The backstory of an elite, urban pseudo-suburb

This post-card from Paine’s Stationers, on the corner of Washington Street and Davis Avenue has a chronology of historical facts about Brookline, Massachusetts. The timeline runs from the area’s initial settlement in 1630 to a much more urban 1936.

The Town of Brookline has some complicated identity issues. One recent resident briefly kept a blog called “Keeping it Real in an Elite Urban Pseudo-Suburb.”

A lot of that convoluted terminology has to do with the events on this list.

The not-so-flatteringly named “Muddy River Hamlet” was originally a part of Boston. (Now, long-since separated, it is still surrounded by Boston on three sides.)

Here’s Washington Street and Davis Ave in the 1860s, from the collection of the Brookline Historical Society:

But, as noted, the area didn’t last as part of Boston as both grew. Brookline became one of the first so-called ‘streetcar suburbsconnected straight to downtown Boston by municipal rail (1847).

You can pick your academic theory on what this separation meant — either evidence of municipal imperialism according to historian Ken Jackson, or municipal fragmentation as Boston became one of the first cities to stop annexing outlying areas. Think New York City without Brooklyn, for an imperfect analogy.

Finally, today, the intersection of Washington Street and Davis Ave, courtesy of Google Streetview:


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