continued from South End History, Part II: Boston's Melting Pot...
|Daily Boston Globe headline, October 1955, after|
the demolition of the New York Streets neighborhood
"The most cursory inspection of the New York Streets establishes it as a blighted and deteriorated neighborhood. The streets [are] inadequate for the demands of modern traffic...The land is occupied by an indiscriminate mixture of commercial uses of every type...with slum residential properties, or housing that is well on the down grade. The neighborhood is disfigured by…openly-dumped garbage and other filth since any vestige of pride in the surroundings has long since been abandoned by the people there...The dingy houses…reveal cracked masonry, rickety entrance halls and stairways, and dirty interiors with falling plaster….The dirty streets in the whole area swarm with children and adults too, on fair days, since the blessings of sun and light - even in the dusty gusts of air - are preferable to confinement in the squalid buildings. Many of the businesses…are marginal in character. Some of them include the storage [and] sale…of food items, despite the fact that the neighborhood is rat infested.”
Hundreds of families lived in the New York Streets area, so called because the streets were named after places in New York State that a Boston railway line ran through: Troy, Rochester, Genesee, Oswego, Oneida, Seneca, and Rose (See Mark B.'s remark in the comment section below for detail about Rose Street). Gloria Ganno, a former resident, recalled her time growing up in the New York Streets:
“When I was a child, automobile traffic was light, so neighborhood kids could easily roller skate on the street, play hopscotch on the sidewalk, and play baseball in three empty lots that at one time held three houses...On hot summer nights, we played “kick the can” and “hide and seek” in the dusk while our parents socialized on the stoops.
The Italian bakery next door…emitted the scrumptious aroma of bread and cookies baking…and we could rarely resist buying a loaf fresh from the oven. The bakery also sold cold cuts and had big wheels of cheeses imported from Italy. On the next block was a Jewish bakery called Green Friedman’s, where we bought bagels and pumpernickel and rye breads also hot from the oven. There were stores that sold fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and fish markets, and specialty stores catering to different ethnic groups….We never ate so well as when we lived in the New York streets.
During the mid-1950s, residents of the New York streets received a notice to move…[from] the Boston Housing Authority (BHA)…, Tillie sadly moved to Brookline. Although she was living in a more upscale place, she was lonely and missed her friends and her old neighborhood life. The elderly, the longest-time residents, seemed especially hit hard by the upheaval.”
The families who lived in the New York Streets were removed and rehoused, often in places far from the South End. The city razed the area in 1955 to begin the first large scale urban renewal project in Boston (the West End followed soon after). The Boston Herald building was built shortly afterward and occupies much of the site today. The site will probably be redeveloped once more in the very near future. The Ink Block project is investigating demolishing the Herald building, now vacant, and building mixed use commercial and residential buildings.
Other examples of urban renewal in the South End include Cathedral Housing, Castle Square, Tent City, the brick blocks, and Villa Victoria.
For Cathedral Housing, the BRA razed the existing structures on the site and built a housing development there in the 1950s to house WWII veterans and their families. In the early 1960s, residents of the Castle Square neighborhood were evicted and their buildings destroyed. Debates about proposed redevelopment for the area ensued and eventually an affordable housing block was built on the site. The result, Castle Square apartments, still stands there today.
|Tent City, corner of Dartmouth and Columbus, Google Map|
|Villa Victoria, Google Map|
What else was happening at this time?
The city of Boston wanted economic revitalization and encouraged new development throughout Boston, not just in the South End. They approved the construction of the new Prudential Center and other new Back Bay buildings. The South End's proximity to downtown Boston and the Back Bay made it an attractive residential location for urban pioneers moving into the city in the early 1960s. Urban renewal and economic revitalization led to rising property values, evident today in the city and in its immediate environs.
Where does the South End Historical Society (SEHS) come in?
|1972 image of Washington Street, courtesy of the |
South End Historical Society.
In addition, in the mid-1970s, the SEHS and other South End residents filed an application with the city of Boston to make the South End a Boston Landmark District. In 1983, the city officially established the South End Landmark District and appointed a commission to oversee and enforce the district guidelines.