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Cleveland Circle

In the 1867 to 1870 period, the City of Boston built the Chestnut Hill Reservoir at the southwestern corner of Brighton, thus providing the area with a magnificent visual and recreational amenity.  The Charles River Railroad (which had been built through the area in 1853) responded by establishing a depot to service the reservoir area, calling it Reservoir Station. The construction of the reservoir and the opening of this depot provided convenient access to the city and gave the area a distinct advantage in the competition for suburban development.   The intersection of Beacon St and Chestnut Hill Ave near the Reservoir was named Cleveland Circle for former U. S. President Grover Cleveland, shortly after his death in 1908.

In earlier times, when farming was still the primary occupation of Brighton’s population, this southeastern corner of the town had little appeal. In 1889, the Brighton Item described that area as one of "vast acres of high, gravel land which have never produced anything for their owners but grass and tax bills."  By the mid 1880s, house construction, triggered by the introduction of Henry M. Whitney's electric streetcar on Beacon Street in Brookline, began to transform this area. In 1890, the Brighton Item described the idyllic neighborhood that awaited prospective Aberdeen homeowners. "Several hundred feet above any considerable portion of land in the neighborhood, commanding magnificent views in every direction, well watered, a perfect combination of woodland, and glade, and admitting the free exercise of the artistic taste of the landscape gardener, these lands are sure to be sought for residential purposes by the most desirable buyers".

When Beacon Street was laid out in 1850-51, it was a narrow county road designed to open up north Brookline to development and to provide access to Boston for businessmen who chose to live outside the city. Its dramatic transformation into a wide boulevard lined by apartment blocks and stores came forty years later.  Single family mansions and apartment blocks followed soon after the installation of the trolley and new street. Many of the large mansions fell victim to pressures of real estate prices from an increasing population and were turned into apartments in the early 1900s.  The population of Brighton was 6,000 people in 1874, 27,000 in 1910, 47,000 in 1925 and 60,000 in 1930. 

1885 Cleveland Circle Map.  Roxbury Ave is now called Sutherland Rd

During the 1870s, three houses were situated on a triangular block bordered by Beacon Street, Sutherland Road, Chestnut Hill Avenue and Englewood Avenue (see map above). These houses lots were owned by Francis Hunnewell, Francis S. Morton and a third owner. During the 1870s, Honeywell owned much of this area along with J. Smith Homans. In 1875, Hunnewell owned 23 contiguous, undeveloped lots adjacent to Englewood Avenue. During the 1880s, much of the area north of Cleveland Circle was owned by the Beacon Street Land Co. These land companies were organized to purchase undeveloped land on and near Beacon Street, in Brookline and Brighton. These extensive tracts became valuable when horse drawn streetcars to Kenmore Square were introduced and a few years later electrified. During the 1880s, real estate magnates B.F. Ricker and George A. Wilson owned several large tracts bordering the future path of Commonwealth Avenue. Ricker and Wilson became acquainted with the Cleveland Circle area while they were employed as teamsters for the Chestnut Hill Reservoir construction projects during the late 1860s.

1909 Cleveland Circle Map.  At this point, the lots were laid out and some development had started

1925 Cleveland Circle Map showing significant development since 1909

1887 with Beacon St looking east with Englewood Ave intersection on the right and just before Beacon St was widened.  Cory Hill is the hill near the center (Brookline Historical Society)

1887 with Beacon St near Chestnut Hill Ave and before Englewood Ave looking east (Brookline Historical Society)

c1887 Reservoir Hotel on Beacon St opposite Englewood Ave looking east (Brookline Historical Society)

c1887 Reservoir Hotel on Beacon St opposite Englewood Ave (Brookline Historical Society)

c1880 Beacon St with the Englewood Ave intersection on the left and the Reservoir Hotel on the right looking east (Brookline Historical Society)

1898 View of Brighton and Brookline.  Cleveland Circle would be on the left/center and only partially developed.  The hill on the center and to the right is Corey Hill with Summit Ave crossing it (Digital Commonwealth)

1896 with Beacon St construction looking towards Brookline (Digital Commonwealth)

1896 close up from the above photo (Digital Commonwealth)

Trolley Waiting Room at the corner of Chestnut Hill Ave and Beacons St near the Brookline line that was destroyed by fire in 1897

c1890 Sutherland Rd at Cleveland Circle (Digital Commonwealth).  These houses are on the 1885 map above

1909 photo with Chestnut Hill Ave on the left.  This house would be to the left of the houses in the c1890 photo above.  Sutherland Rd would be on the right.  By 1925 it had been replaced by the c1950 photo of the apartment building below

1898 before Cleveland Circle development began to dominate.  The 3-4 story apartment building being built to the left of the blue dot is an early example of where a house (see the building on the left in the c1890 photo above) has been demolished to make way for an apartment building.  Sutherland Rd is in the middle where the blue dot is.  Chestnut Hill Ave is on the left and Beacon St below that.  The houses to the right of the blue dot are on Orkney St.  Beacon St development had not started yet (Digital Commonwealth) 

c1950 photo with Sutherland Road on the right.  By 1925, these apartments had replaced the houses mentioned above

1909 View from Chestnut Hill Ave to Cleveland Circle.  The arrow was on the original photo and has no significance

c1915 Beacon St. This block of apartment buildings on the left was demolished around 1930 except for the last one next to Ayr Rd (Center right).  Retail shops replaced these buildings which was only a few years after they were first built.  (Joel Shield)

c1915 Close up of Beacon St from the above photo (Joel Shield)


c1915 Johnson Block with Sutherland Rd on the left and Beacon St on the right.  The buildings on the right with the darker exterior were the ones demolished.

c1915 Looking east on Beacon St from Chestnut Hill Ave before the retail shops were added on the left

Field on Beacon St looking towards Cleveland Circle (Joel Shield)

c1930 Sutherland Rd is at the top right

1932 Reservoir Train Depot.  This line was originally for Boston & Albany trains and was converted to trolleys for the Riverside line around 1959.  The building on the left belonged to the Metropolitan Coal Company which later became the site of the Circle Cinema

Trolley Car House as seen from Beacon St

Trolleys at Reservoir Car House









1959 Chestnut Hill Ave

c1960  Sutherland Rd is behind the trolley

c1961 Chestnut Hill Ave on the right just before the Reilly Memorial Swimming Pool was built on the left

1940 Circle Cinema on Chestnut Hill Ave.  The original theater opened in 1940 and was remodeled with additional screens in 1965

1940 Boston Globe article

1965 Boston Globe Article on the opening of the remodeled Circle Cinema

c1970  The Howard Johnson's restaurant opened in 1940 (Eddie Neary)

c2010 The theater was demolished in 2016



1969 (UMASS)


Cleveland Circle 2022 (Google Maps)
  1. History of Beacon ST - Brookline Preservation Society
  2. Bull In The Garden - William Marchione