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Brookline is a town in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States, which borders on the cities of Boston and Newton. As of the 2000 census, the population of the town was 57,107.
Brookline was known as the hamlet of Muddy River (a river which today makes up part of the Brookline-Boston border) and was considered a part of Boston until the Town of Brookline was independently incorporated in 1705. Its name is derived from the brooks that created the town lines with the former towns of Brighton and Roxbury, which are both now parts of Boston.
1852 Map of Boston area showing Brookline and its brooks.
Settlement and borders
Once part of Algonquian territory, Brookline was first settled by European colonists in the early 1600s. The area was an outlying part of the colonial settlement of Boston and known as the hamlet of Muddy River. In 1705, it was incorporated as the independent town of Brookline. The northern and southern borders of the town were marked by two small rivers or brooks, hence the name. The northern border with Brighton (which was itself part of Cambridge until 1807) was Smelt Brook. (That name appears on maps starting at least as early as 1852, but sometime between 1888 and 1925 the brook was covered over.) The southern border, with Boston, was the Muddy River.
The city of Brighton was merged with Boston in 1874, and the Boston-Brookline border was redrawn to connect the new Back Bay neighborhood with Allston-Brighton. This created a narrow strip of land along the Charles River belonging to Boston, cutting Brookline off from the shoreline. It also put certain lands orth of the Muddy River on the Boston side, including what are now Kenmore Square and Packard's Corner. The current northern border follows Commonwealth Avenue, and on the northeast, St. Mary's Street. When the Emerald Necklace of parks and parkways was designed for Boston by Frederick Law Olmsted in the 1890s, the Muddy River was integrated into the Riverway and Olmsted Park, creating parkland accessible by both Boston and Brookline residents.
Throughout its history, Brookline resisted being absorbed by Boston, in particular as the Brookline-Boston annexation debate of 1873 was decided in favor of independence. The neighboring towns of West Roxbury and Hyde Park connected Brookline to the rest of Norfolk County until they were annexed by Boston in 1874 and 1912, respectively, putting them in Suffolk County. Brookline is now separated from the remainder of Norfolk County.
Brookline has long been regarded as a pleasant and verdant environment. In 1841 edition of the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, Andrew Jackson Downing described the area this way:
"The whole of this neighborhood of Brookline is a kind of landscape garden, and there is nothing in America of the sort, so inexpressibly charming as the lanes which lead from one cottage, or villa, to another. No animals are allowed to run at large, and the open gates, with tempting vistas and glimpses under the pendent boughs, give it quite an Arcadian air of rural freedom and enjoyment. These lanes are clothed with a profusion of trees and wild shrubbery, often almost to the carriage tracks, and curve and wind about, in a manner quite bewildering to the stranger who attempts to thread them alone; and there are more hints here for the lover of the picturesque in lanes than we ever saw assembled together in so small a compass."
The town has since seen considerable development, though still does maintain a considerable amount of greenspace in certain neighborhoods.
Transportation and economy
Two branches of upper Boston Post Road, established in the 1670s, passed through Brookline. Brookline Village was the original center of retail activity. In 1810, the Boston and Worcester Turpike, now Massachusetts Route 9, was laid out, starting on Huntington Avenue in Boston and passing through the village center on its way west.
team railroads came to Brookline in the middle of the 19th century. The Boston and Worcester Railroad was constructed in the early 1830s, and passed through Brookline near the Charles River. The rail line is still in active use, now paralleled by the Massachusetts Turnpike. The Highland Branch of the Boston and Albany Railroad was built from Kenmore Square to Brookline Village in 1847, and was extended into Newton in 1852. In the late 1950s, this would become the Green Line "D" Branch.
The portion of Beacon Street west of Kenmore Square was laid out in 1850. Streetcar tracks were laid above ground on Beacon Street in 1888, from Coolidge Corner to Massachusetts Avenue in Boston, via Kenmore Square. In 1889, they were electrified and extended over the Brighton border at Cleveland Circle. They would eventually become the Green Line "C" Branch.
Thanks to the Boston Elevated Railway system, this upgrade from horse-drawn carriage to electric trolleys occurred on many major streets all over the region, and made transportation into downtown Boston faster and cheaper. Much of Brookline was developed into a streetcar suburb, with large brick apartment buildings sprouting up along the new streetcar lines.
The neighborhoods, squares, and other notable areas of Brookline include:
There are many neighborhood associations, some of which overlap.
As of the 2000 census, there were 57,107 people, 25,594 households, and 12,233 families residing in the town. The population density was 8,409.7 people per square mile (3,247.3/kmē). There were 26,413 housing units at an average density of 3,889.6/sq mi (1,501.9/kmē). The racial makeup of the town was 81.08% White, 2.74% Black or African American, 0.12% Native American, 12.83% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 1.01% from other races, and .18% from two or more races. 3.53% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 25,594 households out of which 21.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.4% were married couples living together, 7.1% have a female householder, and 52.2% were non-families as defined by the Census bureau. 36.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.18 and the average family size was 2.86.
In the town the population was spread out with 16.6% under the age of 18, 11.7% from 18 to 24, 37.3% from 25 to 44, 21.9% from 45 to 64, and 12.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 82.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 79.1 males.
According to a 2007 estimate, the median income for a household was $82,496. The median income for a family was $120,933. Males had a median income of $56,861 versus $43,436 for females. The per capita income for the town was $44,327. About 4.5% of families and 9.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.3% of those under age 18 and 7.5% of those age 65 or over.
Brookline is governed by a representative (elected) town meeting, which is the legislative body of the town, and a five-person Board of Selectmen which serves as the executive branch of the town. For more details about the roles and procedures within the government of Brookline, please see the town government's own description.
The town is served by the Public Schools of Brookline. The student body at Brookline High School includes students from more than 50 different countries. Many students attend Brookline High from surrounding, neighborhoods in Boston, such as Mission Hill and Mattapan, via the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) system.
There are eight elementary schools in the Brookline Public School system: Edith C. Baker School, Devotion, Driscoll, Heath School, Lawrence, Lincoln, Pierce, and Runkle. As of December 2006, there were 6,089 K-12 students enrolled in the Brookline public schools. The system includes one early learning center, eight grades K-8 schools, and one comprehensive high school.
The student body is 66.1% White, 17.7% Asian, 9.9% Black, 5.9% Hispanic, and 0.4% other. Approximately 30% of students come from homes where nglish is not the first language.
Several private primary and secondary schools, including the Beaver Country Day School, Brimmer and May School, British School of Boston, Dexter School, Maimonides School, and The Park School are located in the town.
Several institutes of higher education are located in Brookline, including:
Pine Manor College
Wheelock College has part of its campus in Brookline
Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology
parts of Boston University
parts of Boston College
Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis
The New England Institute of Art
As close to Boston as Brookline is, it has managed to maintain its own identity. Brookline features a mixture of urban and suburban living, upscale shops and recreational parks, apartment buildings and large estates. Along with offering both a city atmosphere and a feeling of being in the country, there is a wide mix of people in Brookline. It is the home of many academic and scientific professionals who work at the nearby medical centers in Boston. Brookline has staunchly refused to be absorbed by Boston, which surrounds it like a horseshoe. Brookline has kept its town meeting form of government since its 1705 incorporation. It also has an overnight on-street parking ban which is unusual for such a dense area. Among its many unusual resources, Brookline has its own working farm (with farm stand), the oldest country club in the nation, a town golf course, a park on a hillside overlooking Boston with an open-air skating rink and transportation museum, as well as numerous neighborhood parks and playgrounds scattered throughout the town.Its major retail centers, including Coolidge Corner, Brookline Village, Washington Square, Cleveland Circle and the Chestnut Hill Shopping Center, are pedestrian-oriented shopping areas with a variety of stores, restaurants and malls.
Although predominantly residential, Brookline is somewhat open to new commercial development, and has amended its zoning to encourage limited growth along its major thoroughfares.
Brookline is known in the Boston area for its large population of Russian immigrants and numerous synagogues. Jewish culture is very strong in Brookline; the Jewish population was estimated in 2002 at 20,300, so Jews compose over 35% of the town's population. Jewish culture is especially notable along the section of Harvard Street that starts at Washington St (Brookline Village) runs through Beacon Street (Coolidge Corner) and ends at Commonwealth Avenue, continuing into Allston-Brighton. This neighborhood is home to at least three area synagogues including the first Jewish congregation in Massachusetts (Ohabei Shalom, founded in Boston in 1842 and located in Brookline since the 1920s) and a number of Jewish-themed restaurants and stores. Brookline is also known for its excellent schools, which are supported in large part by property taxes — the town has one of the highest property tax burdens in the country.
While residents of Brookline tend toward liberal values, economic and cultural factors keep this section of the Boston metropolitan area less diverse than its neighbor across the Charles River, Cambridge. Brookline's liberalism and diversity are relatively new developments in the town's history. In the 19th century, Brookline, which had been called "the richest town in America", was a sanctuary for the wealthy, where Boston's elites built their summer homes.
The Brookline Historical Society maintains its headquarters in the Edward Devotion House, one of the oldest colonial structures in Brookline with its earliest segments dating to probably around 1680. The first Edward Devotion (1621 -1685) settled in Brookline in about 1650. Devotion was a French Huguenot. The Brookline Historical Society was founded in 1901 and began meeting in the Devotion House the same year. The Edward Devotion School nearby is built on land donated by Edward Devotion's grandson.
Points of interest
- There were two stops on the Underground Railroad in Brookline: 9 Toxteth Street and 182 Walnut Street.
- St. Aidan's Church was where John F. Kennedy was christened and where the Kennedy family and other prominent Irish-Americans were parishioners. The church was designed by architect Charles Maginnis, who was awarded the American Institute of Architect's Gold Medal. Though it is on the National Register of Historic Places, St. Aidan's Church has been closed and may be converted into housing.
- Coolidge Corner, which is located at the crossing of Beacon Street and Harvard Street, is one of Brookline's two primary retail districts (the other being Brookline Village). It includes a number of historically significant sites, including the S.S. Pierce Building (now occupied by a Walgreen's), and the Coolidge Corner Theatre.
See also Chestnut Hill Points of Interest.
- Larz Anderson, United States Ambassador to Japan
- William Aspinwall, (1743-1823), surgeon, member of the Massachusetts General Court and Massachusetts Senate
- Saul Bellow, Nobel Prize-winning novelist, lived the last 12 years of his life in Brookline.
- Larry Bird, professional basketball player, lived in Brookline while he played for the Boston Celtics
- Zabdiel Boylston, physician who introduced inoculation against smallpox to the North American colonies in 1721
- Michael A. Burstein (born 1970), science fiction writer
- Stanley Cavell (born 1926), professor of philosophy, winner of the MacArthur fellow
- Michael Dukakis (born 1933), former Governor of Massachusetts and 1988 Democratic Presidential candidate
- Theo Epstein (born 1973), Boston Red Sox General Manager
- Hank Eskin, webmaster of Where's George?
- King Gillette, inventor of the safety razor
- Sheldon Lee Glashow (born 1932), Nobel Prize-winning physicist
- John Hodgman (born 1971), author and contributor for This American Life and The Daily Show
- Richard Jones, US ambassador to Israel, lived in Brookline for a couple of years, with his family.
- John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), President of the United States. Born in Brookline where he lived his first 10 years. Baptized at and attended St. Aidan's Church. Attended Edward Devotion School, a Brookline public school from kindergarten until the beginning of 3rd grade, then Noble and Greenough Lower School and its successor Dexter School, a Brookline private school for boys through 4th grade. Moved with family to Riverdale, New York in September 1927.
- Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968), Attorney General, US Senator, brother of President John F. Kennedy. Born in Brookline.
- Robert Kraft (born 1942), New England Patriots owner
- Jon Krakauer (born 1954, raised in Corvallis, Oregon), author of Into the Wild and Into Thin Air, columnist for Outside magazine
- Michio and Aveline Kushi (http://www.michiokushi.org), leaders of the worldwide macrobiotic movement
- Lester Lefton, president of Kent State University
- Lawrence Lowell (1856-1943), former president of Harvard University
- Eddie Lowery (1903-1984), Caddy of Francis Ouimet during the 1913 U.S. Open held in Brookline.
- Larry Lucchino (born 1945), co-owner of Boston Red Sox
- Roger Miller, rock musician
- Marvin Minsky (born 1927), Artificial Intelligence theorist, inventor, author, professor
- Nicholas Nixon, photographer, professor
- Conan O'Brien (born 1963), host of Late Night with Conan O'Brien
- Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), landscape architect
- Francis Ouimet (1893-1967), amateur golf player who won the US Open in 1913
- Henry Varnum Poor, creator of the Standard & Poor's Index
- Rishi Reddi, short story writer
- Dan Rosenthal (born 1966) Assistant to the President in the White House under Bill Clinton
- Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (1903-1993), Noted Jewish scholar
- James Taylor, American Musician, owns a home in Brookline
- Mike Wallace (born 1918), TV journalist, best known for 60 Minutes
- Barbara Walters (born 1929), television commentator and journalist
- David Weinberger, notable blogger, internet expert, and political consultant
- The Weld family
- William A. Wellman, b. 1896 in Brookline, director, Wings (film)
- Gary K. Wolf, creator of Roger Rabbit
Town of Brookline
Brookline Community Web Site
Brookline Historical Society
Hellenic College - Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology
Brookline High School
First School of Mathematics
Chestnut Hill Reservoir/ Boston Water Supply History.
Chart of Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay with Map of Adjacent Country. Published 1867. A good map of roads and rail lines around Brookline, showing the two town line brooks.