Boasting the largest intact Victorian row house district in the country covering over 300 acres, the South End was listed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places in 1973. Strolling the tree lined streets, it’s hard to imagine that it was once a narrow strip of land, the Boston Neck, connecting Boston to Roxbury and surrounded by a tidal marsh. In the 1840’s the city fathers imported fill from Needham to expand the neck and filled in the marshes creating the South End and alleviating the crowding in the Beacon Hill area. In the 1850s, Charles Bulfinch, a renowned architect, created a plan for the newly enlarged area. The plan included building connected brick bow-front townhouses, with iron railings, tiny gardens surrounded by iron fences, and scattering small green parks, often with a fountain in the middle.
Prompted by a national financial crisis in the 1870’s there was an exodus of the well-to-do young families that built their homes in the South End. By the turn of the century, most of the original residents had moved out of the area and the private homes, where they had lived, were replaced by tenements and lodging-houses. Lodgers were attracted to the region from the countryside by the excitement of city life and by the availability of work. The South End had a growing number of African-American residents whose music helped to make the area famous for its jazz clubs, such as the Royal Palms, Eddie Levine’s, the Pioneer Club, Handy’s Grille, Tic-Toc Connolly’s Estelle’s, the Hi-Hat, The Savoy, The Cave, Basin Street, Louie’s Lounge, and Wally’s Paradise. Sadly, Wally’s is the only venue to have survived to the present day. From 1915 to 1970 the American Federation of Musicians Local 535 was the largest African American musicians’ union in the country, with members such as Cab Calloway, Chick Webb, Earl Hines, Jimmie Lunceford, and Duke Ellington.
Getting to The South End
The South End borders Boston’s Back Bay district, Chinatown, and Roxbury. It extends from Massachusetts Avenue on the west to Berkeley Avenue on the east, and north to south, from Columbus Avenue to Harrison Avenue. From its earliest years, the main commercial streets of the South End have been Washington Street, Tremont Street, and Columbus Avenue. SoWa spans the area from Massachusetts Ave. to Herald St and from Shawmut Ave to Albany St. Ample parking is available and public transportation includes the Broadway, Tufts or Back Bay T stations or the Silver Line bus stop.
Things to do in The South End
Over the last few decades Boston’s South End has experienced a rapid renaissance, blossoming into a world-renowned retail and arts community. Some of the finest eateries and a vibrant residential neighborhood including the soon to open Ink Block help to make the South End one of Boston’s coolest neighborhoods! Check out the famous SoWa Open Market, the SoWa Vintage Market, within the SoWa Art & Design District! SoWa or South of Washington is a vibrant community of artist studios, contemporary art galleries, one-of-a-kind boutiques, design showrooms, and entrepreneurs unified by a passion for creating and curating exceptional artworks, products and experiences.
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