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Auburndale Station
Village
of Auburndale, Newton, Massachusetts

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Auburndale Station: a historical landmark with an illustrious pedigree

Auburndale Station
Boston and Albany Railway
Architect: Henry Hobson Richardson
Landscaping: Frederick Law Olmsted
completed in 1881, dismantled in 1962

"Sweet Auburndale! Loveliest station on the main".
        
- From a poem published in the Boston Herald in 1962 (here is the full text).

"Best American example of the combination of architecture and landscape architecture."
        - Garden and Forest Magazine, spring 1889.

"It was there that the movement for beautiful stations had its start".
         -
"The Railway Beautiful" by Sylvester Baxter, The Century Magazine, Apr.1908 (here is the full text).

Station in 1908
From "The Railway Beautiful" by Sylvester Baxter, The Century Magazine, April 1908. Courtesy of Railroad Extra

·         Originally called Pigeonville, the village of Auburndale was given its present name in 1845 by the Reverend C.D. Pigeon, after whose family the village was originally named (read more here). The Boston & Worcester Railroad (later Boston & Albany) established its first depot in what later became Auburndale in 1834 (read more here). On an 1848 map (click here), this depot is clearly marked.

·         By 1880, upper-class neighborhoods developed in Auburndale and elsewhere along Boston & Albany Railroad's main line as a result of the commuter rail service. In 1881, the B&A Railroad began the construction of stations to serve the commuters; Auburndale Station was the first one. A prominent resident of Auburndale convinced the B&A vice president James A. Rumrill that the station and its surroundings "be given an artistic character commensurate with the standing of the suburb as a cultivated community"  (read more here). Rumrill then commissioned two Harvard friends for this job -- Henry Hobson Richardson, the leading architect of his day (most famous for the Trinity Church in Copley Square), and Frederick Law Olmsted, the great landscape-architect (most famous for the Central Park in New York City and the Emerald Necklace in Boston).

·         The cooperation of Richardson and Olmsted (read more about the history of their collaboration here and here) produced delightful results. Auburndale station was later declared as the "best American example of the combination of architecture and landscape architecture" (Garden and Forest Magazine, spring 1889).  The two artists were then commissioned to construct stations for the entire line, including in Allston, Newton, Wellesley and Framingham. A dozen stations were built in Newton during the 1880's, serving as monuments to the wealth and prestige of the B&A Railroad.

photo 1

photo 3

Photo by C.Robinson, 1959

 

photo 4

photo 2

Photo by C.Robinson, 1959

·         Most of these twelve stations, including Auburndale, were torn down when the Massachusetts Turnpike was extended through Brighton and Newton in the early 1960'sThe three surviving stations (in Woodland, Newton Highlands, and Newton Centre) are now in the National Register of Historic Places, although the original Olmsted landscaping no longer survives. Only the pictures and the photos remain to remind us of Auburndale Station, the "loveliest" of them all -- such as the collection above (click on each picture to enlarge). 

·         The village of Orchard Park, New York has a replica of the original Auburndale Station.  Its description (full text found here) makes us wish the original Auburndale Station was still with us:

"The Orchard Park railroad depot... is not your average small town railroad station. Built in 1911 by the Buffalo, Rochester Pittsburgh Railway, it was uncommonly substantial thanks to the railways president, Harry Yates, who lived in the village of Orchard Park. The depot is an exact replica of a stone H.H. Richardson depot in Auburndale, Massachusetts... It is uncommon for a village this size to have a depot of this stature."

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Auburndale Commuter Station: a strip of concrete along the train tracks

The MBTA commuter rail has a stop at Auburndale Station. This stop is marked by no more than a concrete platform located along the tracks, between the bridges of Lexington Street and Woodland Road (see map below).  It is squeezed between the tracks and the highway, accessible only by tall stairs leading from either of these bridges.

Auburndale Center
Map of the Auburndale Commuter Station Area
Newton, MA, Mar. 2002.

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Rebuilding Auburndale Station: a vital part of revitalizing Auburndale

·         Just imagine that on the north side of Auburn street (see map above), somewhere across from the library and the new fountain, there were a modest but attractive train station. It would have an Auburndale Station sign on it, in large old-fashioned lettering, and would provide access to the trains directly from Auburn Street. Similar stations in other towns such as Wellesley have proven to both enhance the local area and to improve the local economy. There are many reasons why we can expect the same to happen with Auburndale Station. You can read about them here.

  • With the lack of handicap accessibility of the current Auburndale commuter station, the need to move the station being recognized, and plans are underfoot to do so.  It is our sincere hope that the new Auburndale Station will be more than just a ramp and a patch of cement.  You can read about it here.
  • Though it is impractical to expect a replica of the original Auburndale Station, the building and the landscaping for the station should be motivated by the original design principles of H.H. Richardson and F.L. Olmsted:

"The architect held that rural way-stations... should avoid ostentation; that their design should primarily represent their purpose, which was that of shelters, made comfortable and pleasant for passengers waiting for their trains... These stations have a quiet picturesqueness, an ever-satisfying restfulness"

"Wherever possible, the station [grounds are] laid out with pleasantly modulated surfaces of turf, ornamented with diversified shrubbery disposed in masses and clumps to give the most pleasing impressions. Paths and driveways... provide convenient approaches. The shrubbery is selected with a view to agreeable effects... all through the [year]. Such shrubberies are, moreover, of great service in permanently screening the unsightly objects that often abound in the neighborhood of a railway."

(quoted from here).  

  • There is a proposal to establish a Historic District in Auburndale.  Here is a map of this district. The proposed new Auburndale Station will abut the Auburndale Historic District from the north.  As the spiritual successor to the original Auburndale station, its presence will further highlight the historical significance of this area.

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Editor-in-chief:  Dina Q Goldin. Webmaster: Dima Feinhaus. Last updated on December 13, 2004.

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