Braintree Town Hall is located at 1 John F. Kennedy Memorial Drive, Braintree, MA 02184
Photo: General Sylvanus Thayer House, circa 1641, located at 786 Washington Street. Braintree. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Photographed by wikipedia username: John Phelan, own work, 2010, [cc-3.0], accessed September, 2022.
Only 10 miles south of Boston and within Norfolk County, Braintree [†] is a mature "inner ring" suburb of Boston. Braintree provides easy access to Boston and surrounding towns and to the South Shore through the major highways, Route 93 and Route 3, as well as the MBTA Red Line and Greenbush commuter rail. While Braintree has had strong residential development, there is a well-established pattern of commercial development along these transportation routes and the secondary highways (Route 37 and Route 53) through the Town. The intensity of this commercial use and its associated traffic impacts is one of the defining features of the Town.
Braintree is part of the Southern New England Coastal Plains and Hills ecoregion and part of the Weymouth Fore River watershed, which in turn is part of the Boston Harbor watershed. The Fore River provides access to Boston Harbor.
Braintree shares several natural resources with neighboring towns. The drinking water reservoirs and treatment system are shared with Randolph and Holbrook. These resources are managed by the Tri Town Water Board, which is composed of a representative of each of the three communities. The Great Pond reservoir in Braintree is part of the river herring restoration efforts the Town is undertaking with the Division of Marine Fisheries.
The northwest area of Braintree borders on the 3000 acre Blue Hills Reservation. The bulk of the reservation land is located in the surrounding towns of Quincy and Milton but a portion of the Reservation is located in Braintree and separated from the rest by Route 93.
A 320-acre open space area, Pond Meadow Park, is shared with Weymouth. The park was created as part of an Army Corps of Engineers flood control project in the 1970's to prevent flooding in the Weymouth Landing area which is shared by both communities.
One of the most significant open space areas is the state-designated Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). The Cranberry Brook ACEC includes approximately 1050 acres of land associated with the Cranberry Brook Watershed. This includes a mix of private and public land. Protected areas within the ACEC include the Cranberry Pond Conservation Area, the Devon Woods Conservation Restriction land, Braintree Town Forest and Holbrook Town Forest. A trail connects the Cranberry Town Forest to the Holbrook Town Forest. The large block of open space connects from this area through Holbrook and Weymouth all the way to Ames Norwell State Park in Abington.
The archeological record indicates that the Braintree area has been more or less continuously inhabited by Native American groups for settlement, resource procurement, and transportation from at least 12,000 years ago through the historical period. In 1634 an area encompassing present day Braintree, Quincy, Holbrook, and Randolph was annexed to Boston to provide lands to Boston residents for farming and other agricultural purposes. Within six years, on May 13, 1640 the town of Braintree was officially incorporated.
The earliest settlement of present day Braintree occurred along the north side of the Monatiquot River in the area of present day Elm and Middle Streets. Although established primarily as an agricultural community predominated by lumber and farming, water powered industrial activities, including iron production, was part of the area from the outset. As the population of the town grew settlement would spread out to the east and west along the banks of the Monatiquot River. By the early 19th century Braintree had a growing ship building industry in East Braintree on the Fore River and a growing number of mills in South Braintree, including a short lived copper foundry established by Paul Revere's son. Shipbuilding and manufacturing would define the economy of Braintree well into the last half of the 20th century.
Braintree's history was also shaped by the many transit routes that transect it some of which were established by Native American groups. These include: the Boston-Plymouth Highway (Commercial Street), Liberty Street which reached toward the Weymouth Great Pond, and the Washington/Pond/Granite Street path that leads to the southwest and Randolph.
During the early industrial era Braintree became a major railroad junction with construction of the Old Colony Railroad connecting Boston to the southeast part of the state. By the mid- nineteenth century these transportation links would play a role in establishing Braintree as a suburb of Boston. This suburbanization resulted in the development of a number of residential neighborhoods, the most notable example being the Highlands which, although laid out in the 1870s, was developed in the 1930s.
Braintree has a distinct historical district around the town center. The town center includes French's Common, the Town Hall, the Thayer Academy campus, the General Sylvanius Thayer House (now Home of the Historical Society), and the Water Department building (formerly the Town Library, built in 1874). Streetscape improvements undertaken in this area reinforce the historical character of the town center as does the Thayer Public Library.
† 2018 Braintree Open Space and Recreation Plan, www.braintreema.gov, accessed September, 2022.
Nearby Towns: Hull Town • Milton Town • Rockland Town • Stoughton Town •