Sunday, April 29, 2012
The South End Historical Society has several great lectures and walking tours coming up. Check them out below. If you would like to attend, please call 617-536-4445 or email email@example.com to sign up. Reservations are required.
Posted by at 3:50 PM
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
- Local historian and author Alison Barnet's article about South End police officer John Sacco's beat and South End News column.
See page 2.
- "A South End Love Story" on page 5, which I also posted on this blog earlier this year.
- Our May and June events calendar on page 4.
- My Executive Director letter on page 1.
Visit our for to purchase Masquerade tickets online or call 617-536-4445 to pay by check. Proceeds from our two annual fundraisers, the Spring Ball and the House Tour, fund one third of our annual operating budget and we could not continue without them. Come enjoy the event, make new friends, and support local history!
I posted the picture above in honor of our early balls. It was taken at the 4th Annual Ball, February 1970, at the Franklin Square House on East Newton Street. Guests often wore Victorian costume to early balls and in the picture you can see the costumes worn by the two women on the left. Betty Gibson, founder of what is now International Realty and an early SEHS board member, is on the right.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
The "El," as it was known, ran from downtown Boston to Forest Hills and snaked its way down Washington Street in the South End until it was torn down in 1987. Some people decried the poor condition of the 80+ year old stations, claiming that the system was outdated and that the noise was a menace. Others had fonder memories of the "El" and lamented the loss of the connection between the communities that it provided. See part of the transcript from WGBH's coverage of the end of the "El" and note Byron Rushing's insightful comments. The also has a great post about the "El."
While the structure from Northampton Station, which stood near the intersection of Washington St. and Massachusetts Ave., was given to the in 1988, I don't think other stations or pieces of the "El" survived in the public realm. People probably grabbed small pieces (bolts?) and snapped pictures as souvenirs but little else of the "El" survives.
Luckily, footage of the "El" is posted on YouTube. As an added perk, there are some great shots of the South End.
The video above, from 1986 or '87, shows a neat vista of Washington Street. If you're familiar with Washington Street today, pay close attention to this video and notice all of the new buildings that have gone up since this was filmed. The Hotel Alexandra is barely visible on the left at 3:18; and Cathedral of the Holy Cross at 4:34. Watch until the end and the entrance into the tunnel.
The video above shows some of the dismantling of the Elevated tracks in the late 1980s. 1:02 shows the tracks near Northampton Station coming down outside of 1701 Washington Street; 5:05 shows Cathedral of the Holy Cross; 5:12 shows Franklin Square; and 5:15 shows Hite Radio and T.V. (soon to be demolished) at the corner of Washington St. and Worcester Square.
If you just can't get enough "El" history and have some time on your hands, check out this 28 minute documentary There are some good images of some of the stations, especially Dover St. station.
Posted by at 1:50 AM
Saturday, April 7, 2012
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.”
“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 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.
Posted by at 10:10 PM