Curiously, Lower Allston (L.A.) stretches north from the Mass Turnpike all the way to the border of Cambridge at the Charles River.
Lower Allston was a bustling part of main Allston before the mass pike (I90) was put in. If you go to the end of Harvard Ave and look over the highway, you can still see where Harvard Ave went across to what is now called “Franklin St”. If you go onto Franklin St you can see many 1900’s mansions and commercial/retail spaces along the street, basically congruent with what is on the upper portion of Harvard Ave today. Current day Franklin st used to be an important part of the main drag in Allston, in fact going straight to Harvard University (hence the name - Harvard Ave).
As a result of the highway severing ties with “Upper Allston”, Lower Allston tends to feel a bit cut off from the rest of the neighborhood. This is typically viewed in a positive way by residents, who give Lower Allston it’s own interesting neighborhood characteristics.
Though Technically in Brighton (02135), the neighborhood in Brighton north of the pike stretching up to market St from the Evereret St bridge is commonly viewed as lower Allston as well.
This is what most people think of as Allston. It is the loose constellation of streets encircling the tri-force of Harvard, Brighton, and Commonwealth Avenues.
This area was primarily populated beginning in the 1790’s, when this land was primarily owned by Richard Gardner, father to famous local patriot Thomas Gardner who had died at the Battle of Bunker hill. This is in fact the same Gardner family for which Gardner St is named.
This area, in the early 1800’s was a very well-to-do neighborhood. Current day Gardner St. still has many of the original family mansions in tact. Practically all of these houses are now cut into apartment buildings, or are Frat houses for BU students. The Gardner/Chester/Pratt neighborhood is where you will tend to find the beer keg parties on Thursday-Sunday nights during the school year. Due to it’s proximity to BU, this area also tends to command the highest rents in Allston. Mediocre 2 bedroom apartments in this area rent upwards of $1500 a month, quite typically.
Most of the Parkvale/Greylock/Glenville nieghborhood, as well as most of the commercial buildings located on Harvard Ave, were built between 1850 and 1910. These years proved an important time for the Allston landscape, turning previously recreational and agriculturally based estates into more urban appealing apartment buildings. This neighborhood was transformed from vacant hills into highly populated apartment buildings geared towards middle class working immigrant families. The main attraction to living in Allston was the presence of Horse-car lines which traveled to downtown Boston. This provided immigrants with inexpensive housing which was a short trip to work, and therefor a great way to stake their claim in America. These families were later helped out more by the installation of streetcar lines around 1900, which gave anyone in Allston unheard-of access to downtown Boston. Commonwealth Ave, and most of the buildings lining it date to right around 1900, just as the street car system was being established.
Current day residents of this area enjoy train adjacency quite a bit. You can live over in this area with out a car quite easily, and at-the-most be a 10 minute walk to the train. Due to this fact this area has, since the advent of the streetcar, been one of the highest populated and desirable sections of Allston.
This area stretches from Commonwealth ave past Cambridge St over to North Beacon St. It’s noteworthy that in the time frame that this area was being plotted out, most of Allston was seeing a resurgence as home to massive brick apartment buildings. Though much of the areas near Gordon St and Commonwealth Ave were still made into brick apartment buildings, this neighborhood has many large houses dating roughly around 1870, and was based primarily around the newly plotted “Cambridge Street”
Currently a good deal of this neighborhood is rental property and condominiums. This area, more than the rest of upper Allston, enjoys a healthy share of longer-term owner occupants. This area tends to be viewed as less rowdy than the rest of Allston, and also tends to be further away from the bustle of stores and bars that tend to dot the rest of the neighborhood.