An independent city in the heart of Boston.
Brookline, part of Norfolk County, borders Newton to the west and Boston in all other directions. Brookline became an official enclave in 1873 when the neighboring town of West Roxbury was annexed by Boston. This gem of Norfolk County is geographically isolated from the rest of the county.
Beginning in the early 17th century Brookline formed as an outlying area of the growing Boston settlement. Originally know as Muddy River, the town of Brookline was officially incorporated in 1705. This small hamlet served as the gateway to three post roads and quickly became a bustling commercial center.
We often think of Coolidge Corner as the heart of Brookline. With Beacon St. and the C Line intersected by Harvard St. stretching up to Brighton, it’s certainly the modern center of activity. However, Brookline Village was the original center of commerce going back to the Muddy River days. With three branches the Boston Post Road (the Lower Post Road to Providence RI, the Middle Post Road to Hartford CT., and the Upper Post Road to Springfield MA.) followed in 1810 by the Boston Worcester Turnpike, now Route 9, and later by the Boston & Albany Railroad the commerce generated in Brookline Village helped prevent repeated attempts to annex the town to Boston coming to a head during the Boston–Brookline annexation debate of 1873.
Brookline boasts a rich political history. Long before the birth of JFK, at 83 Beals St. in Coolidge Corner (now a National Historic Site), Brookline served as home to two stops on the Underground Railroad, 9 Toxteth Street and 182 Walnut Street and three Underground Railroad conductors, William Bowditch, Samuel Philbrick and Ellis Gray Loring.
Brookline residents were among the first in the country to propose Women’s suffrage. Advocated in large part by Benjamin F. Butler during his successful 1882 campaign for Governor. Butler appointed the state’s first Irish-American and African-American judges, and appointed the first woman to executive office, Clara Barton, to head the Massachusetts Reformatory for Women.
Despite the wide open feel of Beacon St. and the more suburban western parts the city, Brookline is one the densest cities in New England. North of the D-line, Brookline is a walkable and transit rich urban center. The population density of this part of town is nearly 20,000 Brookliners per square mile, on par with the densest neighborhoods in nearby Cambridge, Somerville and Chelsea, and just below Boston’s residential districts like Back Bay, South End, and Fenway. The overall density of Brookline, which includes suburban districts and large estates south of the D-line, is still higher than many of the largest cities in the country which makes the need to store and organize your stuff an important part of daily life for this bustling enclave.
Getting to Brookline
Route 9/Boylston St. is the main artery through the heart of Brookline and changes over to Washington St. in Boston just past Brookline Village. Beacon St. stretches from Cleveland Circle to Kenmore Square. Harvard St will take you from Brookline Village up to Packards Corner in Brighton, a quick way to hop on the Mass Pike near
Like the three branches of the old Boston Post Road, you’ll find all three branches of the Green Line in Brookline. The B line skirts Brookline northern edge, the C line follows Beacon St. to Cleveland Circle, and the D line marks the Southern border of Brookline extending from Fenway out to Newton.
Things to do in Brookline
Take a walk along the Muddy River. (It’s a lot nicer than it sounds!)
The Muddy River section of Fredrick Law Olmsted’s masterpiece Emerald Necklace serves to provide a natural feeling respite from a congested city. These green spaces which dot around Boston and Brookline appear at first glance to be a natural landscape but are important works of landscape art and a shining example of the ingenuity of America’s 19th century public works projects.
Often overlooked by modern city dwellers, The Emerald Necklace plays an important role in the growth of Boston by providing storage basins for storm water and to divert the sewage that flowed into the Fens. Olmsted reshaped the Muddy River to form a meandering stream bordered by wide reaches of low-lying marsh, creating a new landscape carefully designed to look natural. An undertaking that took nearly twenty years to create, it is listed on the national Register of Historic Places.
From the Fens Area at the Northeast corner of Brookline stretching through Longwood to Olmsted park and Jamaica Pond this section of the Emerald Necklace serves as the southern border of Brookline.
See where JFK was grew up! The John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and was established as a National Historic Site on May 26, 1967. The house is located at 83 Beals Street in the Coolidge Corner neighborhood of Brookline, Massachusetts. The property is now owned by the National Park Service; tours of the house are offered, and a film is presented.
Go shopping and grab a bite to eat at Coolidge Corner or Washington Square.
Puppets anyone? The Puppet Showplace Theatre, one of the four oldest puppet theatres in the United States. It’s located next to the Brookline Village D line stop and is super cute.
Read a book! Located on Harvard St. The Brookline Booksmith is a Coolidge Corner staple, opened as the Paperback Booksmith in 1961. Along with a large collection of new and used books, the Booksmith hosts a variety of author nights, book club gatherings, and other events.
Catch a movie at the historic Coolidge Corner Theater. Originally built as a church in 1906, Coolidge Corner Theater was transformed into an Art Deco movie theater in 1933, and remains among a prized but small group of independent theaters across the US. The theater shows contemporary movies along with featuring numerous programs to bring back older films. It also serves beer and wine!
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