Egleston Square Substation // 1909

Streetcar suburbs of Boston have long been connected to the city by horse-drawn streetcars. As the city expanded and transportation shifted electrical, things changed in a big way! By the time the last horse-drawn streetcar was retired in 1897, the West End Street Railway Company had replaced its fleet of 9,000 horses with electric streetcars. Things were built upwards, with an elevated railway constructed between 1898 and 1901 that ran down Washington Street in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston along the boundary of Jamaica Plain. The route had a stop in the middle of Egleston Square, with the surrounding neighborhood largely occupied by wood-frame, detached triple-deckers, two-family, and single-family houses, with many occupied by workers from the breweries nearby. Located on Washington Street in Roxbury, the Egleston Square substation was built in 1909 by the Boston Elevated Railway Company (predecessor of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) to convert AC (alternating current) electricity to DC (direct current) for use by its street railway cars and elevated cars. The building was designed by Robert S. Peabody of Peabody and Stearns, a prominent and expensive firm (yes the MBTA once invested in their infrastructure). After the station was effectively abandoned by the MBTA, the substation fell into disrepair, with a roof in failure in 2005. It was then acquired by Boston Neighborhood Network Media, a local nonprofit, who have converted it for use as office and television studio space. Scott Payette was the firm responsible for the intensive restoration and renovation.

Forest Hills Station // 1987

Photo courtesy of Cambridge Seven

While the demolition of the 1909 Forest Hills Station in Jamaica Plain (last post) was a huge architectural and historic loss for the city of Boston, the present building is a landmark in its own right. The present building was built in 1987 as a pivotal project in the MBTA’s Southwest Corridor Improvement Program, which was largely unfinished (thanks to neighborhood pushback and protests against the proposed highway to cut through the neighborhoods). The existing station, designed by local firm Cambridge Seven, is situated between two important points in Boston’s “Emerald Necklace” park system, and thus was given the appearance of a greenhouse by the architects. The distinctive clock tower, rising 120 feet above the station, signals the station location and is a nod to the days when stations once had prominent clocks to help passengers keep tabs on the time, before the days of cellphones!

Waban Station // 1886-1958

Image from Harvard Archives.

The village of Waban in Newton, Massachusetts, was named after a Massachusett Chief who had previously resided atop Nonantum Hill on the Newton-Brighton line. This location is believed to have been a favorite hunting ground for Waban (the Wind) and his people. Throughout much of the 19th century, Waban remained a quiet agricultural region. As late as 1874, fewer than 20 families held title to all of its land. In the mid-1880s, however, interest in suburban developments near the Boston and Albany Railroad became increasingly widespread. Seeing suburbanization in the late 19th century and into the early 20th century.

The station that allowed all the development in the early days of Waban was built in 1886. The Boston & Albany Railroad hired renowned architect Henry Hobson Richardson to design the station, and many others on branches of the various lines radiating out from Boston. The Highland Branch (which this station was on) was later acquired by the MBTA in Boston, which operated it as a Commuter line. Waban Station closed along with the rest of the Highland Branch commuter rail line in 1958 and reopened a year later in 1959 as part of the Green Line’s D Branch. The gorgeous H.H. Richardson-designed station was demolished in order to build a 74-space parking lot. They literally paved paradise, and put up a parking lot

Lincoln Wharf Power Station // 1901

Back in the day, even power stations were gorgeous!

The Boston Elevated Railway Company, and its successor, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), operated Lincoln Wharf Power Station from 1901 to 1972. The Boston-based engineering firm of Sheaff & Jaastad, specialists in electric power and lighting plants, designed this 1901 power station to serve the Atlantic Avenue Line and provide supplementary
power for the Downtown Boston elevated and surface lines. Due to increased demand in 1907, a massive addition was constructed at the rear, facing Commercial Street, which now is the main orientation of the large structure. By 1971, all elevated tracks powered by this station were removed and the power station was sold by the MBTA to a private developer for housing. Eventually, San Marco Housing Corporation, hired the Boston Architectural Team, Inc., to renovate the power station in 1987 for low- to moderate-income housing. The result is an innovative and stunning example of adaptive reuse providing much-needed housing, while retaining historic fabric of old Boston.

1901 Power Station viewed from waterfront.