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As early as 1638, the Roxbury Highway was set out to link Cambridge directly with Boston. Harvard Avenue represents a segment in an eight mile road that passed through Boston, Roxbury, Brookline and Little Cambridge (Allston-Brighton) in a great arc shaped configuration. In Allston, this road ran from the Great Bridge (built in 1663, superseding ferry service established in 1634) over the Charles River, following North Beacon Street, a portion of Cambridge Street to Harvard Avenue. It was over the Roxbury Highway that Williams Dawes, the other important, but unsung, "midnight rider," made his way to Lexington and Concord to warn the populace that the British were marching to confiscate supplies; this warning was the prelude to Lexington and Concord.
In 1747, Richard Gardner, father of the famous revolutionary hero Thomas Gardner, purchased a 110 acre estate that included land on both side of Harvard Avenue or "the lower Roxbury Highway" paying more than 3,000 pounds for the property. Gardner's house stood at the northwest corner of Harvard and Brighton avenues. Amazingly, the house, a commodious gambrel structure, still stands, although in altered condition at 22 Higgins Street, on the south side of Union Square.
In 1780, there were only three houses in Allston. In 1830, Harvard Ave was called Griggs Row after the Griggs family who owned property on the street.
The construction of Cambridge Street encouraged the building of structures along Harvard Avenue, with three buildings grouped around the Cambridge Street/Harvard Avenue intersection and five others bordering this thoroughfare between Cambridge Street and the Brookline line. None of these structures are still extant.
Public transportation improvements in the form of electric street railways during the late 19th and early 20th century encouraged the breaking up of handsome estates that lined Harvard Avenue, particularly the segment south of Brighton Avenue.
The above 1885 Map of Harvard Ave displays Brighton Ave in the center and Commonwealth Ave to the right. This area was still residential at this time with large houses lining Harvard Ave. That changed when the streetcars on the newly built Commonwealth Ave brought more business development and housing to the area in the early 1900s.
The Isaac Pratt house at the corner of Harvard Ave and Gardner St as viewed from Harvard Ave. It's the house to the left of center on the 1885 map above. The Pratt family was probably descended from Joshua Pratt who settled in Plymouth in 1621. Isaac Pratt owned real estate in Boston and Newton, was the president of Boston's Atlantic National Bank (1869) and was elected to the Legislature in 1875. In June 1890, 500 guests celebrated the Pratt's golden wedding anniversary at their home.
The residence of Judge Henry Baldwin and his wife Harriet Baldwin stood on the site of 164 Harvard Avenue (#82 using the old numbering scheme) which is at the right of the 1885 map above. Judge Baldwin attended Brighton High School, Yale University (1854), and Harvard Law. He was a member of the Massachusetts house of Representatives (1862), town auditor, School Committee member and one of the eleven founders of the Allston Congregational Church. In 1874, he was appointed judge of the Brighton Municipal Court. Harriet Baldwin was a prominent educational reformer and founding member of the Brighton Allston Equal Suffrage League. The Harriet Baldwin school on Washington Street was named after her.
Harvard Ave at Cambridge St c1910 (courtesy of Adeline and Marie Rufo). The buildings at the Cambridge Street / Franklin Street / Harvard Avenue intersection are the oldest structures in the area and are one to three stories tall as opposed to the more typical height of one to two stories for the remainder of the area.
Closeup of the above photo
Harvard Ave at Cambridge St c1926. The Allston branch of the Boston Public Library (BPL) moved here in 1919 with a Ward's clothing store on the left and the Post Office and Firehouse to the right. This was probably a side entrance to the library since the address was on Cambridge St.
Closeup of the above photo
The original firehouse at 16 Harvard Ave, Allston, the firehouse of Chemical Engine Co. 6, circa 1885, which was built in 1876. Note the residential buildings on both sides before the area became commercial.
c1920 This firehouse was built in 1890 on the site of a previous one. The firehouse was constructed with one apparatus door (above) but was later remodeled to allow for two doors. In 1977, the building was converted to commercial property and the firehouse moved to Union Square. <click here> for more history of the firehouse
1916 <click here> for more photos of the Firehouse
c1920 (photo courtesy of Joel Shield). The trolley originated at WIlton St off Cambridge St and was likley going to Park St
Harvard Ave at Harvard Terrace 1970s
Methodist Church at Harvard Ave and Farrington St
Col Thomas Gardner House at Harvard Ave and Brighton Ave built in 1760. It was on the Jesse Tirrell property on the 1885 map above (left of center). Col Gardner died at the Battle of Bunker Hill on July 3, 1775 and his military funeral was ordered by Gen Washington. This house was latter moved to 28 Higgins St off of Allston St.
69 Harvard Ave c1920 (photo courtesy of Joel Shield). The house on the left is at the corner of Harvard and Brighton Ave
1906 Harvard Ave map showing the apartment buidling (pink) and house from the above photo
Harvard and Brighton Ave 1938. Note the original home of the Brighton Co-Operative Bank on the corner before it expanded to Brighton Center and then closing in 1976.
Harvard and Brighton Ave c1920s
Harvard and Brighton Ave C1930. The corner building had a Rexall Drug Store on the first floor and the Allston Public Library on the second
Harvard Ave looking towards Brookline c1920 (photo courtesy of Joel Shield).
Close up of the above photo. Note on the right at the intersection of Glenville Ave the people sitting on grass in front of a house set back from the road
Postcard from the Commonwealth Cafe at 134 Harvard Ave. c1920
1921 Postcard looking towards Brighton Ave with the Commonwealth Cafe to the left of center. The Woolworths store was expanded in later years before closing around the 1970s
1940 photo of the six miles to Boston marker from 1729 at 150 Harvard Ave
Harvard and Glenville Ave 1939 (courtesy of the Boston Public Library). The second floor was the former home of the Allston BPL before moving to the current site on North Harvard St in 1981
Allston Branch of the BPL in 1939 on Harvard Ave
Allston Library. The sign on the door says that it was open until 8pm except on Monday and Saturday when it closed at 9pm
Allston Library 1939
Cafe Boulevard c1930 at the intersection with the Comm Ave near Brookline (courtesy of Sandra Swaile)