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Cambridge St

Cambridge St today runs from St Elizabeth's Hospital through Union Square and on to the River St bridge over the Charles.  In 1806, Brighton, then known as Little Cambridge, had a strategy for saving the local cattle industry by improving transportation and trade with Cambridge. In addition to the Great Bridge (now the Anderson Memorial Bridge at North Harvard St) a petition to build a second link to Cambridge with a road and bridge "from near the store of Jonathan Winship (near the Brighton Center cattle market) through the lands of Edward Sparhawk, S. W. Pomeroy and Thomas Gardner" and across the Charles River to Cambridgeport. The road in question, today's Cambridge Street, was desired by the cattle interests for two reasons: it would afford farmers coming from the north better access to the Little Cambridge Cattle Market, and also provide the first link in a thoroughfare that they hoped would eventually give Little Cambridge more direct access to Cambridgeport and the road to the West Boston Bridge, today the Longfellow bridge.   Cambridge's refusal to authorize construction of this roadway was the proximate cause of separation between Cambridge and Little Cambridge.1

In 1808, the town authorized the Board of Selectmen to proceed with this road construction and in 1810 the Cambridgeport bridge over the Charles opened.  Selectman Thomas Gardner, Jr. was so anxious to have this project carried out and possibly benefit from it, that he offered to pay the cost of the section crossing his land, nearly one half mile in extent, "and to make all the from any expense to the town." Though the building of Cambridge Street entailed considerable expense for Brighton, the project was completed with great speed and harmony.1

Cambridge St Bridge over the Charles River c1910

A site on the eastern side of Cambridge Street became the focus of concern in the mid 1850s as three successive attempts were made to introduce slaughterhouses to the location. Neighboring landowners successfully opposed these initiatives, however.  The eastern end of Brighton, linked to Boston by superior transportation facilities, had the greatest potential for residential development in the 1850s.  The establishment in 1858 of the Newton Railroad Company, a horse car line that ran "from the Brighton and Cambridgeport Bridge to the west school house [at Oak Square] by way of Cambridge Street and Washington Street" added significantly to that potential and the development of good roads. 1

   Boston 1820 Map (BPL) shows Cambridge St running left to right starting at Winship in Brighton Center

In 1870, Cambridge Street was widened at a cost of $38,182.  The Cambridge Street and Washington Street appropriations of 1870 and 1871 were made not only for the benefit of private conveyances but also to accommodate two major public transportation projects that it was hoped would foster an influx of commuters into the sections of town that were being cleared of slaughterhouse and cattle yard facilities. This price tag represented an enormous investment in 1870, some three times more than the town had spent on all street repair in the previous year, and one-half of what it collected annually in property taxes. It entailed cutting down a hill between the Allston Depot and Union Square. Cambridge Street was ballasted with stone and heavily macadamized. "Few, if any, roads in the vicinity of Boston can be said to be better made," the Selectmen declared. 1

1885 Map showing Nevins Hill where St Elizabeth Hospital is today.  Nevins Hill was settled shortly after the City of Cambridge was established in 1638. The earliest records state that the site belonged to a Captain Cunningham. and the estate house burned in 1770. In 1777, Samuel Willis Pomeroy constructed a second estate, Bellevue, on the site. Pomeroy, who lived there until 1830, was a founding member of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and a State Representative. The estate originally consisted of 36 acres, and extended all the way to the Charles River. In 1843 the estate was purchased by Jared Coffin who was the fifth great grandson of Tristam Coffin, one of the first purchasers and founders of Nantucket. Jared Coffin was born on Nantucket, where he was a successful merchant and sea captain and in 1843, he moved to Brighton and purchased the estate. Coffin built a large Greek Revival mansion in 1845. At that time, the estate included five structures: two houses, three barns and extensive gardens and orchards. Several years later, Coffin sold the estate to his on-in-law, David Nevins.  Nevins was involved in manufacturing, and owned several plants in Lawrence, Methuen and Salem. In the 1910s, the mansion was demolished to make way for the St Gabriel monastery complex.

Nevins Estate buildings.  George Washington is believed to have dined here once during the British occupation of Boston.

Brighton Center 1904.  Note how much steeper Nevins Hill is in the center.  It was leveled later for St Elizabeth Hospital construction.

1935  St Elizabeth in the center, Brighton High to the left and St Gabriel on the right

1920s  Newly constructed St Elizabeth's Hospital with St Gabriel on the right.  To the right of the hospital, soil is being removed to level the hill to make it more suitable for the new buildings

 Academy Hill Rd in 1895 looking towards Chestnut Hill Ave with the original Brighton High at the center in the distance.

Original Brighton High. It was on this site in 1839 that a private academy was built to provide secondary education for the sons and daughters of Brighton’s wealthier families. The name of the street derives from that institution. In 1841, however, the town purchased the academy building and turned it into a public high school. The original building on Academy Hill was replaced in 1866 by the more ample structure seen here

Brighton High 1908.  This became the Taft Junior High after the new Brighton High was built

Intersection with Sparhawk St c1940

Brighton Congregational Parsonage at the corner of Cambridge St and Dustin St. 

Cambridge St from Nevin's Hill c1912 with Elko St to the right of center

Mount St Joseph Academy c1940.  In 1884 the school was located in a remodeled Fresh Pond Hotel in Cambridge.  After the city of Cambridge took the land, the school moved to Brighton in 1892. A classroom building opened in 1913 for girls from grades 1 to 12.  A gymnasium was added in 1964.   The school closed in 2012 and reopened as the Saint Joseph Preparatory High School.

1909 Map of Mount St Josephs with only a single building. By 1925, the school had extended their property to North Beacon St

665 Cambridge St in 1916 with Mount St Joseph in the background (Courtesy of the Boston Public Library)

Brighthelmstone Club Founded in 1896, a women's social and charitable club, at 541 Cambridge Steet in 1908.  This building originally housed the Universalist Church and more recently served as the Allston Knights of Columbus Hall. Thomas Silloway designed this edifice which was built in 1861.

Brighthelmstone Club after some architectural changes. 

1904 Brighthelmstone Club agenda of a meeting at Temple Hall

Finnish Society Temple Hall at 521 Cambridge St 1963 (courtesy Bostonian Society)

Union Square 1885

Home of John Warren Hollis which is at the top of the above 1885 Union Sq map near the number 22,  Across the street is the home of George Hollis behind the Brighton Ave Baptist Church.  In 1865, John Hollis established a business in sheep and wool, in which he was extensively engaged until 1875, when he retired. The New England Dressed Meat and Wool Company is the outgrowth of his business.


Union Sq c1940 looking west.  To the right of center is the Commonwealth Lunch (Twin Donuts today), Odd Fellow Hall behind it, then Temple Hall and Brighthelmstone Club

502 Cambridge St at Union Sq in 1906.  Today it is the site of the Jackson Mann school

1925 Union Square to the right of center.  The George Hollis property is visible behind the church at the center

c1910 Union Sq with Cambridge on the left and the Brighton Ave Baptist Church at the center

1914  Cambridge St on the left and a new spire on the Brighton Avenue Baptist Church (John Murdoch)

Union Square c1960.  The Mobil station has replaced the Baptist Church and is now a fire station

<click here> for more Union Sq photos and history

Near Union Square and Rugg Rd c1940 (courtesy of Frank Norton)

Washington Allston School c1900 diagonally 410 Cambridge St

From the 1893 Boston School Committee report: "The Washington Allston School was established in 1848, under the name of the Second Grammar School, and was so known until February 1860, when it was given the name of the Harvard School. In 1876 the name was changed to the Allston School in honor of Washington Allston, the famous artist and poet who resided in Cambridge, of which city Allston was formerly a part, and for whom the village of Allston was named. Suggestions having been made that some name be given to the school to distinguish it from the name of the village, in 1893, it was decided that the school be called the Washington Allston. Its present building, located on Cambridge street, Allston, was erected in 1878.  It is two stories high, and contains ten rooms and a hall."

The house on the right was the home of the Allston Club and later became the Washington Allston School Annex to service the increasing student population

Washington Allston school students 1898.  <click here>  for the names of these students


Trolley turning at Wilton St near Harvard Ave c1890

Wilton St early 1900s

Wilton St 1938

WIlton St corner in 1938

Wilton St 1938

Wilton St looking towards Cambridge St with the Washington Allston School on the right.  The houses in the distance at the center are on Harvard Ave

Bus garages formerly for trolleys on WIlton St 1954 (courtesy of Historic New England)

Wilton St is on the left looking towards Harvard Ave before the railroad bridge was built in 1890.  Isaac Dearborn owned the house on the right.  His wife was Susan Coolidge who was the niece of Joseph Coolidge from Watertown who participated in the Boston Tea Party and was killed at the historic Battle at Lexington on April 19, 1775. 3

Closeup of the above photo


Looking  towards Harvard Ave in early 1900s with the Washington Allston school on the right and the railroad bridge completed (courtesy of Joel Shield)


Franklin St with the Allston Depot on the right in 1925 (courtesy of the Boston Public Library)

Intersection with Harvard Ave looking towards Union Sq c1910

At Harvard Ave looking west towards Union Sq - early 1900s (Joel Shield)

Cambridge St at Harvard Ave looking towards the Charles River c1910.  Allston Depot on the left. (Joel Shield)

1905 Allston Depot on the right

c1900  Allston Depot shortly after being built <click here> for more information on the depot

Near Lincoln St looking west towards Harvard Ave before the railroad bridge was built in 1890


1896 railroad bridge construction. The area behind the gentleman later became the before Beacon Rail Yards (see photo below).  The houses on the right are on Pratt St

1896 Cambridge St bridge construction

Richard Gardner mansion at 288 Cambridge St.  In the above 1896 bridge photo, this house can be seen on the right.  The property originally extended to near the Charles River and later became part of the Beacon Rail Yards.  Richard was the son of Col Thomas Gardner the Revolutionary War hero who lived at the corner of Brighton and Harvard Ave.

Early 1900s.  Beacon rail yards from the Cambridge St bridge

1930 Beacon rail yards

Construction of the Cambridge St bridge with the Consolidated Gas tank at the center in the distance


Mass Wharf Fuels at 280 Cambridge St c1950

Looking towards North Harvard St from Seattle St c1940 (courtesy of Joel Shield)

1916 Map showing the railroad roundhouses on the right and the Consolidated Gas buildings on both sides of Cambridge St closer to the Charles river.

Windom St intersection in 1915 showing the railroad roundhouses on the right and Consolidated Gas tank near the center

Roundhouse Construction near Windom St 

Roundhouse and coal storage

Roundhouse Interior c1915.  Roundhouse turntables allowed steam locomotives to be serviced and turned around.  <click here> for a video on roundhouses

1875 map showing the Beacon Horse Trotting Park bordered by Cambridge St and the Charles River.  <click here> for more information

Coca Cola plant next to Storrow Drive with its impressive neon sign.  The plant was closed c1978 and replaced with the Doubletree hotel

Consolidated Gas buildings at the Charles River

1925 photo with the roundhouses and Consolidated Gas building above the center (BPL)

1925 photo with the roundhouses (center) and Consolidated Gas building (left).  Boston Braves field can be seen in the upper right (BPL)

Consolidated Gas buildings at the bottom right corner 1925 (Courtesy Digital Commonwealth)

Beacon Rail Yards 2015