Click Here to return to
Click Here to return to
VIII. A GROUP OF SUBURBAN RIDES.
THERE are several horse-car routes leading through scenes of rich suburban beauty. The entire horse-car system of Boston and the adjacent towns, with the exception of the Lynn and Boston line, is under the management of the West End Street Railway Company.
Among the favorite routes are those leading to Grove Hall, Franklin Park, and the Dorchester District, a distance of about five miles, requiring nearly an hour for the outward trip, which costs only five cents. Many of the ears pass down Tremont Street, by the Common. Those of one route follow Washington Street south for nearly three miles, passing the Cathedral, Franklin and Blackstone Squares, the Langham Hotel, and the old cemetery in which John Eliot is buried, and soon afterwards begin’ to ascend the long slopes of Boston Highlands, on Warren Street, through a wide district of pleasant suburban homes. The country grows more open, the estates are larger and more park-like, the farther the car goes, and at Grove Hall the line diverges, some cars going to the right, to Franklin Park, and others to the left, where the route lies over high ground with the hill country of Milton often in sight. The terminus of the latter route is near the old Second Church, and by walking a little way beyond, to Welles Avenue, and ascending thereon to Ocean Street, a fine view of the harbor and sea, the southern suburbs and the Blue Hills, may be gained. Other routes pass out of the city along Shawmut or Columbus Avenues, and in the Roxbury District along a portion of Blue Hill Avenue.
Another pleasant ride, the cost of which is the same, is that to Milton Lower Mills, a distance of about six miles. The ears on this route leave the head of Franklin Street, corner of Washington, every half hour, and run through Federal Street to South Boston, where they enter upon the long Dorchester Avenue, and traverse a region occupied by workers in iron and wood, — the Norway Iron Works, and other large manufacturing establishments. Leaving this crowded selvage of South Boston, the more open streets of Washington Village are followed, with frequent views over the South Bay on the right, and Boston Harbor on the left. The villas of Savin Hill soon appear on the left, and the line closely approaches an arm of Dorchester Bay. Beyond the station at Field’s Corner, the country becomes more open, and several handsome estates are passed. The track is so far to the side of the avenue that the trees hang over it, and there is a strip of grass between it and the roadway. At Ashmont the avenue crosses a bridge over the Shawmut Branch of the Old Colony Railroad. A mile farther, and the car enters the pretty village of Milton Lower Mills, passing two or three of its churches, and stopping on the brow of the hill, over the Neponset River. At the foot of the street is the large and handsome factory in which Baker’s chocolate is made. But the crowning beauty of this excursion is found by crossing the Neponset River (which is here the boundary of Boston), and ascending the Quincy road for about half a mile, whence one can get a magnificent view of Boston Harbor and its many islands, the open sea, the blue Neponset winding through broad meadows, and the villages which stud the territories of Quincy and the Dorchester District. It is not far from three miles by this road over Milton Hill to Quincy, and a continuous line of stately old mansions and parks is passed, with immense velvety lawns, clumps of ancient trees, and abounding evidences of the most skillful landscape-gardening.
A much shorter ride in this same direction, and one worth taking, is that to Meeting-House Hill, by the horse-cars which leave the corner of Franklin and Washington Streets. Meeting-House Hill is an interesting locality, with its venerable church, the Dorchester soldiers’ monument, and a group of handsome public buildings. A fine view of the harbor is enjoyed from this point; and it is not much more than half a mile to Savin Hill, a picturesque eminence surrounded on three sides by the water, and covered with villas.
The route to Forest Hills is about five miles long, and begins at the corner of Franklin and Washington Streets, which last it follows for five miles, pass-big some flue estates, the great Notre-Dame Academy, the New-England Hospital for Women and Children, and other handsome suburban institutions; traversing the edge of the village of Jamaica Plain; and terminating not far from the entrance to Forest Hills Cemetery. Conveyances also ran from the terminal station to the Mount Hope Cemetery, nearly a mile beyond, but somewhat irregularly.
The Jamaica Plain route is about five miles long, and runs from the Tremont House for over two miles and a half along Tremont Street. At Tremont Station it diverges to the left on to Pynchon Street, where a half-mile of breweries and German houses is passed. At the junction of Centre Street the great City Stables are seen on the left. The track here turns on to Centre Street, and soon crosses the sunken line of the Providence Railroad, near a house which dates from about 1720. The cars thereupon enter a delightful region of villas and open fields, passing the stately building of the Russell School, and approaching the village of Jamaica Plain. Several handsome churches are seen, on either side of the street, several attractive country places, and the mansion once made famous as the home of S. G. Goodrich (Peter Parley). The beautiful Jamaica Pond is a short walk to the right, down Pond Street. A little farther on is the large and showy building formerly used as the town-hall; and near it is the West Roxbury soldiers’ monument, opposite the dignified old Unitarian Church. Stages connect with the cars at this point, and run out through a mile or more of picturesque wooded country, to the celebrated Allandale Mineral Spring.
The old Brookline horse-car route is four miles long, starting from the Tremont House, and following Tremont Street nearly all the way. It passes the pudding-stone quarries on Parker Hill, and the lofty Church of our Lady of Perpetual Help, which is a conspicuous object for miles around. The interior of this church is worth visiting, in order to see the massive pillars of polished granite which separate the nave from the aisles. By following the main street from the terminal station, one soon comes in sight of the Brookline Town Hall, a beautiful and attractive stone building of modern erection. It is about a mile from the end of this horse-car line to Beacon Street, by way of Harvard Street, and the route leads past numerous delightful estates and suburban houses. The new line from Boston, passing by the Tremont House, and out by the way of the Back Bay District and Huntington Avenue, is the most direct to Brookline. On reaching Beacon Street, one may walk out to the left to the Chestnut Hill Reservoir less than two miles; or return to the city by way of the Mill Dam, about three miles, by going along Beacon Street to the right; or, better still, if the day is clear, turn to the left on Beacon Street, and follow it a short distance to the divergence of Summit Hill Avenue on the right, and ascend thereon to the crest of Corey’s Hill, whence is obtained one of the grandest views in eastern Massachusetts, including not only Boston and her suburbs, and the sea, but also the rural towns to the west for many leagues, even to the blue peak of far-away Wachusett.
One of the routes traverses Columbus Avenue, and gives a comprehensive view of that part of the city, with its handsome residence-blocks and modern churches, all built on laud reclaimed from the back water of Charles River.
The South Boston route to City Point gives a view of the Peninsula wards, and a pleasant prospect over the harbor. The cars run by different routes through the city proper; some making “the circuit” through Tremont Street, across the head of Scollay Square, Cornhill, and Washington Street, and passing through Summer, and other busy streets, to the bridge over Fort Point Channel, whence they soon reach Broadway, the main street of South Boston. Others start from Brattle Street; and others still from Harvard Square, Cambridge. The latter pass through Park Square, by the Providence Station, and cross the Dover Street bridge. Passing the large Catholic Church of SS. Peter and Paul, the line along Broadway soon begins the ascent of Mount Washington, the ancient Dorchester Heights, near whose top is a group of churches, St. Matthews’ Episcopal, the Methodist Centenary, the Fourth Baptist, the Phillips Congregational, the Hawes Congregational, and the Church of Our Father (Unitarian). Where the track bends to the left, the visitor may get off and ascend, by the Carney Hospital (Catholic), to the park on the crest of the heights, where the site of Washington’s batteries is marked by a granite tablet. The view from this point is very beautiful, and includes the harbor, with its islands and forts, the open sea, Dorchester Bay and the Blue Hills, and the metropolis of New England, with all its broad and populous suburbs. The Perkins Institution for the Blind is not far from this park, and fronts on Broadway. A little way farther out on Broadway is Independence Square, a handsome park covering a quarter of a million feet, nearly surrounded by neat residences, and on the lower side approached by the grounds of the Boston Lunatic Asylum and other public buildings. Three blocks beyond this point is the end of the peninsula, with seaward-facing beaches and public grounds, and a great number of places where boats and skippers may be hired. Fort Independence is quite near this shore, and the other harbor islands are seen beyond, on either side, with the wide expanse of Dorchester Bay on the south, overlooked by the Blue Hills of Milton. Off City Point are the mooring-grounds of most of the yachts belonging to the Boston, Dorchester, and South-Boston Yacht Clubs.
Revere Beach is the nearest to Boston of all the sea-beaches, and may be reached by the narrow-gauge railroad from Atlantic Avenue, the Eastern Railroad, or by the horse-cars through Scollay Square (fare, ten cents). The latter route leads through Charlestown, giving views of the Soldiers’ Monument and Bunker-Hill Monument, and then crosses the Mystic River on a long bridge, and traverses the city of Chelsea, passing the grounds of the Marine Hospital and crossing the public square near the business centre. Soon the Chelsea Highlands (the ancient Powder-Horn Hill) are seen rising on the left, crowned by a large building, formerly a summer hotel, and now the new Soldiers’ Home, which commands an extensive view over Boston and the harbor, with the northern environs. Crossing Mill River, the line enters the town of Revere, and after a short run through an open country and a part of the hamlet turns to the eastward, and soon reaches the beach, near several of the hotels. Beyond the point where the horse-cars diverge from Broadway the Lynn and Boston horse-cars continue along the old Salem Turnpike to the city of Lynn, and out as far as Swampscott, the Long Branch of Boston.
Somerville is traversed by three steam railroads, and also by horse-car lines, one of which departs from Scollay Square, crosses Charlestown, and, near Charlestown Neck, one branch diverges to Union Square, while another continues over the Neck to Winter Hill. Another line is from Bowdoin Square through East Cambridge, to West Somerville, passing also through Union Square; and still others from the Providence Station on Park Square, through Cambridgeport, Inman Square to Union Square, and Beacon Street, Somerville, to Porter’s Station. The Winter Hill line runs through a pleasant district, after leaving Charlestown, passing the site of the Ursuline Convent on Mount Benedict, the prettily planned Sefton Park, and a great number of neat wooden residences. Away to the left the Somerville City Hall, High School, and Unitarian Church are seen; and on the right is the populous Mystic Valley. After a long and slow ascent the car reaches the top of Winter Hill, the site of one of the American batteries during the siege of Boston, and commanding a fine view over the northern suburbs. A walk of two and a half miles straight out on Broadway leads to the village of Arlington (see below), whence horse-cars may be taken over another route to Boston. This walk leads along the old stage-road to Keene, New Hampshire, and passes to within two miles of Medford, which is long seen on the right, and much nearer to and in plain sight of the high-placed buildings of Tufts College. It also passes close to the Old Wayside Mill, the most picturesque bit of antiquity in all the Boston environs. This venerable tower was built about one hundred and seventy years ago, as a windmill for grinding corn, and in 1747 became a provincial powder-house, from which, in 1774, Gage’s British troops removed 250 half-barrels of powder. There are several interesting traditions connected with this antique stone structure, one of which is recorded in Drake’s “Historic Fields and Mansions of Middlesex.”
The large and handsome village of Arlington, with its prettily grouped spires, its blue lakelet, and its memorial tablets recording the scenes in the Concord-Lexington march which occurred within her borders, is reached by hourly horse-cars from Bowdoin Square, Boston (fare 10 cents cash; no tickets sold). The line crosses the West-Boston Bridge, and passes through Cambridgeport and over Dana Hill to Harvard Square, where it goes round two sides of the College-grounds, and gives a fine view of many of the most important buildings. Then the Common is skirted, and the Soldiers’ Monument, Washington Elm, and Shepard Church are seen on the left. Beyond Harvard Square the route is over North Avenue, a long and wide boulevard, lined with trees and handsome villas, and affording a succession of pleasant prospects. Upon reaching Arlington (anciently called Menotomy), an hour can be passed very satisfactorily in rambling about the clean, quiet, and umbrageous streets of that ancient village. About a mile and a half beyond is the crest of Arlington Heights, reached by good roads and crowned by villas; and therefrom is obtained a grand view, including all Boston and her suburbs and the attendant sea, on the east, and on the west a vast expanse of green and rolling farm and forest country, studded with white villages and blue ponds, and bounded by the distant but clearly discernible peaks of Watatic, Wachusett, and Monadnock.
The routes to the Brighton District and Watertown are among the most interesting out of Boston; and the latter part of the Mount Auburn route, from Harvard Square to the Cemetery, is not surpassed in artificial beauty and historic charm. Wrote Sir Charles Dilke: “It is not only in the Harvard precincts that the oldness of New England is to be remarked. Although her people are everywhere in the vanguard of all progress, their country has a look of gable-ends and steeple-hats, while their laws seem fresh from the hands of Alfred. In all England there is no city which has suburbs so gray and venerable as the elm-shaded towns around Boston, Dorchester, Chelsea, Nahant, and Salem.”
The overhead electric system is in operation between Bowdoin Square and Harvard Square in Cambridge, and also upon the Beacon Street extension to Chestnut Hill, and is rapidly being extended over other parts of the city.