Depots by Number: Lewis Benton’s Hyde Park Railroad Station Photographs

In 2018, while searching for information about the figures of Mercury from the Hyde Park railroad depot, I was fortunate to connect with Robert Joseph Belletzkie of Prospect, CT, a retired reference librarian and railroad historian. His research was essential to pinpointing the date of the station’s opening on April 13, 1914. Please refer to earlier posts about the process of having the figures from the train station, cleaned, and preserved, at the Hyde Park Library with Boston’s Community Preservation Funds.

According to Wikipedia, “A train station, railway station, railroad station or depot is a railway facility or area where trains regularly stop to load or unload passengers or freight or both.” The words are interchangeable.

This post is specifically about the railroad stations in Hyde Park as shown in A bird’s-eye view map of Hyde Park, Massachusetts by the O.H. Bailey & Co., Lith. & Pub., Boston, 1890.   Map reproduction courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library.

Hyde Park, Massachusetts – Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center

On close inspection of the above link, you will find 7 stations in Hyde Park listed as 2-8 in map key. Railroad stations, being important focal points in town life in the 19th and 20 the centuries were often the subject of photographs and postcards. Lewis H. Benton was perhaps one of the earliest photographers to appreciate the importance of the railroad depot in the community.

Benton (1872-1939) was born in Taunton, Massachusetts and worked for the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad as a clerk in the freight house in his hometown. In 1910 he began taking a series of sequentially numbered photographs of passenger stations and continued until about 1935. His bicycle was his means of transport at first, later loading it onto the baggage car as he took the train to farther distances. The bicycle appears in many of the earliest photos. In 1928 he teamed up with fellow photographer Irving N. Drake whose car they used to travel across most of New England. Drake’s auto replaced the bicycle as an icon in the photos and Irving himself was not above playing the clown for the camera. 

Benton photo #2644, taken at Granby, CT in June, 1930. Drake is playing brakeman atop the box car! His auto is seen by the station. The perceived recklessness here resulted in the whiting out of Drake until Mr. Belletzkie had the obliteration undone. Credit: Francis D. Donovan Railroad Collection, Archives & Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library

Benton is thought to have taken about 4,000 photographs, mostly depots but interspersed with historic homes and other significant structures.  Mr. Belletzkie has collected only about 1,000 of the station photos and he is always looking for more to fill in the gaps. His TylerCityStation website confines itself to Connecticut but his pursuit of Benton and Drake has led him to map out the locations where they visited across severel states. Benton’s numbering of the photos and periodic dating enable a whole geo-chronology to be constructed since the photographs were taken in sequence often along particular railroad lines so the towns, stations, locations and dates all line up. It thus enables us to imagine we are traveling right along with them.

Here are photographs of seven HP stations taken by Benton, plus the Rugby station site. The five corresponding images from the Bailey map are also provided.

LHB #0917 Glenwood – New York & New England line; taken 1916-1917

Glenwood sign visible on platform post. There was no station at this location in 1890.

LHB #0955 New Hazelwood – Southbound side, Boston & Providence line/later Old Colony line; likely taken June, 1917

Not on 1890 map; 1904 improvements resulted in inbound and outbound stations.

LHB #0956 Old Hazelwood – Northbound side, B&P/OC line; likely taken June, 1917

1890 #4 Hazelwood Station

LHB #0957 New Clarendon Hills – B&P/OC line; likely taken June, 1917 

Not on 1890 map; 1904 improvements resulted in inbound and outbound stations.

LHB #0958 Old Clarendon Hills – B&P/OC line; likely taken June, 1917 

1890 #5 Clarendon Hills Station

LHB #0689 Hyde Park – B&P line; taken 1914 after April opening, station in use, auto, people entering

1890 #2 Hyde Park Station, dating to circa 1860, demolished when the 1914 station was built.

LHB #069 Fairmount – NY&NE line; taken same day in 1914 as HP photo

This station was originally called Hyde Park and renamed Fairmount sometime between 1890 and 1905. It is labeled Fairmount on the 1905 Sanborn Insurance map.

Fairmount sign visible on platform post.
1890 #6 Hyde Park Station

LHB #1106 River Street – NY&NE line; taken May, 1918 

1890 #8 River Street Station

LHB #1107 Site of old Rugby Station – NY&NE line; taken May, 1918

On a 1912 Hyde Park map, this station was on Randolph Street, the border between Hyde Park and Boston. Now dead-ending at the track, it is called Greenfield Road on one side and Rector Road on the other side. Both streets are now listed as Mattapan. (See photo below.)

No Benton photos as of yet for these Readville stations.

1890 #3 and #7 Readville stations for the B&P/OC and the NY&NE

Thanks to Mr. Belletzkie for sharing these photographs. His Google Earth map shows the locations. He is searching for photographs of stations WITHOUT the pink pins.

If you have any numbered Benton photographs, email the image or at least the station name and number to: friendshplibrary@yahoo.com.  If Mr. Belletzkie doesn’t have that station, he will enthusiastically contact you!