Historical Markers: Brighton

Agricultural Hall - 360 Washington Street

Built in 1818 by the Massachusetts Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, Agricultural Hall is the oldest structure in Brighton Center's commercial area. Originally located at the top of Dighton Street, it served until the late 1830s as the site of the Brighton Fair and Cattle Show, one of the largest and earliest such fairs in the country. The yearly fairs made Brighton one of the leading horticultural and cattle centers in New England. The building was moved to this location in 1844 and converted into the Scates Hotel. Many of the hotel's guests were visitors to the weekly Brighton Cattle Market, founded in 1775 and the largest in New England.

Agricultural Hall Site - 54 Dighton St. (Winship School)

Brighton's identity as a leading farming community was strengthened when it hosted the annual fair of the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture from 1817 to 1835. Here on land donated by Abiel Winship, the latest in farm equipment, textile, and handicraft exhibits, as well as locally grown produce, were displayed, while cattle pens were laid out on the slope of the hill. The fair was one of the earliest and largest in the country, and the science of agriculture made significant advances through the MSPA.

Allston Depot - 353 Cambridge St.*

Once one of several rail facilities in Allston-Brighton, only this depot remains to reflect the community's role in Boston's transportation history. The Brighton cattle market contributed to the growth of the local rail industry, and when the area evolved from market town to suburb some of the wooden structures were replaced by these Romanesque-Revival style depots. The 1887 Allston Depot was designed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, the successor firm to H.H. Richardson. Together they designed 30 stations for the Boston & Albany, then the largest rail line in New England.

Ancient Oak Site - Oak Square Park

This was the site of the huge old tree that gave Oak Square its name. The road to the Charles River was already well-used when English settlers established Little Cambridge (now Brighton) here in the 1630s; a trail used by the Nonantum people passed under the great tree. Part of the trail survives as today's Nonantum and Faneuil Streets. John Eliot is said to have preached to the tribe here in 1640. The Oak was reputed to be the largest in the state when it was taken down in 1855. Its hollow trunk was reported as being 10 feet across, making it a favorite playhouse of local children.

Breck's Nursery School/Oak Square School - 35 Nonantum Street

Joseph Breck, founder of the agricultural supply company that still bears his name, moved his nursery and experimental garden to this location in 1854. Breck was an original member of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, editor of The New England Farmer, and an influential contributor to Brighton's thriving agricultural industry. Oak Square School, designed in 1894 by Architect Edmund Wheelwright, is one of Boston's rare remaining wooden schoolhouses.

Cattle Fair Hotel Site - 435 Market St.

By the 1850s, the Brighton livestock industry earned more than $2 million a year and more people worked in cattle-related jobs than in any other trade. The Cattle Fair Hotel was built here in 1830 and expanded in 1852 to become suburban Boston's largest hotel. The excitement of Thursday market day in Brighton Center would end in 1881 when the stockyards moved to the Abattoir along the Charles River.

Chestnut Hill Reservoir Complex - 2400-2450 Beacon St.*

The Chestnut Hill Reservoir, an original part of Boston's water system, reflected a trend of combining technology with high architecture. This 1888 building, styled in Richardsonian Romanesque by City Architect Arthur Vinal, and the adjacent Beaux-Arts structure by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, pumped water throughout the city. The curving roadway and pastoral setting created open space before the city's park system was established.

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First Electric Trolley Ride - Cambridge and Wilton Streets.

On January 1, 1889, the first electrically powered streetcar in Boston left Allston Car Barn on Wilton Street for a trip to Park Square via Coolidge Corner, Beacon Street, Massachusetts Avenue, and Boylston Street. Electric transit proved to be reliable and clean, enabling Boston to expand by providing residents of outlying neighborhoods quicker access to downtown.


Market Street Burying Ground

This cemetery was established by the Third Church of Cambridge in 1764. It remained a parish cemetery until 1807, when Brighton split from the town of Cambridge. Many of the 18th century headstones were carved by stonecutter Daniel Hastings. Notable citizens buried in the town cemetery include Ebenezer Fuller (d. 1826), head of the Commonwealth's first lending library and Stephen Dana (a farmer and state representative). Burials ceased in the colonial graveyard in 1873, when Brighton was annexed to Boston.

Packard Building - 1079-1083 Commonwealth Ave.

This 1910 building, designed by Alfred Kahn and built for Packard dealer Alvan T. Fuller, was the first large-scale structure on Boston's Automobile Row, which eventually included a dozen dealerships. Fuller, later a Massachusetts governor, expanded the Packard Building in 1928, installing the most elaborate showroom on the Row. High ceilings, fluted columns, hanging fixtures and luxurious furnishings created elegant surroundings for shoppers. The heyday of the Row ended in the 1970s, when suburban growth and urban congestion led many dealerships out of the city.

St. Gabriel's Monastery - 139 Washington St.*

St. Gabriel's Monastery is a rare example in Boston of the Mission Revival style. It was designed by T. Edward Sheehan and built in 1909 for the Passionist Fathers on the site of the former David Nevins farm. The Passionist Fathers are known as the pioneers of the Retreat movement in New England.

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* Indicates Designated Boston Landmark