South End, Reader Submission, October 2014

south end

west canton street (holly ann paisa)

west canton street (holly ann paisa)

Today's photo comes from Holly from the Back Bay. Holly works in research administration and has this to say about Boston:

"I love that Boston is a "small' big city. You get the best of both worlds. The fun events, great nightlife, and professional/educational opportunities that you'd expect in a large city but with Boston being so walkable, everything is easily accessible and with all the small shops and local restaurants, you get a real sense of community in the different neighborhoods."


The story of the South End neighborhood is the story of Boston's socio, political, cultural, environmental, and economic transitions, starting in the 19th century. In the early 1800's, the prominent federalist era architect, Charles Bulfinch, envisioned a new residential community in Boston that was modeled after the 18th century English style; brick bay-window townhouses, iron fences, individual, gardens, and public parks and fountains. In 1849 there was an urgent need for a residential neighborhood to alleviate the populous downtown and Beacon Hill neighborhoods and the tidal marsh, where the South End sits, was filled.

The South End was designed for wealthy middle class people, and excluded a commercial center and instead created numerous squares filled with parks. Boston put restrictions on the type of buildings that could be built so the architecture stayed mainly consistent with townhouses that included the architectural styles of the Greek Revival Style, Second Empire Style, Renaissance Revival Style, Mansard Italianate Style, High Victorian Gothic.

In the 1870's, thanks to the  economic panic of 1873, and the back bay being filled, the wealthy middle class fled the area and the South End became a tenement district for immigrants including Germans, Irish, French Canadians Russian Jews and later Syrians, Lebanese, Greeks, Armenians, Italians, and Lithuanians. It also became a popular place for businesses and industries (including the Chickering Piano Factory). After WWI, blacks from the south joined the small but established community of middle class blacks and the corner of Mass Ave and Columbus Ave became the center of jazz. After WWII, there was a need for post war housing and in the 40's the LGBT community began moving into the area. In the 1960's, the Puerto Rican community helped create the Villa Victoria. After the 60's the South End was abandoned once again after immigrants and working class people moved to the suburbs but recently, in the past few decades, the South End has become a trendy and expensive place to live again.

The 1950's urban renewal of the West End neighborhood created the desire to preserve the South End instead of destroy it. Years later, in 1973, the South End was listed on the National Register of Historic places as the largest remaining Victorian urban residential neighborhood in the United States and in 1983, was named a Boston Landmark District.


Interested to see what historical South End buildings look from the inside? The South End Historical Society is hosting their 46th annual South End House Tour where you can visit 6 Private Homes and 4 Public Spaces.