Famous for its nineteenth-century slaughterhouses started at the time of the Revolution, Allston/Brighton, with its 4.5 square miles, is the largest of the Boston neighborhoods. While considered now one community, Allston lies to the north of Brighton Avenue and N. Beacon Street; the larger Brighton extends to the south of this east-west corridor. The Charles River bends to create Allston's eastern and northern borders. The Massachusetts Turnpike, built on the former railroad right of way of the Pennsylvania-Central tracks, cuts Allston into two unequal zones. Brighton rises to Monastery Hill near the center of the community; the Chestnut Hill Reservoir and Chandler Pond anchor Brighton's southwest corner.
Settled initially in 1635, the area remained a part of Cambridge until 1807. The American Revolution began a dramatic change of the agricultural nature of Allston/Brighton when a cattle market and slaughterhouse were established in Brighton Center to provision General Washington's troops. By the end of the Civil War, thirty-four slaughterhouses competed, most located in the northeast section. The stench and pollution of this industry generated regulation by the State Board of Health beginning in 1869. Western competition soon sabotaged the industry; no surviving buildings document these important facilities.
Allston/Brighton witnessed rapid residential growth from 1870 through World War I, as immigration and streetcar lines fueled the development fires. For the generally working-class population, two-family and three-decker wooden residences predominated, especially in Allston. Brighton boasts the highest number of single-family residences, mostly gable fronted and three-bays wide. After World War I, brick apartment buildings served the more intensive occupation of the area. Institutional expansion by Harvard and Boston universities and Boston College continue to add students and young workers to the neighborhood's demographics. Institutional buildings define the character of Allston/Brighton. In addition to Boston College, the Roman Catholic Church has erected St. John's Seminary (AB5), Cenacle Convent, St. Gabriel's Monastery (see AB2), and St. Elizabeth's Hospital (see AB2), throughout Brighton. From its already significant base in the Business School campus (AB10) and athletic facilities (AB9) along the Charles River, Harvard University plans substantial expansion into the adjacent areas of Allston in the near future.
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