Ghosts of Brighton Mills Past

Brighton Mills Shopping Center

Google Maps image of Brighton Mills Shopping Center

With construction so far along, we can see how dramatically the new Charlesview Residences has changed the Brighton Mills site over the last two years.  Most people in the neighborhood can still remember the shopping center with Frugal Fannies and K-Mart ,an old McDonalds, and a tremendously large parking lot.

Apple Maps Charlesview

Apple Maps Image of Charlesview Residences Construction

In fact, if you look at Google Maps you can still see a satellite image of the old shopping center.  Apple Maps has recently released the first mapping service satellite image of the new Charlesview Residences, showing the prepared site, the topped off underground garage, and the beginnings of the mid-rises on Western Ave.

 But, what was there before all of our construction and before the suburban style box store shopping center?

This excerpt from a 1909 map shows what has and hasn’t changed a lot in the last century.  A large cordage (rope) factory operated on what remains the Brighton Mills Shopping Center and a portion of what is now the Charlesview Residences. Most of the Charlesview Residences site, highlighted in blue on the historic map, was laid out for residential development in 1909.  This part of the city at the time was both a rapidly growing “streetcar suburb” and a center of industrial jobs itself.  The small lot, single and 2- and 3-family homes that we love were built quickly along side streets like Antwerp and Litchfield.  You can see many plots on this map that still lack the yellow square that denote the houses.  Just across the railroad tracks (now the MassPike and tracks) were the massive Brighton Stock Yards, which provided meat to the city and beyond.  Today, that site is being redeveloped by New Balance into a major mixed-use center.

Charlesview 1909

Charlesview 1909. Click to enlarge.

Cities and neighborhoods always change and evolve.  We’d like to think that bringing homes back to the neighborhood continues the work of building a Boston neighborhood urban fabric that was underway when this 1909 map was made.