The Riverside neighborhood, also known as “the Coast,” is a wedge-shaped slice of the city bounded by Massachusetts Avenue and River Street. Western Avenue—”The Ave”—runs down the center of the community. In the early 1800s, horse-drawn streetcars rattled down The Ave toward bridges over the Charles River to Watertown.
The waterfront bustled with industry including the Riverside Press and the Arrow Shirtcollar Company. Salt marshes dominated much of the area near the river until the Charles River Dam was built in the early 20th century, preventing the natural ebb and flow with the tides. Many of the houses along Western Avenue date from the mid-1800s, with houses closer to the river built in the early 20th century as the riverfront marshland was developed.
As you walk down Western Avenue, look for unusual box-shaped structures jutting out from some of the houses. These were small shops where the homeowners sold vegetables or meat. Most of them were added to houses in the early 1900s; they played the same role as corner stores do today.
Stop at the intersection of Howard Street and Western Avenue where, until recently, there was a cluster of stores and businesses. [From the 1950s-1970s] neighborhood residents did most of their shopping in Central Square where there were restaurants, two movie theaters, and many shops. Department stores like Gorin’s had furniture and housewares downstairs and clothing upstairs. At Carl’s Market, you could put fresh meat on your tab and, at Roger’s Jewelry, you could buy an engagement ring and pay over time. Residents never needed to go to downtown Boston; Central Square had everything.