In 1873, Brookline became the first town in the United States to reject annexation by a larger neighboring city when it voted to remain independent of Boston. In doing so, Brookline not only stopped Boston's string of annexations, it also set an example that other wealthy suburbs across America would follow.
Originally settled by farmers and called Muddy River Hamlet, Brookline was independently incorporated in 1705. In its early days, it was no different from other rural towns in the area, but starting around 1800 Brookline became an increasingly attractive location for wealthy professionals who worked in Boston. The extension of Beacon Street across the Mill Dam in the 1820s created a direct route to downtown, and Brookline farmland was converted into estates for affluent upper class and upper-middle-class families.
In the years leading up to the attempted annexation of Brookline, a number of Boston's largest neighboring towns chose to become part of the city. The additions of Roxbury, Dorchester, Charlestown, Brighton and West Roxbury all expanded the area and population of the state capital. For those communities, annexation united the places where they lived and worked under a single political entity, and gave them access to public services that would have been difficult to develop on their own.
Brookline, however, was socially distinct from these neighboring towns, characterized by a wealthy elite and a predominantly Irish working class – there was not much in between. In the vote, the wealthy preferred to retain control over the town’s affairs, and the Irishmen opted to maintain their local labor monopoly. While Bostonians voted overwhelmingly to add Brookline to their expanding metropolis, the measure failed without Brookline's consent.
The Brookline Historical Society is a great resource for those interested in learning more about the city's history and architecture: http://www.brooklinehistoricalsociety.org
Sources: Wikipedia, Brookline Historical SocietyImage: Fairsted, National Park Service