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Allston, Boston, Massachusetts

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Title: Allston, Boston, Massachusetts  
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Allston, Boston, Massachusetts

For the surname, see Allston (surname).

Park Vale Avenue looking toward Brighton Avenue
Nickname(s): Allston Rock City, Allston Village
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Suffolk
Neighborhood of Boston
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
Area code(s) 617 / 857

Allston is a neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, located in the western part of the city. It was named after the American painter and poet Washington Allston. It comprises the land covered by the zip code 02134.[1] For the most part, Allston is administered collectively with the adjacent neighborhood of Brighton. The two are often referred to together as "Allston-Brighton". Boston Police Department District D-14 covers the Allston-Brighton area and a Boston Fire Department Allston station is located in Union Square which houses Ladder 14 & Engine 41. Ladder 14 is widely recognized among the firefighting community as the most proficient and decorated company in the city, as well as the Commonwealth. Boston Fire District 11 consists of the Allston-Brighton neighborhood.

Housing stock varies but largely consists of brick apartment buildings, especially on Commonwealth Avenue and the streets directly off it, while areas further down Brighton Avenue, close to Brighton, are largely dotted with wooden triple-deckers. Lower Allston, across the Massachusetts Turnpike from the rest of Allston, consists of mostly 1890-1920s single-family and multi-family Victorian homes.


The estimated population of Allston is 29,196, according to the 2010 Census.[2] The median home cost is $317,000, a decline of 0.97% in the last year. The cost of living is 9.81% higher than the national average. The population density is 18,505/mi2, about 50% higher than the citywide average of 12,166. The median age is 29.2. 76.45% of residents list status as single.[1]

Allston is home to many immigrant populations, the largest groups being from Russia, East Asia, South Asia, and South America, particularly Brazil and Colombia.

In the 1990s, census figures indicated that 52.6% of Allston's population was aged 20–34 (as compared to 33% for the city of Boston as a whole), an indication of the strong student and "twenty-something" presence. That presence has created tension between some long-time residents and the student population, which constantly cycles in and out as students matriculate and graduate from Boston's many colleges and universities. In addition to nightly dancing and live music at area bars, house parties abound on surrounding streets, particularly during the school year. This has long been a sore point among other Allston residents.[3]

The largest religious affiliation is Catholic (44.96%), followed by Protestant (4.77%), unspecified Christian (4.62%), Jewish (3.58%), Baptist (2.10%), and Islam (1.97%).[1]


The ZIP code 02134 is famously identified with Allston, due to a recurring musical piece on the PBS children's series ZOOM — whose originating station, WGBH, was located in the neighborhood until 2007. Residents and mapmakers refer to the eastern part of the former town of Brighton as "Allston." The border runs along Everett Street, continuing along Gordon Street and Kelton Street.

The neighborhood of Allston is almost completely cut off from the main body of the city of Boston by the town of Brookline, which borders Allston on the south and east. It is connected to the rest of Boston only by a small portion of its eastern border that is shared with the Fenway/Kenmore neighborhood. Allston is bordered by the Charles River, separating it from the city of Cambridge to the north, and is split in two by the Massachusetts Turnpike.

The area north of the turnpike near the river is often referred to as "Lower Allston" (referring to its lower elevation) or "North Allston." It consists of streets north of Cambridge Street and the Turnpike, all the way to the Charles River. It extends westward to Everett Street and eastward to Windom Street.[4]

The busiest section of the neighborhood lies immediately south of the turnpike and centers on the stretch of Harvard Avenue between Commonwealth Avenue and Cambridge Street, which houses many shops, bars, and restaurants. Recent business promotion initiatives have dubbed this area "Allston Village",[5] though the prevalence of musicians and music venues, such as Harpers Ferry, has given rise to the popular nickname "Allston Rock City". The center of the neighborhood is sometimes referred to as the "Allston Shuffle".

Lower Allston has been given the nickname "L.A."; Common Ground, a club/bar located near Harvard Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue, sells t-shirts and other items with the slogan "This is L.A. not Boston," (a play on the title of an influential hardcore punk compilation, This Is Boston, Not L.A. released in 1982).

Lower Allston is a small neighborhood that consists of a mix of working professionals, homeowners, and long-term residents. Unlike the rest of Allston, Lower Allston has much fewer students. The neighborhood is very quiet, has extremely low crime,[6] and is an easy walk to Allston Village or Harvard Square.[7]

Lower Allston has close proximity to Route 2, the Mass Pike, Storrow Drive, and Soldier's Field Road. Public transportation includes the Red Line at Harvard Square, the Green Line at Packard's Corner or Harvard Street and Commonwealth Avenue in "upper Allston", and the 57, 66, 70, 71, and 86 bus connections on North Harvard and Western Avenue are about a 2-5 minute walk for everyone.[8]

In the early 21st century, Harvard University announced dramatic expansion plans that called for major building projects, including the demolition of existing businesses, to prepare for the construction of new biology and science buildings in the northern sections of Lower Allston.[9] While the existing building stock was demolished and businesses were evicted, the financial crisis of 2008 and the resultant decrease in Harvard's endowment caused the university to suspend the expansion projects.[10]

History and culture

Allston was an eastern section of the former town of Brighton.

In 1867 a new railroad depot for the Boston and Albany railroad opened. In 1868 the station and post office in Brighton's eastern portion were given the name "Allston" after Washington Allston, the noted painter who had lived and worked across the Charles River in the Cambridgeport section of Cambridge.[11] It can even be said to have been named for a specific painting: Washington Allston's "Fields West of Boston".

Allston has never existed as a separate political entity in its own right. The Town of Brighton was annexed by the City of Boston in 1874. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow owned several properties in Allston. In 1887 the wooden depot was replaced by the station depicted at the right. In 1888 Boston's first trolley route began there, running a route through Coolidge Corner, Brookline, to Boylston Street, to downtown Boston.[12]

The Allston community developed largely around large railroad and livestock operations. The Boston and Albany Railroad (now CSX) operated a major yard. Stockyards and a large abattoir operated nearby in the northern part of Brighton. Much of the railroad yard remains in use today as the CSX Transportation Beacon Park Yard, but all livestock activity ended by the mid-20th century. CSX plans to move its yard operation west, allowing the plot to be redeveloped by Harvard.[13]

A strip running from Brighton Avenue in Allston out Commonwealth Avenue toward Kenmore Square was Boston's original "Automile," lined with automobile dealerships. Packard's Sales Stable and Riding School[14] gave Packard's Corner its name, which was then perpetuated by the presence of an opulent Packard dealership. Only a Toyota dealer and a Vespa dealer remain, but the windowed buildings along the eastern end of Brighton Avenue reflect this history.

The Massachusetts Turnpike Extension, built largely on part of the Boston and Albany right-of-way, opened through Allston in 1964 and 1965.[15]

Major League Baseball's Boston Braves played at Braves Field, (now Boston University's Nickerson Field), at Allston's eastern edge, from 1915 to 1952. The Boston Patriots of the American Football League (now the New England Patriots of the National Football League) played four seasons in Allston: at Nickerson Field in 1960 through 1962; and at Harvard Stadium in 1970.

Allston is home to numerous small businesses and restaurants. Brighton Avenue, between Packard's Corner and Allston Street, alone boasts cuisine from China, Korea, Japan, Afghanistan, India and Thailand, in addition to traditional American and Italian food. Harvard Avenue hosts a number of furniture stores, thrift shops, and stores that offer items for resale, due to the large student body and high residential turnover.

Music scene

Due to the neighborhood's largely young, student population, Allston has always been the city's countercultural headquarters for the arts. One of the last neighborhoods to experience business gentrification, Allston is home to many locally owned music venues including Wonder Bar, Great Scott and O'Brien's Pub. Several recording studios are located in the neighborhood, such as Galaxy Park, established in 1999.[16]

Allston's music scene is incomplete without mentioning the DIY community. The annual Allston-Brighton parade and annual Allston DIY Fest feature many of the neighborhood's musical acts.


Colleges and universities

Allston lies near two major universities. A substantial part of the campus of Harvard University is in lower Allston, including Harvard Business School and most athletic facilities (such as Bright Hockey Center, Harvard Stadium, and the Lavietes Pavilion). Harvard also owns large portions of other land in lower Allston, much of which it plans to develop as an academic campus, particularly as an auxiliary site for the Harvard Medical School and other healthcare-related programs. Boston University lies along Commonwealth Avenue to the east. Berklee College of Music also has a practice and rehearsal building near Commonwealth Avenue, on Fordham Road, which runs between Commonwealth Avenue and Brighton Avenue.

Public schools

Public schools in Allston are part of the school district of Boston Public Schools.

Gardner Pilot Academy (also called the Thomas Gardner School), located on Athol Street, serves Allston residents pre-kindergarten through grade five.[17] In April 2008 a science teacher at Gardner Pilot Academy won the "Ultimate Science Classroom," a raffle prize furnished annually by the National Science Teachers Association. The school received approximately $40,000 in science teaching materials and apparatus.[18]

The Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, located on Armington Street, is the oldest public school for the hearing impaired in the United States.[19] The school was attended by Helen Keller (Shichtman, 23) and Alexander Graham Bell's work at the school inspired him to begin experiments in an apparatus to help deaf children hear. These experiments eventually led to the telephone (MacKenzie, 56-57). The school serves the hearing impaired in Boston from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade.

Jackson Mann School, also on Armington Street, serves residents from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Notable residents


The "B" Branch of the Boston MBTA subway Green Line runs through the neighborhood along Commonwealth Avenue. The former "A Line" of the Green Line to Watertown Square ran along Brighton Avenue, though it has been replaced by MBTA bus route 57. Other MBTA bus lines serve Allston, including routes 64, 66, 70 and 86. 43.88% of residents commute by mass transit, compared with 2% for the country as a whole.[1] The CSX Railroad operates the large Beacon Park freight yard which runs adjacent to the Mass. Turnpike.

In May 2006, Harvard officials said that they would like to establish a commuter rail stop in Allston on the Framingham/Worcester line.[20] This would restore service lacking since the closure of the long-dormant Allston train depot. As of 2009, there had been actions by the state legislature to restore train service in the area.[21] In June 2012, plans were announced for a station to be called Boston Landing, located in Brighton, to serve the Allston-Brighton area.


  • Allston Squirt Gun Day is an unsanctioned event organized by young residents and held yearly in late August. Participants are asked to wear green and gather at the intersection of Harvard Avenue and Brighton Avenue.[22] The event is typically short-lived as it creates a panic among those unaware of what is going on.[23] In 2009, the Squirt Gun festivities continued as a sanctioned event at nearby Ringer Park.
  • In 2003, the community, along with neighboring Brighton, saw an outbreak of bedbugs in hundreds of apartments. This was due to the practice of people buying used mattresses or accepting ones left behind by former tenants. A $200 subsidy was offered to tenants with infested mattresses,[24] and bedbug extermination workshops were held by the Boston Inspectional Services Housing Division.
  • In 2005, the New England Foundation for the Arts selected a site in Allston for its Art & Community Landscapes program.[25] The artist team of Legge Lewis Legge[26] was chosen to design this site which is known as the Lincoln Street Green Strip.[27]
  • Each year the community hosts the Allston Village Street Fair on Harvard Avenue between Brighton Avenue and Cambridge Street. The fair features live performances, international food, and local businesses, along with family-friendly activities.[28]
  • In 2012, Aerosmith played a set in front of their home at 1325 Commonwealth. They were introduced by the New England Patriots players (most notably Tom Brady), owner Rober Kraft, and the cheerleaders.[29]


External links

  • Brighton Allston Historical Society
  • Allston Neighborhoods
  • Allston Rock City Photos
  • Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation
  • Lower Allston Website
  • 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 East Allston/Brighton, showing the town line brook of Brookline.
  • MSIE resize is on.
  • Map of Middlesex County.
  • History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Compiled by Samuel Adams Drake, published 1879, Volume1 page 278 Brighton, by Rev. Frederic Whitney. Note Brighton was originally part of Middlesex County before joining Boston which is Suffolk County.

Coordinates: 42°21′10″N 71°07′56″W / 42.3529°N 71.1321°W / 42.3529; -71.1321

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