North Terminal Garage and the Great Brink’s Robbery // 1925

Thousands of Bostonians and tourists alike stroll through the charming streets of the North End every day, many of which even parking within one of the only parking garages in the area, the North Terminal Garage, on Commercial Ave. The advent of the modern parking garage was the direct result of the automobile becoming the principal means of transportation in the early 20th century. Into the 1910s, trolleys, ferries and, trains were the vehicles of choice for Boston commuters. By 1915 automobiles quickly gained popularity as they became more available and affordable, providing travelers with greater independence and mobility. In response, a growing number of automobile-related businesses sprang up throughout the city.

Constructed in 1925 for the North Terminal Corporation, the garage was designed by architects Little & Russell and built by the Aberthaw Company. According to building permit records, the garage was constructed at a cost of $400,000 and could accommodate 700 cars. At the time it was built, the garage was one of the largest in Boston. Although it was only three stories, its unique design allowed for large capacity in a relatively small amount of space due to the lack of interior ramps. This was possible because of the steep sloping site which provided street-level access at each floor. The 1929 Boston city directory advertises the North Terminal Garage as the largest in the East without ramps or elevators. As was typical of early garages, it not only included parking but also areas for automobile repair and a tenant gas station.

In its more recent history, the North Terminal Garage was notable as the location of the infamous 1950 Brinks Robbery. Brinks armored car and delivery service occupied space at the rear of the second floor from about 1948 until about 1958. Not only did they store their trucks in the garage but this was also the location of their main vault. The space was partitioned into several rooms, including various money counting and sorting rooms where they would prepare their deliveries of payrolls and cash to local banks. In January of 1950 eleven masked thieves entered the Brinks space, tied up several employees, and stole $1.5 Million dollars. It was the largest robbery ever perpetrated in the country at the time. Although the men were eventually convicted and imprisoned for the crime, little of the stolen money was ever recovered.

Detective examining Brink’s vault after robbery. January 1950. Photo courtesy of Leslie Jones Collection at Boston Public Library.
Detectives investigating scene of the crime. Courtesy of Associated Press.

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