Walking around the South End of Boston in 2017, it is hard to picture the area as
anything less than a stylish and energy filled location. The South End currently consists of
historical buildings, residences, and parks, intertwined with commercial and industrial buildings,
crowded by young artists and families. However, prior to the 1840s, the South End had a small
population and few mansions. Instead, this area was a marshland with a small strip of land,
which today is known as Washington street.
In the 1850s, this all changed by the work of Charles Bulfinch. The distinguished
architect created a plan for the area that would forever change the plot of land that is now
known as the South End. By adding townhouses along with meticulously placed plants
surrounded by iron railing, Boston’s South End transformed over the following fifteen years from
an unpopulated, somewhat boring area, to a trendy part of the city where wealthy families built
their homes. Many of these houses built during the mid 1800s represented the different
architectural styles that were deemed popular during this time.
By the late 1800’s, most of these well to do families had moved out of South End and to
the nearby neighborhood of Back Bay because of the financial crisis. Because these
townhouses were repossessed by the bank, the homes were replaced by tenements and
lodging-houses, and a wave of immigration in the area began. By the 1960s, the once beautiful
area was overtaken by crime and poverty, and the south end was neglected. Regardless, an
affluent population moved to the area and was able to somewhat restore the Victorian style
One of the major ways this area was able to be restored and continues to be known as a
beautiful area it is today is because of The South End Historical Society, which was formed to
preserve the culture and history of the South End. Because of this Society’s work, Boston’s
South End was named a Boston Landmark District in 1983.
The South End is mainly known for two different building types, according to the
Landmarks Commission: “a double basement, bow-fronted rowhouse with a mansard roof or a
low basement, flat-fronted rowhouse faced with brick and often adorned with a projecting oriel
window.’’ Despite this uniform look, the South End has, and still does, stay as a place of
diversity, regardless of neighbors having differences in sexuality, economic backgrounds, and
As a result of the diversity that has been intertwined within the South End community
throughout history, this area of Boston offers a variety of cuisines in restaurants from Ethiopian
to Venezuelan, and trendy stores to satisfy any shopper’s needs.
This trendy location offers more than just shops and intricate architecture. Located on
Harrison Avenue, the SoWa district, is filled with art galleries and markets, displaying the vibrant
culture of artists in this area. Adding to the plethora of art, the South End is also home to the
Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) and the school for the Boston Ballet.
The South End of Boston represents more than just a community of artists and vibrant
buildings. South End’s cultural and social background seep through the walls of the brick streets, and
add to the many intriguing qualities of this area.
“South End Landmark District.” Boston.gov, Landmarks Commission , 19 Oct. 2017, www.boston.gov/historic-district/south-end-landmark-district.
Turchi, Megan. “South End Landmark District Has Complicated Past - News - Boston.com Real Estate.” Boston.com, The Boston Globe, 5 Mar. 2015, realestate.boston.com/news/2015/03/05/south-end-landmark-district-has-complicated-past/.
Vadum, Arlene. “A Short History of Boston's South End.” A Short History of Boston's South End, Nov. 2008, www.south-end-boston.com/History.
Photo taken by Laurensius Herianto