Exploring Boston’s South End Neighborhood

Ed Greable Blogger July 1, 2018

Considered to be one of Boston’s most beautiful neighborhoods, the South End community is rich in history and culture. Characterized by its Victorian style houses and numerous parks, South End is one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods with much to offer for those who choose to call it home.

The History of South End

Originally developed in the mid-19th century in response to overcrowding in downtown Boston and Beacon Hill, the South End community was originally a narrow strip of land surrounded by salt marshes. The additional land was created with the help of landfill from nearby Needham, while architect Charles Bulfinch got to work designing the new neighborhood.

The influence of Bulfinch can still be seen today with the community’s tree-lined streets, brick bow-front townhouses, iron gates and shaded pocket parks. Given the historic beauty and significance of the neighborhood, it is no surprise it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 as “the largest urban Victorian neighborhood in the country.”

Today, the community is bordered by Back Bay, Roxbury and Chinatown with the primary commercial areas running along Columbus Avenue, Tremont Street and Harrison Avenue. The neighborhood also boasts several subdistricts within its southeast area. These include:

  • Back Streets: Area between I-93, East Brookline, Harrison and East Berkeley streets
  • Medical Area: Area between Massachusetts Avenue, East Brookline Street, Franklin Square and the highway
  • New York Streets: Area between East Berkeley, Herald, Tremont and Albany streets
  • South of Washington Area (SOWA): Area between Albany to Washington and East Berkeley to Massachusetts Avenue

South End Parks

South End is home to eleven residential parks spread throughout the community. Most of the parks are elliptical in shape with green space in the middle. Many also feature a central fountain and cast iron fencing. Several newer parks have also been added to the community in addition to the original 19th-century parks created by Charles Bulfinch. In addition, the community is home to 16 community gardens and pocket parks, all of which are operated by the South End Lower Roxbury Open Space Land Trust.

Community Resources

The South End is home to a number of community resources for residents to enjoy. Among these are three nearby public libraries, with the closest being the South End Branch of the Boston Public Library. In addition to its collection of books, DVDs and other materials, the library hosts programs for adults and children on a regular basis. The Blackstone Community Center, which also provides programs for both adults and children, is located on West Brookline Street.

Two major hospitals, Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center, are also located within the South End neighborhood. The non-profit South End Community Health Center, which assists patients regardless of their ability to pay, is also located in the community. The center offers a variety of services, including dental care, adult medicine, behavioral health and nutrition.

Other organizations located in the South End include the South End Historical Society, South End Baseball and the Animal Rescue League of Boston. Founded in 1899, the Animal Rescue League features an animal shelter, a rescue department, an outpatient veterinary facility, an animal behavior department and an investigation and prosecution law enforcement department.

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