Conversion of the Immaculate Conception Church into Condominiums

Photo of proposed project on the BRA website

Photo of proposed project on the BRA website

On Tuesday, July 5, the South End Landmark District Commission reviewed the design application for the conversion of the Immaculate Conception Church to 63 condominiums. This was the first design application put forth by Nunes Trabucco Architects and the second meeting with the South End Landmark District Commission (SELDC). Several South End residents living next to the church attended the public meeting at Boston City Hall to hear the developer’s proposed project and voice their concerns. The developer put together a PowerPoint presentation for the committee and the public.

The proposed development will be called The Cosmopolitan and Nunes Trabucco Architects is handling the project. This meeting was the first design application put forth before the South End Landmark District Commission. The developer previously met with the commission at its May meeting for an advisory hearing. At this previous hearing, the Commission listened to the proposed project and voiced their concerns and made several suggestions.

Immaculate Conception Church, 1973. (Photo property of the South End Historical Society)

Immaculate Conception Church, 1973. (Photo property of the South End Historical Society)

The South End Landmark District Commission does not have jurisdiction over the entire project. All exterior work at front facades, all exterior work at rooftops (when visible from a public way), and all exterior work at side and rear elevations (when side and rear elevations face a public way) are subject to the review of the South End Landmark District Commission. The project is also under review of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA).

“The BRA’s Development Review Department facilitates the review of small and large scale development projects, pursuant to Article 80 of the Boston Zoning Code. Led by a team of Project Management staff, this department coordinates with BRA Planning & Urban Design staff, City Agencies, elected officials and the community to foster responsible development in the neighborhoods and the Downtown.” (from the BRA website)

According to the BRA website, the developers have submitted a Letter of Intent, but has yet been approved by the Board.

After listening to the presentation, the Commission asked questions and discussed their concerns with the project. Their main areas of concern:

  • Window tracery: The commission would like it preserved as this is a significant aspect to the building’s architecture.
  • Garage Door: The proposed garage door on East Concord Street needs further development
  • Recessed roof balconies: There are some parts of the roof balconies that the commission would like altered, such as the walls between each balcony being thicker.

After questions and comments, the Commission made a motion to accept the design application in concept with provisos. The applicants will need to take the commission’s concerns and suggestions to further develop their project and come before the full commission at a future meeting.

After the motion was made and before the commission voted, the floor was opened for public comment. Around 8-10 residents of the community stood to voice their concerns over the proposed project. The commission asked they speak only on things that are within the Commission’s jurisdiction. For example, residents concerned over the number of units, the traffic or construction noise, would need to contact the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA).

Some concerns that the public brought up:

  • HVAC yard (it was not discussed in the presentation and both the Commission and residents would like to know what developers have planned).
  • Copper roof located to the right of the garage. Both the commission and residents want to see it preserved. The developer stated that they had no intention of removing it; however, the cross attached to the copper roof may need to be removed (the Archdiocese will be removing all religious iconography on the exterior and interior of the church).
  • The plans for the building from Father Gilday Street were not discussed in Tuesday’s presentation and will need to be moving forward.

The Commission agreed with the public regarding these concerns and would like to see these items further developed and discussed at the next meeting. The South End Historical Society will continue to attend meetings regarding the church at City Hall and update the project’s progress through our blog and on Twitter.

This was the first of several public meetings that the developers of the project will attend at Boston City Hall. Interested in the South End Landmark District Commission? Be sure to visit their page on the City of Boston website and attend their monthly public meetings, held every 1st Tuesday of the month!

The Army Recruiting Station

About a month ago, I received this tweet from a South End resident:

I exchanged emails with this curious South Ender and, as the message above indicates, his grandfather enlisted in the Army at the recruiting station at the corner of Columbus Avenue and Clarendon Street in 1941. The South Ender asked if we had any information about the station or any photographs of what it looked like. I told him that I didn’t think the Historical Society had anything but that I’d do a bit of digging in other Boston area resources and would see what I could find.

I started hunting around for information about the Army induction station and for the South Ender’s grandfather. I found that throughout the course of World War II, the Army had several different induction stations in Boston, depending on the volume of recruits or draftees and the proximity to a railroad station. In January 1941 and for some time before that (I’m not sure how long), new enlistees went to 176 Federal Street. However, a Daily Boston Globe article from February 1941 mentions “Boston’s new draft induction station on Columbus Ave” and one from July 1941 gives 269 Columbus Avenue as the address. In February 1941, shortly after the Columbus Ave station opened, the Globe reported that the station was expanding into the adjacent Earle Building because they needed more space(1).

As soon as I saw the name “Earle Building,” I knew exactly where the induction station was. So do you. Have you ever been to the CVS at the corner of Clarendon and Columbus? Or to the City Year headquarters? Did you go to the South End Lower Roxbury Open Space Land Trust’s art reception after the 2011 Garden tour? That building. The image at left is a picture of the building in 1972 (image courtesy of the South End Historical Society). So the next time you’re in there, think of the thousands of recruits who went through there before being sent to Fort Devens or Camp Edwards for training. The “men reporting were given two meals by special ticket at a nearby cafeteria” and some or all took the train from Huntington Avenue(2). I wish I knew where the men ate and I assume that many departed from the Huntington Avenue railroad station that used to stand where Copley Place is now. The Huntington Ave. Station is circled in the 1938 Bromley map at right.

Now that I knew where the South Ender’s grandfather enlisted, I searched to see if I could find any record of him. Newspapers often reported who enlisted or reported and where they were from. I didn’t find a mention of him in the newspaper but I did find his enlistment record, which listed his date, occupation, age, birthday, and level of education. He enlisted in early 1942.

When he enlisted, he probably saw ads like the one below from October 1942, encouraging him to serve his country.
Or this one from June 1942.If you know anyone who went through the South End induction station, please let me know. This is the first time I’d heard a story relating to it.

1. Daily Boston Globe, February 8, 1941, July 8, 1941, and February 22, 1941.

2. Daily Boston Globe, February 7, 1941.

Some South End Images

Sometimes I get sidetracked when I look through our collections here at the South End Historical Society (SEHS). I go searching for one thing and end up, three hours later, twenty-five topics in the opposite direction and having completely forgotten what it was I went looking for in the first place. One interesting thing leads to another and so on and so on.

For your visual enjoyment on this icy Wednesday, here are some images that we hold in our collections. All of these images are courtesy of the SEHS.

Rather belatedly, to the left is a Hallmark Christmas card (opened and laid flat) dating from 1934. The “Merry Christmas” portion is the front of the card. This was recently donated to us as a part of a large object and photograph collection from a South End family. This collection was found in a South End house.

You’re probably wondering why I posted the book mark at the bottom right. It depicts the Bunker Hill Monument, far from the South End. However, the maker of this book mark, Poole Pianos, was located at 5 and 7 Appleton Street in the South End. The back of this card reads:

The
“Poole”
Piano
embodies all piano excellences,
and has attained the highest level
possible in the art of piano making.

Unexcelled for
Tone,
Action,
Design and
Durability.

The “Poole” is the best piano possible for a customer to buy.

Poole Piano Co.
5 and 7 Appleton Street
Boston, MA

For Sale By
J.E. Lothrop Piano Co.,
Dover N.H.

This book mark probably dates to the very end of the nineteenth or early twentieth century.

The object at the left is a business card for W. W. Stall. The back of this card reads:

W.W. Stall,
All Kinds New and Second-Hand
SAFETY BICYCLES,
Bought, Sold, and Exchanged
Odd Fellows’ Hall, 509 Tremont Street., 4 Warren Ave.,
Boston, Mass.
Repairing A Specialty.
Telephone, Tremont 263.

W.W. Stall was located in Odd Fellows’ Hall, which burned in 1932 (Atelier 505 stands in the location today).* Stall was a prominent athlete in the cycling world of New England and the mid-Atlantic states. W.W. Stall began business at 509 Tremont St. by 1885 (possibly earlier). The Brookline History blog ran a great article about the Corey Hill Bicycle challenge, which Stall participated in.

The image at right is a scan of a postcard. The postcard dates to 1918 and depicts Theodore Parker Memorial Hall at the corner of Appleton and Berkeley Streets. Built between 1872 and 1873, it housed the Twenty-Eighth Congregational Society (actually Unitarian) and the Parker Fraternity, a community social organization, and was named in honor of leader Theodore Parker, who died in 1860. The church later moved but the Fraternity stayed until around World War I. Through the mid twentieth century it housed many organizations, including the Worcester County Creamery, a book store, the British Naval and Military Veteran’s Association, Magna Film Productions, and the Boston Tea Party dance hall. A fire damaged the building in 1972 and in 1975 it was converted to residential and commercial use.[1]

The image below shows two unidentified women at the intersection of Dover, Tremont, and Berkeley Streets, again near the present day Atelier building.* The image was taken in the 1890s.I find the Historical Society’s own institutional history very interesting. The image below contains two of our House Tour brochures. The white brochure is the first ever House Tour brochure from 1967. We still hold our South End House Tour and this past October we hosted our 43rd. The event has changed quite a bit from the beginning, especially the guidebook. The red brochure is from our most recent House Tour on October 15, 2011.

*See this 1890 Bromley map for a bit of context for Odd Fellows’ Hall and the surrounding Tremont, Berkeley, Dover area. The Cyclorama (present location of the Boston Center for the Arts) is the circular building in the lower center. Odd Fellows’ Hall is right above it (east).**These images are courtesy of the South End Historical Society. If you are interested in reproducing any of these images, please contact the SEHS by calling 617-536-4445 or by emailing admin@southendhistoricalsociety.org.

1. Adapted from former South End Historical Society President and Historian Richard Card’s article, The Parker Memorial.

Why is Castle Square called Castle Square?

After reading my recent post about Christmas and the South End, a reader of my South End Patch blog asked “how did Castle Sq get its name? Was it named after something or someone?”

When I read the question yesterday afternoon, I had no idea why it was called Castle Square. The only thing I knew was that Castle Square Hotel and Castle Square Theatre were located on one corner of the intersection of Ferdinand (now Arlington), Tremont, West Castle (now Herald), and Chandler Streets. The hotel and the theatre stood on most of the Berkeley, Chandler, and Tremont Street block from the late nineteenth century until 1933, when they were demolished. The Chandler Inn is all that remains of the old complex.

Since the first mention of anything “castle” that I knew of in that area was West Castle Street, I looked at some old maps and city directories to try and find when that street name first appeared. West Castle Street was the name of what is now Herald Street, but only the section that runs north west from Washington Street. An 1874 ward map confirms this. Ward maps from 1857 and 1865 list a West Castle Street, north west of Washington, and an East Castle Street, south east of Washington Street. Sometime between 1874 and 1883, the names of the streets change from West and East Castle Streets to Castle and Motte Streets, respectively. The 1885 map from King’s Handbook of Boston (at left) shows Castle and Motte Streets. The orange arrow points to Castle Street and the gold star marks the location of the Castle Square Hotel and Theatre. Ward maps until at least 1938 label the streets as Castle and Motte Streets. The first mention of Herald Street I found was in a 1952 newspaper article, so sometime between 1938 and 1952, Castle and Motte Streets became Herald Street. In the mid-1960s, buildings near Herald, Paul, Albion, Village, Emerald, and Middlesex streets were razed. The Castle Square housing complex was then built on the site. I assume that the 1960s Castle Square project was named Castle Square because of the former hotel and theatre nearby and/or the former name of Herald Street.

So the street was named Castle Street and the hotel and theatre were named Castle Square. I assume that this is where the name of the current Castle Square housing complex comes from. But why did those nineteenth century Bostonians use the name “castle” for the hotel, the theatre, and the street in the first place?

As most South Enders and Bostonians probably know, the intersection of East Berkeley (formerly Dover) and Washington Streets marks the approximate location of the narrowest part of the Boston Neck, the thin piece of land connecting Boston’s Shawmut Peninsula with the mainland. Early colonial Bostonians built fortifications on the Neck as early as the mid-seventeenth century. A map from 1775 shows a fortification on the Neck and a short street or path along its border labeled Castle Street. The Hale map from 1814 shows a Castle Street in the same location, near the edge of where the late eighteenth century fortification was located. The nineteenth and twentieth century pre-Herald street Castle Street sits along this same late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Castle Street.

I cannot be one hundred percent sure why early Bostonians named it Castle Street, but I think it may be because sometimes forts were described as castles. Castle Island (a.k.a. Fort Independence) is a good example. So it’s possible that the street took the name Castle Street because it was located along the line of a Boston Neck fortification and the name stuck all the way until the present day. If my speculation contains any truth, the name Castle Square is an interesting descendant of early Boston.

About This Blog

I research and read about Boston’s South End almost every day. I started this blog to share information about the history of the South End neighborhood and its relationship to Boston. Bostonians’ perceptions of what constitutes the South End have changed considerably over the last two hundred years. After all, the “South” End is a geographical distinction designating the southern portion of the settlement. Before the mid-nineteenth century, the South End was actually what is now the financial district. When people started moving out to the Boston neck and the city started selling lots and filling in land around Washington Street, this new South End (and the South End I’ll be talking about) was born.

I am not planning on including full scholarly citations for most of my sources. I will provide the basic information so that you can track the source down but, for the purposes of this blog, I’m not going all out Chicago-style.

Luckily for me, I work for the South End Historical Society and have access to many of their wonderful resources. While I’ll try to limit the philosophizing, any opinions I express are my own and are not necessarily shared by the South End Historical Society.

If you use any of the information on this blog for your own research, please give credit where credit is due.

The image above belongs to the South End Historical Society. Taken in 1972, it shows the block of 1631 to 1595 Washington Street, aka the Boston Neck. Notice the elevated train on the right side of the image.

Happy reading!