Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Eureka! I Found Them!

Sidney and Smith, 1852

Bromley and Bromley, 1895

When they built the Boston And Providence Railroad line south from Boston, they crossed Stony Brook where it leaves the edge of Roxbury Highlands and flowed into the Charles River basin. I thought I had worked out the path the culvert took from the tracks to the outlet in the Fens, but I recently found out that the original culvert had been replaced by a New Improved model. The Bromley and Bromley map segment above shows the old culvert route and the newer, larger one that was built to prevent the floods that occurred regularly in Roxbury.

Before the area west of the train tracks was completely filled in, the brook went under the tracks between Tremont and Ruggles sts. and emptied out just west of Parker st. The Sidney and Smith 1852 map at the top shows this clearly. When the Fens park was designed - by Fredrick Law Olmsted - the brook had to connect with the park. The Bromley and Bromley 1885 map segment above shows both the first culvert route and the later, larger culvert. First orient yourself on the map. The Boston and Providence railroad tracks pass from right to left. Below the tracks are Tremont st., and Columbus ave., and above are Parker st. and Huntington ave., with the Fens near the top right. Of course, the Museum of Fine Arts isn't there yet.

I've drawn in the two culverts in blue. Both start between Columbus ave. and the railroad tracks to the lower left. The lower route in this picture is the older. It wound through a few blocks of Roxbury before turning west at the aptly named Culvert st and crossed under the tracks at Ruggles st. From there, it angled to the right on Rodgers ave. to Huntington ave., continues on Bryant st., and angles left to the Fens. The picture at the top of this page shows the outlet today at one of the two gatehouses.

The upper route is the newer, and was built after the great Stony Brook flood that's been described in an earlier entry. This one goes under the railroad tracks before Tremont st., does a dog-leg over to Parker st. to Huntington ave. and follows the parkway to the right of today's Museum of Fine Arts to the Fens. This cut out the detour through the factory district of Roxbury helpfully marked 20 and 21 on the map (I assume those are voting precincts). When built, the culvert just wasn't large enough to deal with flood-level waters, and with every spring thaw floods were a threat. With the new, larger culvert, floods in the area were a thing of the past.

With the finish of this section of the Stony Brook culvert, work began to finish the job upstream. The Brook was covered back to Boylston st., then to Green st., Williams, and so on towards Hyde Park. More about that later.

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