Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Bridge At Forest Hills

Picture: Boston Daily Globe May 10, 1897

The railroad bridge at Forest Hills must have been handsome when it was first built. The fresh-cut granite would have sparkled in the sun. The contemporary articles in the Boston Globe certainly painted a glowing picture of the project. Of course, anywhere you see those old granite walls now, the dingy black-brown of the surface hardly inspires poetry. For years, the old steam locomotives spit coal dust into the air, and rain washed it down over the edges of the granite walls and producing the permanent dark stain that marked the bridge and the entire embankment as it passed through Jamaica Plain. Soot from the diesel locomotives that followed would have contributed to the grime of the walls as well.

I remember the bridge over the Arborway as anything but beautiful. Utilitarian, massive and dark come to mind. The Casey overpass overhead didn't help; it put the railroad bridge in a permanent shadow. The Forest Hills elevated station, built shortly later, took attention away from the bridge as well. The effect was one of crowding, with multiple generations of transportation roadway tacked one on top of the other.

Today, the Orange Line park that runs from near Forest Hills north to Centre street is lined in many places with granite blocks that were taken from the walls of the embankment and reused. They must have cleaned them before they put them in place - they don't look anything like the walls I remember. They should have left them dirty for that "vintage" look.

Picture: Jamaica Plain Historical Society web site.

This picture, taken in the 1960s, looks down from South street towards Washington street and the Arborway car yards. The bridge recedes to the left, where it ended on a sloping dirt and gravel embankment. See the trees on the left? I believe the biggest was a willow. In the early 1960s, there was a rope swing hanging from a branch high above the slope at the end of the bridge. You could stand on the projecting column - just visible here - and swing out over the weedy lot below. Thousands of people rode by on the streetcar every weekday, not knowing that the boys of Anson, Spalding and Rosemary streets had a secret place to stretch their wings and challenge their manhood.


  1. I remember the swing! I grew up on Weld Hill and extensively explored the Forest Hills area in my childhood. The tracks, the train station, cemetery, courthouse all attracted me. Was a great place to grow up...and a great time (60's, 70's)

    David MacLeod

  2. Good to hear from some who remembers. ;-)