Boston’s South End Neighborhood
Boston’s South End neighborhood lies just south of the Back Bay and northwest of South Boston. Despite its name, it is not directly south of the center of downtown Boston.
Built upon a former tidal marsh, the South End was filled and developed from the 1830s to the 1870s, even before Back Bay, which was mostly built after the American Civil War. The Boston and Providence Railroad once ran through the South End, and most of the cross streets in the neighborhood are named after cities and towns served by the railroad… Greenwich, Newton, Canton, Dedham, Brookline, Rutland, Concord, Worcester, Springfield, Camden, Plympton, Stoughton, Waltham, Dover, Chatham and Wareham.
Until the 1950s, the South End was a jazz mecca, with numerous jazz clubs scattered throughout the neighborhood. Today, the neighborhood is one of Boston’s most diverse, integrating people of nearly every race, religion and sexual orientation. The recent influx of families with young children has become a growing and important facet of this community, and is complimented by a myriad of parks and playgrounds scattered throughout the neighborhood.
Theatre and art galleries are flourishing in South End. The Cyclorama, The Boston Center for the Arts, the Boston Ballet, numerous theatre companies and the new Calderwood Pavillion – the first new theatre built in Boston in 80 years, along with the live music venues such as the Beehive make Tremont Street a lively area in the evenings.
The South End is one of Boston’s main restaurant districts. Tremont Street, often referred to as “restaurant row” offes a diverse mix of cuisines from bargain priced pizza joints to numerous high end chef owned restaurants. From French, Ethiopian, Brazilian, Indian, Korean, Tapas, Greek, Cuban and Middle Eastern, there is something here for everyone. Outdoor cafes abound for alfresco dining and great people watching.
A series of 11 residential parks are located across the South End, and most are oval in shape with passive use green space located in the center. They take inspiration from the English inspired residential squares. Many of these squares have a central fountain and surrounded by cast iron fencing. These 11 parks are complimented by a series of 16 community gardens and pocket parks. Peters Park is dog central, the first city sanctioned “off leash” dog park. With 13,000 square feet, it’s one of the areas cleanest and most beautiful dog parks.
Though housing is relatively expensive by US standards, it remains less expensive than the wealthiest central Boston neighborhoods of Beacon Hill and Back Bay.
The South End has many churches of architectural note, including the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, the largest such cathedral in New England.
Mostly built of mid-nineteenth century bowfronts – aesthetically uniform rows of 5 story, predominantly red brick structures of mixed residential and commercial use. The most common styles are Renaissance Revival, Italianate and French Second Empire, though there are Greek Revival, Egyptian Revival, Gothic Revival and Queen Ann style houses, among several other styles. Row houses built in the last quarter of the 19th century are quite common along the Southwest Corridor Park. The common palettes of red brick, slate, limestone or granite trim, and cast iron railings provide great visual unity. The South End is North America’s largest existing Victorian residential district, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Newer doorman developments have emerged in recent years, along with numerous loft conversions, converted police stations, churches and former bank buildings – all now luxury condominium buildings.
A growing retail presence can be found along Tremont Street and the newly developed Washington Street, the former home of the Washington Street Elevated railway, torn down in 1987. From handmade gifts to home furnishings, to clothing, specialty foods, cheese shops to high end dog boutiques, there is a plethora of retail shopping for every taste, mostly independently owned and operated.
SoWa (South of Washington) is a strip of blocks where you’ll find Boston’s emerging artists. Artist’s studios abound and many are open to the public on the first Friday of each week all summer. The South End Open Market takes place every Sunday during the warmer months and is Boston’s version of London’s Portobello market… vintage clothes sellers, young fashion and jewelry designers rubbing elbows with cheese makers and antique dealers. It changes every week! A Farmer’s Market is also held on Sundays from May to October.
Numerous public transportation options are available in the South End, which is erviced by the Silver Line and the Orange Line, as well as the Commuter Rail.