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The Boston and Worcester (B&W) railroad was chartered June 23, 1831 and by 1835 the line reached Worcester. Mergers with other railroads created the Boston and Albany (B&A) railroad in 1870. The Allston Depot at the intersection of Harvard Ave and Cambridge St was built in 1887 and dates from the B&A Railroad's fourteen-year building campaign (1881-1894) which established a signature corporate identity along the length of its rail corridor. During this golden era of rail transportation, the B&A erected thirty-two stations. Acclaimed architect H. H. Richardson was hired to design nine stations along the line. Consistent with this corporate aesthetic initially established by project architect Henry Hobson Richardson and continued by his successor firm Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge, the Allston Depot is characterized by its rustic stone construction, vast expanse of slate-tiled roof, and simple ground-hugging form.
1890The B&A Romanesque Revival stations debuted in 1881, with Richardson's design for the Auburndale station. Its long and low form, rough-cut granite construction, and prominent roof profile became signature features of the building campaign. While no two stations within the B&A series were identical, all adhered to the core design concept established at Auburndale. Ample shelter was the hallmark of the series, provided by deep overhanging eaves and/or generously broad passenger platforms.
The B&A's decision to construct a depot at Allston, a sparsely populated section of northeastern Brighton, then known as "Cambridge Crossing," provides an early example of this railroad's power to cultivate suburban settlement. Although the B&A established its first passenger station in Brighton in 1847, the company's interest in Brighton was almost singularly focused on its slaughtering industry, which by the 1870s generated two million dollars per year in cattle freight. "The original predecessor of the B&W Railroad" at Allston, an elderly resident recollected, "was an 8 x 10 cobbler's shop. The cobbler kept a few tickets in a box and occasionally he would flag a train for the accommodation of someone."1
In 1867, the B&A constructed a frame depot near the intersection of Harvard Avenue and Cambridge Street, providing the first regular service to Cambridge Crossing. In 1868, the area's designation from Cambridge Crossing to Allston. Superintendent of the B&A who ordered that "on and after June 1, 1868, the station now known as Cambridge Crossing shall be called Allston.
In 1888, the first electric streetcar line began operation from the Allston Railroad Depot to Park Square. For a 17-cent fare, Boston visitors could ride four miles from Boston to Allston, described in B&A's promotional pamphlets as "a new and prosperous village." It was the first of three Brighton stops: Allston, Brighton, and Faneuil. Removed from the slaughtering activities of the town's center, this agrarian landscape was the locus of Brighton's first appreciable suburban development. Between 1867 and 1870, Allston Depot ridership doubled. A passenger boarding a Boston train at the Allston Depot could reach the Boston & Albany Depot on Lincoln Street in the downtown some 5 miles away in twenty minutes.1
The B&A operated four tracks between Boston and its outermost suburb of South Framingham: two dedicated rails for local trains, and two rails for bulk freight and through-passenger service. Railroad service steadily declined after 1930, superseded by auto and air travel and telecommunication improvements. Consistent with this downturn, the Allston Depot was decommissioned and abandoned in the early 1950s. In recent years, it has housed sports bars and restaurants.
The Allston Depot is a rare surviving structure from Brighton's extensive late19 century rail and freight transportation complex.
For more historical information on the Allston Depot, refer to the Allston Depot Boston Landmarks Commission Study Report. 2
1875 Map of Cambridge St before the development brought on by the new transportation links. The original Allston station is in the bottom right of the map.
The Allston Depot soon after opening in 1887. Courtesy of Harvard University
Close up of the above photo
c1900 Courtesy of Joel Shields
View from Cambridge St Bridge. c1900
Cambridge St on the left. 1905
Paul Revere Train (Boston to Chicago) 1950
Other B&A Depots
Brighton Depot at Market St. Courtesy of Harvard University
Faneuil Depot at Brooks St
Auburndale Depot 1881