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What’s in a name? Mapping Brookline neighborhoods, with help from readers

June 24, 2024  Updated June 28, 2024 at 2:00 p.m.
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Different maps and websites and neighborhood associations have different names for some of the same parts of Brookline. Some of those resources use the same names, but envision different boundaries.

But what do the people who actually live in those neighborhoods call them?

We decided to ask.

Two hundred eighty people responded to a survey posted on Brookline News and my local history blog. The results were, in some cases, clear cut. In others, they were complicated. In a few they were, shall we say, all over the map.

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To explore the maps yourself, click here for northern parts of town and click here for southern parts. 

The maps below, made with Google’s My Maps feature, show what we found. First, here is an overall map.

Each house symbol on the map represents one address, color-coded for the name of the neighborhood.

Looking more closely helps delineate a few boundaries. Take, for instance, Coolidge Corner, the largest and most densely populated neighborhood on the above map.

How far north does Coolidge Corner extend? It depends on who you ask. The next map shows the blue Coolidge Corner icons. But intermingled with these are 10 addresses north of Beacon Street, marked by yellow icons, that their residents call North Brookline and another six (light gray icons) in what residents call JFK Crossing. These are further from Beacon Street than most – but not all – of the addresses their residents call Coolidge Corner.

The next map shows the area where Coolidge Corner (blue icons) and Washington Square (green icons) meet on the broader map. It also shows five addresses between them (burgundy icons) that were identified by their residents as Corey Hill;  two near the top of the hill on Jordan Road and three near the bottom close to Beacon Street.  (One house, on York Terrace near the summit of the hill, was considered Coolidge Corner by its resident.)

Just south of there, also between Coolidge Corner and Washington Square, are five residences on Griggs Road and Griggs Terrace, a neighborhood its residents called Griggs Park.

Two other neighborhoods, Fisher Hill and Aspinwall Hill, take their names from topographical features and are fairly distinct. (In both cases, the residents who responded were mostly clustered on the lower slopes of their respective hills, as shown below.)

Further east, close to the Boston border, and spreading south and east around Kent Street and Monmouth Street, are seven addresses (olive green icons) that their residents called Longwood. On the northern edge of this neighborhood are two homes (brighter green icons) that residents called Cottage Farm.

Another of the densely populated neighborhoods is Brookline Village (red icons), which some residents called simply The Village. It is mostly bound by Aspinwall Avenue to the north, Cypress Street to the west, Boylston Street to the south, and Kent Street to the east. A few residences outside these boundaries – most notably just south of Boylston Street and on the lower slope of Aspinwall Hill – were also called Brookline Village by respondents who live there.

Four residents within the bounds of what others consider Brookline Village called the neighborhood of their homes (darker yellow icons) Emerson Garden or Emerson Park.

Moving south, two neighborhoods just south of Route 9 have distinct boundaries, based on the responses of residents, though the names they assigned to the neighborhoods varied.

To the northeast, mostly between High Street and Pond Avenue, are seven addresses (purple icons) that their residents labeled as Pill Hill (five of seven) or High Street Hill. Southwest of there are 15 addresses (orange icons) that most labeled as Whiskey Point. (The name is considered by some to be derogatory of its once largely Irish American, working class population. Other names given the neighborhood included The Point and The Greater Point.)

Finally, there is the less densely populated southwest part of Brookline, west of Lee Street and south of the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. Eight residents, all south of the open space of The Country Club and the municipal golf course, called this part of town South Brookline (dark green icons on the map below). Four others in this same area, as well as five more between The Country Club and the reservoir called their neighborhood Chestnut Hill (dark red icons).

There were about 20 other names that small numbers of respondents used for their neighborhoods, some based on proximity to particular Brookline schools or streets or MBTA stops. Other people said they lived between two or more neighborhoods or didn’t know what their neighborhood was called.

Here are a few other neighborhood names worthy of special mention:

  • Button Village is a set of small streets between Lee Street and Goddard Road, south of Route 9, so named because a number of police officers, firefighters, and other town employees, many of them Irish American, lived there beginning in the early decades of the 20th century.
  • The Settlement is another small area, just north of Boylston Street in a triangle formed by Boylston and Chestnut Hill Avenue. Comprised of a combination of three-deckers and one- and two-family homes, it too was home to many Irish American families beginning in the late 1800s.
  • The name Abbott Crossing was reported by several different people, all of whom live in the same apartment building at 1768 Beacon Street. It’s not quite Washington Square or Cleveland Circle, wrote two respondents, but has come to be named after gregarious longtime resident John Abbott and his family. Abbott himself weighed in, noting that the name “started as a joke and then stuck with neighbors.”

Do you want to add the name of your neighborhood for updates to this project? Go to https://brookline.news/what-do-you-call-your-brookline-neighborhood/ and enter your address and the neighborhood name you use.

Ken Liss is president of the Brookline Historical Society.’

Correction: A previous version of this story gave the incorrect name for Pond Avenue. 

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