Brookline Massachusetts, 1890

Brookline is a wealthy and beautiful suburban town on he southwestern side of Boston, lying like a wedge between the Back Bay section and the Brighton district of that city. Its northeastern point almost reaches the Charles River, while its broad southwestern end abuts in equal extent against the West Roxbury district and the city of Newton; the latter also forming nearly half its boundary on the northwest. It is about four and one half miles long, and an average of two miles wide for the greater part of its length, and contains 3,750 acres, beside streets and water surfaces. The Boston and Albany Railroad and the Woonsocket Division of the New York and New England Railroad pass through the town; the stations and villages being Brookline, Chapel Station, Cottage Farm, Longwood, and Reservoir Station The post-office is Brookline, which is in the Boston postal district and has carrier delivery.
The surface of the town is beautifully, varied by hill and valley; and the aspect it presents from elevated points in Boston is very charming. From Longwood Brook, which divides its northerly half from Boston, the land rises in a beautiful swell, to fall again, then to be succeeded by the noble eminence of Corey's Hill, 270 feet in height; while beyond this Lyman's Hill rises to 339 feet; and to right and left are other hills,— a group of them in the southern part. Other names are Aspinwall Hill (240 feet), Fisher's Hill (250 feet), and the two Walnut Hills, of somewhat less elevation. The views obtained from these hills are unsurpassed in beauty. That from Corey's Hill embraces the distant summits of Wachusett and Monadnock mountains and the hills of Waltham on the northwest, the charming landscapes of Watertown, Mount Auburn and the University of Cambridge on the north, and on the northeast and east, the heights of Charlestown, of East Boston and the city proper, with the harbor and islands, the long line of Nantasket and the ocean beyond. Two small ponds, and a charming artificial reservoir connected with the Boston Water-works, enhance the beauty of the scenery. The town has, itself, an elaborate system of water-works, drawing its supply from Charles River. About 250 acres are devoted to forest, and it is said that every tree indigenous to the State is here represented.
There are still about 24 farms, mostly devoted to the dairy and the vegetable garden; their product in 1885 being valued at $89,599. The usual kinds of small manufactures are found here; whose value, for the same period, was $152,853. The population of the town, by the census of 1885, was 9,196. The Brookline National Bank has a capital of $100,000; and the savings bank, at the beginning of this year, held deposits amounting to $382,833. The last valuation of the town, in 1888, was $4,1,246,900,— with a tax-rate of $10.50 on $1,000.
Brookline is chiefly remarkable to the passing traveller as a place of suburban residences. Its surface is in a high state of cultivation, which, to a large extent, is ornamental; and, amid the gardens and the numerous shade-trees — elms, maples, oaks and many others —mostly of large size, are the elegant mansions and cottages of citizens whose daily business is in the metropolis. The streets are kept in excellent condition, and are also extensively bordered with shade-trees. Western Avenue, the continuation of Boston's Beacon Street, is a splendid driveway, extending quite across the town.
Brookline has a large and handsome town-hall, built of rose granite, at an expense of $150,000. The principal audience-room is capable of seating 1,200 persons. There is a public library building of brick, with an interior finish of butternut, and containing a choice library of upwards of 20,000 volumes.
The edifice of the Harvard (Congregational) Church, constituted of stone from various parts of the world, at an expense of more than $100,000, is a beautiful example of church architecture. The Episcopal Saint Paul's Church is remarkable for its chaste and elegant form and finish. There are other church edifices of much beauty and impressiveness; that of the Roman Catholics excelling in size. Beside those mentioned, the Episcopalians have another, and the Methodists, the New Church (Swedenborgian), the Baptists and the Unitarians each have substantial and suitable houses of worship.
[the Harvard Church, Brookline.]
Brookline has taken good care that her schools shall meet the requirements of her superior citizenship. They are carefully graded, and the high school is of the first order. Twelve buildings are devoted to them, valued, with property appertaining, at very nearly $200,000. Two good suburban journals, the "Chronicle" and the "News," amply supply the needs of the place in this line.
Brookline was originally a part of Boston, with the name of Muddy River Hamlet,— which doubtless seemed an appropriate term to those who could not get over the divisional stream. It was not formally separated from Boston and incorporated as a town until November 13, 1705; yet it is found that the records begin on January 19, 1687, when an entry was made that the town voted that, "for the annual maintenance of the schoolmaster £ 12 per annum should be raised, and the remainder necessary to support the charges of the master be laid equally upon the scholars' beads, save any persons that are poor, to be abated in part or in whole." Brookline was embraced in Suffolk County until 1793, when, contrary to the wishes of its people, it became a part of Norfolk, forming the northeast extremity of the county. The first meeting-house was erected here in November, 1714; and the first church was organized October 26, 1717; and in the following year the Rev. James Allen was ordained as minister.
Some twenty or more years ago, Mr. David Sears founded a chapel, at a cost of about $40,000, in the northeasterly part of the town; and near this stands a memorial church of Roxbury stone, trimmed with white marble, built by Mr. Amos A. Lawrence, at a cost of about $50,000. This chapel has given to the railroad station, near by, the name of Chapel Station, which, in turn, has attached its name to the unique and elegant little village in its neighborhood.
Among the distinguished men of Brookline may be mentioned: Zabdiel Boylston, F.R.S. (1680-1766), an eminent physician, who introduced inoculation for small-pox into this country; Jeremy Gridley (1705-1767), a distinguished lawyer, the teacher of James Otis; William Aspinwall, M.D. (1743-1823), a celebrated physician; Elhanan Winchester (1751-1797), author and clergyman; Col. Thomas Aspinwall (1784), an able lawyer and gallant soldier; George Sewall Boutwell (1818), a distinguished statesman, governor of Massachusetts from 1851 to 1853, Secretary of the United States Treasury from 1869 to 1873, United States senator from 1873 to 1877.
pp. 207-210 in Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890