooden bridge, that was also a draw bridge to allow boats such as small schooners to continue sailing up the tidal river to places such as the Watertown Arsenal docks, or Fuller Lumber in Brighton at the foot of Market Street.

The "Great Bridge" location was the only bridge over the river in our neighborhood until 1810, when another wooden drawbridge was built to allow the newly laid out Cambridge Street to cross the river enroute to Cambridgeport. Not many years after that, three more bridges were built, all of them also draw bridges- the two bridges at either end of the newly constructed Western Ave. in 1824, and the North Beacon Street bridge in 1822. North Beacon Street (which didn't get named that until 1860) was built in 1822 to connect the newly built (1820) Mill Dam Road (now Beacon Street) with Watertown Square. The Mill Dam connected Boston with Sewell's Point, now the Kenmore Square area, and walled off the large Back Bay from the Charles River. Right next to the North Beacon Street bridge were wharves for the Watertown Arsenal complex- and right up until the early 1900's small schooners did regularly use the river and service this important complex, as well as the nearby Abattoir and Fuller's Lumber across the river in Brighton.

In 1908 the many centuries of the river being tidal came to an end when a dam was constructed at its mouth, and the Charles was transformed into a fresh water river with a steady water level. This largely ended commercial shipping- and the need for draw bridges. In addition, this major change in the river led to the creation of much parkland along the riverbanks, and the introduction of non-industrial uses such as the various Harvard complexes, and multiple rowing houses. In keeping with this enhancement of the riverscape, all of the old wooden bridges were replaced within 10-20 years of the damming of the river with attractive steel arch bridges surfaced with either brick or concrete- the old Great Bridge site saw the new Anderson Bridge in 1912, the new North Beacon Street Bridge in 1917, the Western Ave. Bridge in 1924, the Arsenal Street Bridge in 1925, and the Cambridge/River Street Bridge in 1926.

Two more bridges were added in addition- the John Weeks pedestrian footbridge in 1926 (built by Harvard to connect the new Business School with the rest of their Cambridge campus), and finally the Eliot Bridge built in 1950 to connect Soldiers Field Road with points west and north.... appropriately enough, built at the site of the original Gerry's Landing- home of the old ferry site 300 years earlier......


Box 35163
Brighton, MA

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The Brighton-Allston Heritage Museum is open from 11-3 on Thursdays and Fridays. Admission is free. We are located on the lower level of the Veronica Smith Senior Center, 20 Chestnut Hill Avenue, in Brighton Center.


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