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Boston Vs. New York: The Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway

A trial run from Park Street Station in 1897. (Boston Public Library/Flickr)

A trial run from Park Street Station in 1897. (Boston Public Library/Flickr)

As you wait for the T at the Boylston or Park Street stations, you may not realize that you’re waiting on a piece of a history.

No — not the trains themselves, but the tunnels in which they travel, which were a focal point of America’s first subway system.

The system’s construction was fraught with bribery, publicity and numerous accidents — but was fueled largely by an ongoing rivalry between Boston and New York — a city that was working on building its own subway system.

Guest

Doug Most, deputy managing editor for features at The Boston Globe. He’s author of “The Race Underground: Boston, New York and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway.” He tweets at @GlobeDougMost.

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  • “Green knew the discovery of human remains would stoke the fears people had about going underground to ride a train. During the long debate in Boston about whether to build a subway, one skeptic, after visiting London, said the subway gave him a ‘buried alive’ feeling.”

The New York Times: Books About Builders, Bootleggers And Bosses

  • “Aside from some overlooked plaques in the City Hall subway station and elsewhere, names like Barclay, Hewitt, McDonald, Parsons, Pearson, Sprague, Steinway, even Belmont — much less the Whitney brothers — have been all but forgotten.”

Excerpt


Other stories from this show:

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  • J__o__h__n

    I’m glad that Boston won so that the T has the excuse that they are the oldest subway system whenever its deficiencies are evident compared to NY. NY subway is so much better. Automated concise announcements that you can understand. They can actually close the doors on the first try. They have double tracks so a single disabled train doesn’t shut down the whole line.

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