Twenty-fourth and final entry in our series to appear on the first Friday of each month: Boston Firsts Fridays. #BostonFirsts
First Realty Management Corp. was founded in Boston over 50 years ago. We are proud to call this wonderful city our home, and call focus to some of the events & innovations that happened FIRST in Boston.
This is it; the final installment of our two-year series on Boston Firsts. Exploring Boston’s notable firsts throughout the city’s rich history has been a wonderful experience; hopefully for you as well.
Choosing a noteworthy first for this final feature has been extremely challenging. Even if you disregard some of the somewhat contested claims, there really are so many to choose from:
- There’s the first light station in America in 1716 (which was replaced in 1783 by Boston Light)
- When Dr. Zabdiel Boylston applied a sample of smallpox to three patients (including his six-year old son), in 1721, it was the first inoculation in American history.
- In 1780 voters approved the John Adams penned Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, making it the first state constitution created by a convention; it would go on to be the oldest active written constitution in the world.
- In 1790 Captain Robert Gray returned to Boston, concluding his three year trip around the world, making him and his crew the first Americans to circumnavigate the globe.
- There’s the first public demonstration of ether as a surgical anesthetic at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1846. This included the introduction of the still common words “anesthesia” & “anesthetic”.
But it seemed most fitting to stay close to home with this final post, so we’re featuring a Boston First that took place right outside our home office’s front door:
BF#24 First Subway in America (1897)
First Realty Management’s home is on Tremont Street, bordering Boston Common, mere steps away from the location of the first two subway stations in the United States, Boylston Station & Park Street Station. The two stations are barely 1200 feet apart, and the connecting tunnel, the Tremont Street Subway (still in use) is a National Historic Landmark and the first and oldest subway tunnel in America.
This is a topic that has been extensively researched and reported on, most recently in the critically acclaimed 2014 book “The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway” by Doug Most (http://dougmost.com/). So perhaps a long reiteration isn’t what is called for here. There are a few things we’d like to draw your attention to, though:
- Boston was able to produce the first American subway by extensively studying the London Underground, which had been in operation since 1863
- The primacy of Boston in subways refers only to the subterranean railway; there were elevated railways in addition to electric trolleys both before and after this invention. Boston would continue to be serviced by elevated heavy rail as recently as 1987, and the descendants of the electric trolleys, trolleybuses and trackless trolleys, are still in use today.
- Boston now has the oldest streetcar system in the world (a fact that is painfully evident at times…)
The Tremont Street Subway originally also stopped at Scollay Square and Adams Square. The stations don’t exist anymore and neither do the squares; they were ripped out in the 1960’s to make ways for several of the ugliest buildings in Boston (or anywhere), including the brutalist City Hall.
Fun fact #2:
A few years ago a Subway sandwich shop opened on Tremont Street without a trace of irony.
Sources / For More:
- http://web.archive.org/web/20050829090042/members.aol.com/netransit/private/tss/tssnews.html – original news story from the Boston Daily Globe, September 1, 1897
- https://www.flickr.com/photos/boston_public_library/sets/72157627919338259/with/5143462708/ – Gorgeous photos from the Boston Public Library
Editor’s Note: The Boston Firsts series was written by Operations Technology / Digital Content Manager Michael Ford Feeney. If you have enjoyed this series, please let us know through social media or by contacting our offices.