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.
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
LHB #0955 New Hazelwood – Southbound side, Boston & Providence line/later Old Colony line; likely taken June, 1917
LHB #0956 Old Hazelwood – Northbound side, B&P/OC line; likely taken June, 1917
LHB #0957 New Clarendon Hills – B&P/OC line; likely taken June, 1917
LHB #0958 Old Clarendon Hills – B&P/OC line; likely taken June, 1917
LHB #0689 Hyde Park – B&P line; taken 1914 after April opening, station in use, auto, people entering
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.
LHB #1106 River Street – NY&NE line; taken May, 1918
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.
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: email@example.com. If Mr. Belletzkie doesn’t have that station, he will enthusiastically contact you!
After expressing concern about Mercury’s safety during the library’s construction project, a plywood structure was put in place around the figures.
After closer inspection, it was noted that the container did not have a lid and that someone had marked Mercury’s helmet with a black substance resembling Ash Wednesday ashes.
This vandalism was brought to the attention of the BPL construction project manager, and to the Community Preservation Fund’s staff. This disrespect is disheartening and does not bode well for the statue’s safety in this location. More fencing has been added to the area, and the public is not allowed on library property. Updates to follow.
In the Spring of 2019, Menino Hall was closed to the public because of continual water infiltration into the building. This affected programming for children, ESL classes, and the Friends’ annual booksale.
Repair was approved in the July 2019 budget with plans for completion before June 2020. The Covid virus pandemic was just one of the delaying factors.
Boston’s Public Facilities says ‘ Right now the contractor is saying he will be complete by end of November but this needs to be reviewed and verified’ BPL administration says that the branch will open in 2021.
Let’s hope that Mercury, who is overseeing the project, will speed it along and the library will open this year as a pick up and drop off location.
In 2019, the Friends of the Hyde Park Library received community preservation funds to transform an unused area of open public space at the Hyde Park Library into a passive park incorporating artifacts of historical significance to the local community.
In 1835, the Boston and Providence Railroad Company laid tracks through Hyde Park toward Boston. By 1845 there was an unofficial stop at what is now considered downtown HP. A station was built at track level in the late 1850’s . As industry, business and the population grew, railroads expanded for both personal travel and for quicker and wider distribution of manufactured good. In the 1890’s the New York, New Haven & Harford Railroad (NYNH&H RR, or New Haven for short) acquired most of the routes in southern New England.
Because of this growth and potential, Hyde Park’s selectmen and the Businessmen’s Council negotiated with the New Haven to finance a larger station. After many delays, including Hyde Park’s annexation to Boston in 1912, the station opened on April 14, 1914.
The station was built of steel and stucco, had a tiled roof with ornamental trimmings and a figure of Mercury, the Greek god of transportation and commerce, at each upper corner.
The Hyde Park Gazette-Times reported on April 15,1914 that “The new building is one of the finest and most modern along the New Haven Road. It is finished in cement and marble with aluminum filled woodwork. Passengers can remain in the upper waiting room and see the approaching train in ample time to descend to the lower level. As the new station forms a bridge spanning the tracks it relieves what has been a long continued inconvenience by enabling passengers to cross from one side to the other while sheltered during the inclement weather.”
Credit: Archives & Special Collections, University of Connecticut
Railroad service declined in the Twentieth Century with the expanded use of airplanes, automobiles, and other forms of transportation. Railroad companies reduced losses by discontinuing lightly used routes, closing stations, and doing minimal maintenance on stations still open. By 1973, the waiting room and ticket office of the Hyde Park station were closed and there were only 2 inbound and 3 outbound trips on weekdays. At that time, unused stations across the country were being demolished with little or no consideration for historic preservation. (Notes from Thomas J. Humphrey).
The station was razed on July 9, 1974. Thanks to the efforts of then HP resident Edward Gonski, two of the figures of Mercury were salvaged and donated to the Hyde Park Branch of the Boston Public Library where they have lain for more than 45 years.
With help from project management staff at the Boston Public Library, and Daedalus Inc., architecture conservators, the figures of Mercury made from concrete and red sandstone were cleaned, stabilized, and installed in the garden.
All photographs of artifacts cleaned and installed in the garden with CPA funds were taken by Jim LaFond-Lewis.
Also included in the historic garden is a granite foundation stone from a school in the Most Precious Blood Parish. The main school, St. Raphael’s, was completed in 1888 and was across the street from the church on Maple Street and Oak Street.
In 1895, Thomas Corrigan built the foundation for a 4-room satellite parish school, also named St. Raphael’s, on the corner of Washington Street and Foster Street. Foster Street was later renamed Chittick Road to recognize Monsignor James J. Chittick for his service, love, and generosity to the community. It is believed that he purchased the land for the school from donations received from grateful parishioners upon his return from convalescence.
In 1920, the name of this school was changed to St. Catherine’s, in honor of Mother Catherine Spaulding, the Superior of the school’s teaching order of nuns. In 1954, it was renamed St Pius X School, transferred to that parish, and eventually demolished in 1966.
The foundation stone from St. Catherine’s was saved from demolition by Attorney William Slattery Sr., an alumnus and a committee member for the school’s 50th anniversary in 1946. The stone was donated to the Hyde Park Historical Society by Virginia Foley, a student at St Catherine’s.
Thomas and John Corrigan were brothers who immigrated from Ireland and settled in the area in the 1870’s. They began as laborers and their business grew into separate contracting companies. They owned numerous properties and built hundreds of foundations in the Hyde Park area, including in Corriganville, so named because of their work in the area and the property they owned in this sparsely settled part of town.
Thomas Corrigan was a generous contributor to the church during and after his life. He was proud of his heritage and very content with his life in America. He was often heard saying that America was the greatest country on earth. This sentiment is evident in the carvings on the foundation stone. Described as folk art, the flag and maple trees are symbolic of the area and country he loved.
Sometime before the Spring of 2021 benches will be added to the area.
If you would like a briefer pdf pamphlet about this project send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
What is HUBHistory? Here’s how it’s described.
“There’s a lot more to the Hub of the Universe than the Freedom Trail and the Tea Party. Every week, HUB History hosts Jake and Nikki share a fascinating story from the long history of Boston. Sometimes, there are uplifting stories, like the life of Dr. Rebecca Crumpler, who became America’s first black female doctor.
Along with the main story, every episode includes an upcoming historical event in the Boston area, as well as a segment called Boston Book Club, featuring books, articles, websites, and other podcasts. Join Jake and Nikki for a new episode every Sunday at about 6pm (EST/EDT), then check the show notes for each episode at HUBhistory.com for historic images, maps, and primary sources”.
Click on this link for Episode #200 that features Dr. Rebecca Crumpler and her husband Arthur Crumpler.
After listening to this I am sure you’ll be a HUBHistory regular. Please support this programming by becoming a patron or by making a donation.
Text from “HerStory” August 2020
Dr. Rebecca Crumpler Remembered in Hyde Park
Organizations in Hyde Park, including the Friends of the Hyde Park Library and the Hyde Park Historical Society, have successfully completed a project to erect gravestones for Rebecca Lee Crumpler and her husband, Arthur, in the Fairview Cemetery. Rebecca Crumpler, 1831-95, was the first African American woman doctor, a graduate of the New England Female Medical College, and is honored on the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail’s Beacon Hill Walk and Charlestown trail. After 1880, she and her husband moved to Hyde Park. It was known that they were buried in Fairview Cemetery but there were no monuments marking their graves. Volunteers solicited funds to cover the cost of gravestones and now those stones have been placed on the graves.
This is the text for the 2 sided memorial card for the gravestone dedication for Dr. Rebecca Crumpler and Arthur Crumpler. The card be available at the Hyde Park Library and the office at the Fairview Cemetery when the buildings are again open to the public. If you would like a card before then, please send an email with your name and address.
BEFORE and AFTER
This piece of folk art includes Thomas Corrigan’s representation of the American flag, representing the adopted country he loved, and maple trees which grew in the Hyde Park area where he lived and worked.
Jim Lafond-Lewis photographed the artifacts after their installation.
An official dedication of the garden will take place after the library is open to the public, and benches have been added. A brochure about the history of the artifacts will be available in the library and and on this website.
Credit to Hyde Park photographer Jim LaFond-Lewis jimlafondlewis.com
More photos to follow. Thank you to the more than 130 donors from 21+ states.