At the northwest edge of the city, where Boston meets Brookline and Newton (and the affluent Chestnut Hill neighborhood spans all three towns and cities), Brighton is dynamic historic neighborhood with a young population anchored by Boston College, Boston University, and the Longwood Medical Area.
An avenue of elegant apartments, side streets with Victorian houses. The neighborhood is centered on Commonwealth Avenue, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also planned Boston's Emerald Necklace of parks and New York City's Central Park. Commonwealth Avenue is flanked by stately brick and limestone apartments from the early 1900s, while the side streets can feel like Brookline, with large, ornate houses. Sections of the neighborhood, like the Aberdeen Historic District, can feel like a bucolic garden suburb where the winding roads follow the contours of the land's rocky outcroppings – that also happens to have a short walk to the T, and to the restaurants and bars around Harvard Avenue.
Brighton is a large neighborhood with several distinct sections.
The eastern section of Brighton is well-served by the T, with 8 stops on the B train of the Green Line, as well as additional stops for the C and D trains as well. However, the center and western part of the neighborhood are not as convenient to subway stations.
Brighton is in the northwest corner of Boston, with Allston to the northeast and the town of Watertown across the Charles River; the town of Newton's Newton Corner neighborhood to the west and Chestnut Hill to the south; and Brookline to the east.
In 1630, the land comprising today's Brighton and Allston were part of Watertown. In 1634, the Massachusetts Bay colony transferred ownership of the land to Newtowne, later known as Cambridge. Brighton was known as Little Cambridge, and with the secession of Newton in 1688, was the only part of Cambridge south of the Charles River. In 1807, Brighton became an independent town, and was renamed after the English town of Brighton.
Colonial and revolutionary history
In 1646, the missionary John Eliot (c.1604-1690) establishing a "Praying Indian" village at the Brighton-Newton border, to convert native Americans to Christianity. Eliot edited the first book published in the North American colonies (the Bay Psalm Book, in 1640), founded the Roxbury Latin School in 1645, and translated the Bible into Algonquin in 1663.
In the 1700s, Little Cambridge became a prosperous farming community, with under 300 residents. Among these were Boston merchant Benjamin Faneuil (1702-1786), whose descendant Peter Faneuil (1700-1743), a merchant and slave trader, donated Faneuil Hall to the city of Boston. There is a certain awkwardness to the building known as "the Cradle of Liberty" having been financed with profits from Faneuil's slave trading. The family is also remembered in Faneuil Street in Brighton.
If you think Brighton on a Saturday night is a meat market now ... In 1775, a cattle market was established in Little Cambridge to supply the Continental Army, by father and son Jonathan Winship I and II. They arrived in Little Cambridge from Lexington on the eve of the Revolution, and secured purchasing contracts with almost all the farmers in the surrounding communities that they would purchase their cattle. After the cattle was sent to Little Cambridge, the animals were processed for the patriots at their Academy Hill Road slaughterhouse. General Washington, recognizing the importance of a well fed army, posted soldiers at the Winship warehouses to protect them against sabotage. By the war's end the Winships were the largest meat packers in Massachusetts and the richest family in Brighton.
By 1866, the town contained almost four dozen slaughterhouses, which were were consolidated into the Brighton Stock Yards and Brighton Abattoir. (If there were ever a name for a punk club in the neighborhood, that would be it. Just saying.).
From the 1780s to the 1820s, Brighton became a prosperous and progressive town center, and the town center was developed in the Federal style popular at this time. It was one of the important horticultural and cattle markets for the region. Much credit for the town's growth has been given to the Reverend John Foster: "Harvard trustee, gentleman, and aristocrat ... well-suited to the community he had been called to serve," according to a description in the late 1700s.
Every generation ever has had its 50 Shades of Grey. The Rev. Foster's wife Hannah was an interesting figure in her own right. She secretly wrote the most popular literary work in New England in the early 1800s: the controversial novel of seduction, The Coquette, or the History of Eliza Wharton. It was published under a pseudonym in 1797, and did not appear under her name until 1856, 16 years after her death. The book was based on the experiences of Reverend Foster's cousin, Eliza Whitman, became the most popular literary work in New England in the early 1800s."
The um, flowering, of Brighton's horticultural industry. During the 1820s and '30s, these new roads provided access to persons doing business with Brighton's thriving agricultural concerns. Eminent visitors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (whose poems likely didn't sell as well as Hannah Foster's scandalous book) and William Cullen Bryant traveled through Brighton Center on their way to the nurseries of Joseph L.L. Warren's Nonantum Vale Gardens, Jonathan Winship, and Joseph Breck. The decision of the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture (MSPA) to locate its fairgrounds and exhibition hall permanently in Brighton enhanced the town's position as a horticultural center.
One of the earliest and largest agricultural fairs in the nation, the Brighton fair and Cattle show, was held in October of each year from 1817 to 1835. These fairs "embraced everything that could interest a farmer or be of benefit to agriculture; and in connection with them the importation of superior breeds of farm animals laid a firm and scientific base for the excellence which developed later.
But by 1835, competition from other fairs caused the Brighton Fair to cease operations. Little physical evidence of the vitality and importance of the fair remains within Brighton, with the exception of Agricultural Hall (356-360 Washington St.).