Metropolitan Railroad Company architectural drawings collection

Collection Type

  • Architecture





Browse Collection


This collection consists of thirty architectural drawings of Metropolitan Railroad Company stations by various Boston architects, three of whom are identified. David Simpson designed fourteen of the plans, which are of the Norfolk House at Roxbury and include elevations, sections, floor plans, and framing plans of the engine house, car house and stables. John D. Wester designed two plans. One of these is an alternate proposal for the facade of the Norfolk House and the other is a proposal for an unidentified car house. Joseph R. Richards also designed two plans, which are both of an unidentified stable. The twelve remaining drawings were drafted by unidentified architects. Three are of a small car house, eight are of a car house and stable, and the last is of an unidentified building.


Descriptive Terms

horse-drawn vehicles
public transit
railroad stations
stables (animal housing)
architectural drawings (visual works)

Physical Description

30 architectural drawings

Finding Aid Info

An electronic finding aid is available through Historic New England’s Collections Access Portal. A paper finding aid is available in the Library & Archives.

Custodial History

The custodial history of these materials is unknown.

Collection Code


Collection Name

Metropolitan Railroad Company architectural drawings collection

Reference Code



A collection of thirty drawings of car houses and stables for the Metropolitan Railroad Company created in the early 1860s by various Boston architects.

Acquisition Type


Credit Line

Gift, Frank Cheney, 1994.


Boston (Suffolk county, Massachusetts)
Cambridge (Middlesex county, Massachusetts)
Jamaica Plain (Boston, Suffolk county, Massachusetts) [neighborhood]
Roxbury (Boston, Suffolk county, Massachusetts) [neighborhood]

Record Details


Metropolitan Railroad Co. (Boston, Mass.)

Material Type

architectural drawings (visual works)

Other People

Richards, Joseph R., 1828-1900
Simpson, David, 1813-1866
Wester, John D., 1835-1889

Other Organizations

Metropolitan Railroad Co. (Boston, Mass.)


This collection is available for research.

Conservation Note

The following conservation and preservation activities have been completed on this collection:
- A drawing of a floor plan by David Simpson has been placed in a mylar sleeve to keep a torn piece together with the drawing
- The proposal for the Norfolk House at Roxbury by David Simpson was framed for an exhibition by Historic New England


There are no physical restrictions on this collection. There are no technical restrictions on this collection.

Description Level


Accruals Note

Accruals are not expected.

Language Note

Materials are entirely in English.

Preferred Citation

Item identification. Box #, folder #, Metropolitan Railroad Company architectural drawings collection (AR028). Historic New England, Library & Archives

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Sean Ferguson, March, 2016.

Rules and Conventions

This finding aid is DACS-compliant.

Related Items

Boston Transit Archive, 1895-1960s
Transportation - Horse cars

Historical/Biographical Note

Historical/Biographical Note

Incorporated in 1853, the Metropolitan Railroad Company constructed and operated one of the earliest horse drawn railways in the Greater Boston area. The company laid its first tracks, which ran from Roxbury to downtown Boston in September 1856 and by 1870 had built stations in Milton, Jamaica Plain, East Boston, Brookline, Back Bay, and Dorchester as well. Accompanying the development of these stations, were rail car houses tailored to suit the needs of the horses that drew the passengers. Most often, stables were constructed adjacent to the car houses for this purpose. The largest of these terminuses was at Roxbury Station. By 1862 it included an engine powered mill to grind the horses’ grain.

The Metropolitan Railroad Company issued a call for proposals from architects in the Greater Boston area for designs of these stations. Three of the architects who responded the call for proposals included Joseph R. Richards (1852-1900), John D. Wester (1835-1889), and David Simpson (1913-1866). Their work is represented in this collection.

The expansion of Metropolitan’s railways and stations came at a time of great concern for overcrowding and unsafe transportation in an industrializing urban setting. Proponents and critics of Metropolitan usually compared the railcars to their unpopular predecessors and contemporaries, large carriages known as omnibuses, which cramped and jostled their passengers. One reporter commenting on Metropolitan’s incorporation sardonically noted "the experiment is certainly worth trying, for the evil can not be greater than it is" (The Pittsfield Sun, 1853).


The Boston Directory: Embracing the City Record, A General Directory of the Citizens, and Business Directory. (1873). Boston: Sampson, Davenport, & Co., 991.
May 16, 1853. (1853). The Pittsfield Sun.
Shugar, Miles. (2014). "From Horse to Electric Power at the Metropolitan Railroad Company Site: Archaeology and the Narrative of Technological Change." Scholarworks at UMass Boston, Paper 283, 23-25.



The collection is arranged in four series by architect, which are arranged into subseries by project if they worked on more than one. The arrangement is as follows:

- Series I. David Simpson, 1862
- Series II. John D. Wester, c. 1860-1865
- - Subseries A: Proposal for Norfolk House at Roxbury, c.1862
- - Subseries B: Unidentified Proposal, c. 1860-1865
- Series III. Joseph R. Richards, 1863
- Series IV. Unidentified Architects’ projects, c.1860-1865
- - Subseries A: Unidentified Car House, c. 1860-1865
- - Subseries B: Unidentified Car House and Stables, c. 1860-1865
- - Subseries C: Unidentified Building, c. 1860-1865