Boston’s South End is the largest Victorian brick row house district in the United States. The South End is on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the South End is home to cultural diversity, fine restaurants, a thriving arts community, and dozens of green park areas for relaxation.
Located minutes from the vibrant downtown area of Boston, the South End was originally a narrow isthmus of land connecting the town of Boston to the mainland. It wasn’t until 1801 that the need for more living space arose and plans were laid out for the South End area.
The population grew so much in the 1840s that the city was pressed to fill in the Back Bay and South Bay marshes on each side of the isthmus. Soon, the mercantile class began flocking to the area, building magnificent townhouses that earned them the accolades of the architectural community. Many of the original homes were Italianate in style but it was not unusual to also find houses constructed in South End in other styles as well.
South End History
In the 1860s, tree-lined Columbus Avenue was constructed in the style of a Parisian Boulevard and the design of the South End shifted from British with its London-style squares to French urban.
Before too long, however, the South End began to decline. By the turn of the 20th century, it was strewn with tenement housing, being a favorite neighborhood for new immigrants. Later, an African American middle-class neighborhood arose, boasting some of the best jazz clubs in and around the city. During the Revitalization of South End in the late 1960s, a historical society was formed in hopes of saving the neighborhood. Revitalization projects were begun to ensure the preservation of the architectural South End, Boston qualities of the area, and many of those wonderful 19th century homes and buildings that are still standing today.
Boston College first opened in the South End in 1863. A few of the original college buildings on Harrison Avenue still stand, though Boston College moved from the South End to then-rural Chestnut Hill as a result of rapid growth and urbanization in the late nineteenth century.
South End Sites Of Interest
The South End is one of Boston’s main restaurant districts and offers a diverse mix of cuisines. Tremont Street is often called “Restaurant Row”. The South End’s range of restaurants include American southern “Low Country”, French, Ethiopian, Brazilian, Indian, Italian, Korean, Greek, Middle Eastern, Cuban, Thai, and Japanese among others.
The South End has a growing shopping district, while most of it is targeted towards primarily upper-middle class shoppers. New retail shops offer a range of home furnishings, men’s and women’s clothing, stationery, specialty foods, spa services, and more.