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Tremont Street Subway
|Architect||Carsen, Howard A.|
|Architectural style||Classical Revival|
|NRHP reference #||66000788|
|Added to NRHP||October 15, 1966|
|Designated NHL||January 29, 1964|
The Tremont Street Subway in Boston's MBTA Subway system is the oldest subway tunnel in North America and the third oldest worldwide to exclusively use electric traction (after the City and South London Railway in 1890, and the Budapest Metro's Line 1 in 1896), opening on September 1, 1897. It was originally built to get streetcar lines off the traffic-clogged streets, instead of as a true rapid transit line. It now forms the central part of the Green Line, connecting Boylston Street to Park Street and Government Center stations.
The tunnel originally served five closely spaced stations: Boylston, Park Street, Scollay Square, Adams Square, and Haymarket, with branches to the Public Garden Portal and Pleasant Street Incline south of Boylston. Park Street, Scollay Square, and Haymarket stations were altered over the next two decades as transfers were added to the Cambridge-Dorchester Subway, East Boston Tunnel, and Main Line Elevated (now part of the Red, Blue, and Orange Lines, respectively). In 1962, the southern portal at Pleasant Street was closed; the following year, the northern half of the tunnel was substantially altered when Government Center and a new Boston City Hall replaced Scollay Square and Adams Square. The northbound tunnel to Haymarket station was rerouted; the southbound tunnel is still original. Scollay Square station was rebuilt as Government Center, and Adams Square station was closed. In 1971, the original Haymarket station was replaced with a new station just to the south.
The subway in 1897 consisted of a main line under Tremont Street that terminated at Park Street, and two forks to the south. One fork has remained the extant part of the line, which veered westward along Boylston Street, toward the main-line Arlington station, as well as towards Back Bay. The other fork continued south under Tremont Street to the Pleasant Street Incline (the tunnel to which is depicted in the top right photo). This portal was used by streetcars that went southwest to Egleston via the South End, along Tremont Street (route 43), or southeast to City Point in South Boston via Broadway (route 9). Streetcar service through the southern portal ended in 1961; for the last several months, service consisted of a shuttle between the portal and Boylston station. The tunnel still exists, dead-ended at the now-buried portal, which has been converted to a public park.
The three original tunnel entrances were in the Boston Public Garden, at North Station/Canal Street, and at Pleasant Street. Over time, these portals were replaced and abandoned as the subway was extended. Vestiges of various closed portals are still visible inside the main Green Line's Boylston Street Subway tunnel extending west of Boylston station towards Kenmore Square station.
The western Public Garden portal was replaced in 1914 with two portals, one in the middle of Boylston Street adjacent to the old portal, and the other at the west end of the Boylston Street Subway, just east of Kenmore Square. The Boylston Street portal was sealed in 1941 when the Huntington Avenue Subway was opened (with a new portal at Northeastern University). The portal at Kenmore Square was replaced in 1932 when the subway was extended west beyond the Square, to the existing portals on Commonwealth Avenue (the "B" branch) and Beacon Street (the "C" branch), although the top arch of the original portal survives as part of a ventilation shaft. The Fenway portal for the "D" branch was opened in 1959.
The northern portal at Canal Street was replaced in 2004 when the subway was extended beneath North Station to a new portal next to Martha Road.
The southern portal at Pleasant Street was abandoned in 1962 following the end of streetcar service through the South End. The portal has since been sealed up and covered by Elliot Norton Park, but the dead-ended tunnel to Boylston survives underground.
The subway uses trolleys powered by electricity from overhead lines, which had been made possible by the invention of the trolley pole in 1880 by Frank J. Sprague, from his design for the Richmond Union Passenger Railway. The line has been pantograph-only since the trolley wires were modified in the 1990s.
The Tremont Street Subway was designated a National Historic Landmark in recognition for its pioneering role in the development of the subway as a public transit system in the United States. The landmark designation encompasses the still-extant portions of the early tunnel, roughly from Court Street to Charles Street, and includes the original Classical Revival head houses of the Park and Boylston stations which are still in use.
The original owner of the Tremont Street Subway was the private West End Street Railway, later the Boston Elevated Railway. Public ownership began in 1947 with the Metropolitan Transit Authority, now the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
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