The High Street Hill neighborhood is located in Precinct 5 of Brookline, a town adjacent to and west of Boston, Massachusetts. The association is defined by the Pill Hill Local Historic District. The boundaries include the High Street Hill National Register District which was created in the late 1970s. The neighborhood association was formed in the 1950s.
Our neighborhood has played an important role in the history of the town of Brookline, and contains a wealth of historically significant buildings. Walnut Street, one of the neighborhoods’ major roads, played an early role in the development of the town of Brookline, and was a major east-west thoroughfare. The eastern part of Pill Hill became part of Brookline in 1844, when the land was annexed by the town. In the middle of the 19th moved to Brookine Village, and a branch of the Boston and Worcester railroad came to Brookline Village as well.
In 1862, the Swedenborgian Church on High street was completed, and several members of the church built homes in the neighborhood. At about the same time, the Brookline Land Company bought 80 acres in the area, and began to sell land for new home construction. The Brookline Land Company helped define the character of the neighborhood, by allowing neighborhood residents control over the sale and use of the land. Development and landscaping often reflected a respect for local physical features of the land, and well-respected architects were often brought in to build in the neighborhood. The Land Company also coordinated with Frederick Law Olmsted’s plans for the Muddy River project, and sold land for the creation of Leverett Pond and Olmsted Park.
The HSHA was organized over fifty years ago by a group of neighbors living on or around High Street and the village Green. This part of the town has been called “Pill Hill” and “High Street Hill” The neighborhood is located in Precinct 5 of Brookline, Massachusetts. It is possibly the oldest continuously operating neighborhood association in Brookline. One resident once wrote:
On January 27, 1958, in the church at the corner of High and Allerton Streets, over 150 residents gathered to hear two speakers. Mr. John Codman of the Beacon Hill Association spoke on “what a neighborhood association can accomplish.” Mr. Harry Toner, from the Brookline edevelopment Authority, talked about the present status of the “Farm Project,” which was threatening to alter the character of the community. After a brief question period, a Mrs. Brooks moved that “Resolved, that it is the sense of this meeting to organize an association to foster and promote the common interests of the residents, property owners and others interested in the welfare of the High Street area.” The motion was seconded and adopted and, following the adoption of a set of proposed bylaws and election of officers, the meeting was adjourned at 10:12 p.m. Then, according to the minutes of that first meeting, “in a small building century, the town’s civic center adjoining the rectory, the ladies had prepared coffee and cookies, and many of the group enjoyed a little friendly chat with new found neighbors and friends.”
Our bylaws state:
The principal purpose of the Association shall be to foster and promote the common interests of the residents and property owners of the High Street Hill neighborhood (the “Neighborhood”), the boundaries of which shall be coterminous with Brookline’s Pill Hill Local Historic District. The Association is organized and shall be operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare within the meaning of section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”). The purposes of the Association include, but are not limited to, the following:
- To promote the common good and general welfare of the residents of the Neighborhood, including without limitation by bringing about civic betterments and social improvements within the Neighborhood; and
- To engage in any lawful act or activity in furtherance of the foregoing and in furtherance of the social welfare purposes of the Association.
In 1977, most of Pill Hill was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Later, the Pill Hill Local Historic District was established with the help and support of the HSHA . The current boundaries of the HSHA are the same as those of the Local Historic district.
Over the past 50 years, the HSHA has worked to promote a sense of neighborhood and has been an advocate for the interests of its residents on a wide array of issues. We have worked with the town to build a new Lincoln school, and we supported turning the Free Hospital for Women into The Park condominiums. Our neighborhood is greener because of the restoration initiatives for the Emerald Necklace and Olmsted Park and Friends of Leverett Pond, all supported by the HSHA. Many, many other projects to improve our neighborhood have come from our neighborhood association.
We are fortunate to have the beautiful walks and well-kept shady groves of Olmsted Park to grace our neighborhood. But this jewel in the Emerald Necklace wasn’t always so glittering. Twenty-five years ago Olmsted Park was an urban eyesore–the trees were tangled and overgrown, Leverett Pond was choked with tires and shopping carts and commuter traffic on a road (where the current bike path is) discouraged any bucolic notions. HSHA members decided to band together, pick up the trash and start lobbying the local and state governments. The Olmsted Park you see today is the result of 25 years of continued activism and those very same neighbors are still involved in the effort to keep the park healthy.
What else does the High Street Hill Association do?
- meet with Town Meeting Members to discuss how upcoming issues will impact the neighborhood
- develop and maintain a really useful web site with photos of every house and lots of historical information
- work with other neighborhood groups in Brookline to meet common goals for zoning, parking, open space, and energy conservation
- organize a Father’s Day Picnic on the Green with free pony rides
- publish and distribute a local neighborhood newsletter, the High Street Hill Association Highlights, to each mailbox in the neighborhood and on-line as well
- be a strong advocate for historic preservation and environmental issues
- make contributions to a neighbor’s memorial, to buy books for the Lincoln School library or to plant trees in Olmsted Park
- hold an annual meeting and potluck dinner with an interesting speaker
- work with residents and the Town to find solutions for traffic problems and pedestrian safety
- organize volunteers and advocates to ensure that Olmsted Park stays beautiful.
- hold our annual Caroling on the Green.
- Donate to Steps to Success to help local students graduate and go to college.
The High Street Hill Association helps to foster our sense of community and preserve its unique characteristics. We are lucky to live in such an extraordinary and historic community.
Regular board meetings of the HSHA are held on the second Monday of the month. As always, all neighbors are invited to attend HSHA Board meetings and we welcome any new issues.
High Street Hill Association Board Members
- Wendy Machmuller, President
- Anthony Flint, Vice President
- Lena Berc, Secretary
- Matt Hyatt, Treasurer
- Erik Wurster
- Yana Piralkova
- Peggy Campion
- Helen MacDonald
- Deane Coady
- Dave Pisacich