A bustling enclave of students and young professionals, the seemingly overlapping neighborhoods of Allston and Brighton have come a long way since they were first incorporated as part of Watertown.
With the construction of The Great Bridge in 1662, Allston-Brighton shifted from Watertown to Newtowne, later Cambridge, and was known as “Little Cambridge” until 1807. The first bridge to span the Charles River connected the agrarian hub of Cambridge to the farm land west of Boston proper. The 1770’s saw the rise of the cattle industry in Little Cambridge as a means to supply the Continental Army, then headquartered in Harvard Square.
The cattle trade experienced rapid growth in the post-war period. By the early 1800’s a dispute over the growing cattle industry and repair costs for the Great Bridge led residents and legislators to separate from Cambridge and Middlesex County to join the famously cow tolerant folks of Boston and Suffolk County.
Remnants of the cattle industry existed well into the 20th century ending in the mid-century push towards Urban Renewal. Allston-Brighton redevelopment focused on urbanizing agricultural and industrial areas and revitalizing communities to accommodate a growing, more affluent population. A coalition of residents and local congregations led the fight to prevent this.
On Thanksgiving Day in 1964, residents of Barry’s Corner, located at the corner of N Harvard and Western Ave, received letters that their homes had been seized by eminent domain. They were to start paying rent to the city. More than half the families left by June of the following year, rather than face a forcible eviction.
When the city sent moving vans to evict the remaining residents in August, the situation erupted. While Barry’s Corner was eventually razed, the mix of protest and publicity forced the BRA to nix a planned luxury apartment complex. Boston granted the development bid to the Committee for North Harvard, a nonprofit group, to erect low-income housing. Bulldozers demolished the homes of the last holdouts of Barry’s Corner in 1969. In 1971, the doors opened at the Charlesview Apartments.
To the aggravation of longtime residents, Allston-Brighton is now known for a large student population and dense residential neighborhoods. To those new to the area, it is home to WGBH and the New Balance Headquarters along with a host of diverse small businesses, bars, and restaurants. Brighton Center provides a small-town community feel located a stones throw from Boston.
Getting to Allston/Brighton
The central arteries of Allston-Brighton are Commonwealth Ave and Beacon St. Route 9 stretches from Worcester to Boston. The Mass Pike runs through the heart of the old Allston stockyards with Brighton exits 17 and 18. The unbearably slow B Line transports the majority of the student population in to BU or out to BC. Living near Brighton’s Cleveland Circle will put you in walking distance to the Green Line’s B,C, and D branch.
Logan Airport: 50 minutes on the T or 25 minutes by car.
Downtown Boston: *30-90 minutes on the T…
North Station: *30-90 minutes on the T…
Harvard Square: *45-90 minutes on the T…
*Timing dependent on weather and students.
Things to do in Allston/Brighton
Grab a drink at The Glenville Stops, White Horse Tavern, Harry’s Bar and Grill, The Avenue, or Hopewell Bar & Kitchen.
See a show at Scullers Jazz Club, Great Scott, or Paradise Rock Club.
Learn something at the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum, Brighton-Allston Heritage Museum, McMullen Museum of Art.
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