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Brighton's 100th Anniversary Celebration

For its first 160 years, Brighton was part of Cambridge and was known as Little Cambridge. When Cambridge's town government failed to repair the Great Bridge that linked Little Cambridge to Harvard Square and points north, and made other decisions that threatened the well-being of the local cattle industry, the residents of Little Cambridge resolved to secede from the parent town. They won legislative approval of separation in 1807, choosing the name Brighton for the new corporate entity.

Living Flag next to the old Fire Station on Chestnut Hill Ave

Brighton celebrated it's 100 anniversary in 1907.  Information on the activities during the celebration were taken from the Boston Globe and the the book Brighton Day published by the City of Boston in 1908.  See references 2-4 at the end for more details on the events.

The celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of the incorporation of the town of Brighton was held on Saturday, August 3, 1907 during Boston's first Old Home Week.  The anniversary itself occurred February 24, but by general consent the celebration was deferred to a date when the weather would be more propitious.

The celebration was opened with the lighting by Mayor Fitzgerald of a bonfire at one minute past midnight, at "Dummy Field" off Everett street and the firing of a salute of one hundred guns on the North Brighton Playground by a detail from the Watertown Arsenal.

Besides athletic games and sports in the various playgrounds and parks in the district, there was a parade in the afternoon and band concerts and a fireworks display in the evening.  The parade started at 1:30 pm at Cambridge St opposite the Brighton High School (today the Taft School) and passed through the principal streets of Brighton.

The principal event of the day, the literary and historical exercises, took place at Wilson Park (Brighton Square) in the open air at 11 am.  The proceedings began by the school children forming a "living flag" and singing the "Star Spangled Banner".


Boston Globe August 3, 1907

Speaker:  Major William S. Youngman, Harvard graduate and a member of the Suffolk bar

You heard this morning the booming of the guns from the arsenal, you heard the note of the steam whistles, and you heard the old Brighton bull — the only bull in Brighton that never feared the abattoir. (Laughter.) This is Brighton's day, and you have opened your homes, opened your hearts, and Brighton and her children are celebrating. Jubilee has come in and we are looking to the future.

Brighton has had much to be proud of, but the future has still more in store for it. It has beauties extending from the park by the reservoir to the Charles river, but it is going to have greater, far greater, beauties in the future. Within a year the great bosom of the Charles, that is famed in the stories and in the poems of Lowell and Longfellow, will be permanently raised by the great dam at Craigie bridge, and there the pleasure-seekers from all over the great metropolitan district will come by thousands to seek the shore of Brighton.

Every year, spring and fall, we wend our way to the Soldiers' Field (near Harvard Stadium), and a beautiful field it is, and a field that was founded in a beautiful sentiment. It was founded to commemorate the kinsmen, the friends and the schoolmates of a man who fought in the Civil War — a man who fought and bears an honorable scar of an honorable wound received with his face to the foe. There, near North Harvard street, which is generally known to the Cambridge people (Cambridge being the mother city of Brighton) as the road to Brighton, there near that street is a little tablet; just a small slab of stone, but on it is a most beautiful sentiment, which we will all do well to take with us to-day:

Though love repine, and reason chafe, tough love repine, and reason chafe,
There came a voice without reply,“ 'Tis man's perdition to be safe
When for the truth he ought to die.”

Fellow-citizens of Brighton, wars are over, and we have none in sight. I thank God but we have our civil liberty to build and to preserve. Here in Brighton the future is going to depend a lot on tolerance, on friendliness, on generosity to other people, whether they, belong to your creed or your race or not. It does not make any difference whether you are numerically in the majority or the minority, be generous, be fair, pull together, and if we all pull together for Brighton, Aberdeen, Allston, Faneuil and all the rest, this Ward 25 will be what I predicted it would be — the most famous ward of Boston.

Courtesy of Dr Roy Stewart

Close up of the above photo

Speaker Boston Mayor John F. Fitzgerald (John F Kennedy's grandfather):

Boston Mayor John F Fitzgerald

Although in the early years grants of land were made to any persons desirous of settling within the limits of “Little Cambridge,” as it was then called, the early growth of the settlement was slow. Among the pioneers to seek homes in the little colony were Champney and Sparhawk, Richard Dana, John Jackson, Samuel Holly, William Redfern, Randolph Bush and William Clements. Here the Nonantum tribe of Indians lived on friendly terms with the first white settlers. Here, at what is now Oak square, beneath the spreading branches of the "Old Oak” as a canopy, the Apostle Eliot preached to the Nonantum Sachem Waban and his assembled braves.

The future of the district is full of the promise of an even greater growth in the next few years, for this district with its manifold advantages is attracting to itself larger numbers of home seekers every year. To meet the demands of this rapid and continuous growth the city authorities of this and former administrations have deemed it wise to make the most generous appropriations towards public improvements of every character. The wisdom of this policy is to be seen in the transformation of the farms of a few years ago into the thickly settled districts of to-day.

The highest ideals of citizenship, lofty patriotism and devotion to the civic service here abide, and will abide forever, in the name of Faneuil, and the limner's art is remembered in the name of Allston.

The old mill dam has given place to a magnificent boulevard, fittingly called Commonwealth avenue, while the Beacon boulevard furnishes an appropriate entrance to beautiful Aberdeen, a section which gives to Brighton the well deserved title of the “Shrine of Boston.”

Close up of the above photo

Holton Library at the top center

From the Boston Globe, August 3, 1907

With a huge bonfire, the continuous snapping of Firecrackers and three big dances, Brighton, the former home of the greatest cattle industry in New England and the scene of the keenest business activity, but long since a quiet suburb of Boston, formerly ushered in the celebration of the 100th anniversary of its birth last evening in a most auspicious manner.

The district was ablaze in light.  Hundreds of electric bulbs were strung across Cambridge and Washington Streets from pole to pole. The three dances, in Warren, Braintree and Roddy halls, were well patronized.

Shortly before midnight, the mayor was driven to Dummy fields, off Everett St, where he performed the duty of touching the match to to the big bonfire pile of railroad sleepers, barrels and other material.

Today the celebration will be continued.  The district is resplendent in patriotic decorations.  Station 14 and the old town hall on Washington St are among the most artistic designs.

Float of the Fraternal Order of Heptasoph

Living Flag at Brighton High School in celebration of Brighton's 200th Anniversary in 2007


s & Links

  1. Boston Globe Article #1 1907
  2. Boston Globe Article #2 1907
  3. Brighton Day Book 1909
  4. History of Brighton
  5. Annexation of Brighton 1873
  6. Chestnut Hill Ave

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