May Madness

by Stacen Goldman, Executive Director

This probably sounds like blasphemy to you basketball fans, but at the SEHS we don’t care much about March. This year, for us, it was all about May madness. We’ve had a busy and exciting month, and I’d like to take this opportunity to share all of our exploits!


I help Soiree Committee Chair Kelly Robbins with the balloon pop.

We kicked off the month with our Spring Fundraiser, the South End Soirée, held at the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology and underwritten by Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty and Above and Beyond Catering. As followers of our Facebook, Twitter, and this blog know, this year we celebrated the history of the American Carnival. This festive event included carnival games, a balloon pop, an open-air photo booth, and a live band. It’s hard not to have a good time when your signature drink includes freshly-made cotton candy! Thank you to all of our sponsors who helped us make the Soirée happen — your support is integral to our continued success.


Hope Shannon speaks at the launch of her new book at United South End Settlements.

Hope Shannon speaks at the launch of her new book at United South End Settlements.

Our next event was the launch of former SEHS Executive Director Hope Shannon’s new book, Legendary Locals of Boston’s South End. This is another one that our Facebook and Twitter followers have been hearing a lot about, thanks to a collaborative effort on our weekly #SouthEndTrivia and #SouthEndFact features. This program was so in demand that the RSVP list exceeded the capacity of our offices! Thankfully, the staff at United South End Settlements generously agreed to let us use the lobby of the Harriet Tubman House for the launch. The house was packed, and Ms. Shannon presented a wonderful program about the experience and challenges of writing her book, followed by a signing and reception. You can buy Legendary Locals of Boston’s South End on Amazon, at a number of local shops in the South End — including Sault New England, GiFted, and Foodie’s Urban Market — or at future SEHS events!

Three generations of the Hayes family pose at the launch of Legendary Locals of Boston's South End.

Three generations of the Hayes family pose at the launch of Legendary Locals of Boston’s South End.

The very next morning SEHS Historian John Neale led his long-awaited walking tour. Originally scheduled for April, inclement weather forced us to push the tour to our most hectic month. Although it looked like we might get rained out yet again, we gamely forged ahead and the skies were downright sunny by the end of the tour!

John Neale's walking tour of the South End.

John Neale’s walking tour of the South End.

John’s walking tour wasn’t the only one we offered this month. I also teamed up with Meghan Hanrahan of the South End Landmarks District to lead a walking tour called “Circling the Squares,” which took a look at the history of open spaces in the South End. The open spaces and parks that the South End is so well known for are really a result of two distinct periods in the neighborhood’s history. The first is the mid-19th century, when residential squares and parks — including Blackstone and Franklin Squares, Worcester Square, and Chester Square — were all laid out during the South End’s initial development. The second period was in the mid-20th century, when urban renewal and community activism came together (sometimes butting heads, sometimes working in tandem) to establish open spaces throughout the South End — including Hayes Park, Plaza Betances, and the various community gardens throughout the neighborhood. The tour was a great success and it’s always a pleasure to be able to team up with other organizations on our programs, and the SELDC especially, since we are, in many ways, so intertwined.


In May we also said goodbye to our intern, Faye Charpentier. Followers of this blog may recognize her as the writer of our last three posts, about the history of the American Carnival and the Franklin Institute. Faye was an invaluable asset to our offices — she singlehandedly catalogued our entire library, as well as the Roche Postcard and Andersen-Miller Trade Card collections. Additionally, she performed research for various projects, served on the Soirée committee, and helped with the day-to-day administration of our offices. We can’t thank her enough for her service and her dedication!

The SEHS Athletics up to bat.

The SEHS Athletics up to bat.

Finally, just this week we celebrated baseball season with our South End Baseball little league team, the Athletics! Several SEHS board members joined me to cheer the team on (the game, against the Tigers, was a 7-7 tie) and provide the players with a fun picnic after the game. The weather was beautiful and the pizza, watermelon, and brownies were all gobbled up in no time. We love supporting South End Baseball, and it’s so much fun to spend an evening at one of their games. I highly recommend it to anybody with a free evening during the season; it’s just as good as a trip to Fenway without any of the cost!

The team descends upon the pizza at our picnic for South End Baseball

The team descends upon the pizza at our picnic for South End Baseball

Even though our crazy May is over, we still have lots of wonderful things to look forward to. On June 26th, we will be holding our Annual Meeting with keynote speaker Lauren Clark, who just published her book Crafty Bastards: Beer in New England from the Mayflower to Modern Day with our friends at Union Park Press. I hope to be seeing you there!


Great Program from the BU School of Medicine Historical Society!

Peters Otlans Talking at the SEHS

Peters Otlans Talking at the SEHS

We had a great time at our program last Thursday, “Building Boston Medical: The Evolving Landscape of the South End’s Medical Campus.” The SEHS would like to offer a big thank you to Peters Otlans of the BU School of Medicine Historical Society for teaching us about the changing landscape of BU Medical, and for giving us better insight into the development of our neighborhood from its origins in the 19th century. Mr. Otlans remained after the program to answer questions and promote Aceso, the BUSMHS Journal of Medical History. For more information on the BU School of Medicine Historical Society click here.

“An Elevated View” Exhibit at BPL Copley

The Boston Public Library main branch at Copley Square mounted an exhibit called “An Elevated View.”  Up until mid-January, this exhibit discusses the elevated train that ran from Boston to JP until the MBTA tore it down in 1987.  The elevated had two stations located on Washington Street in the South End- one at Dover Street and another at Mass. Ave/Northampton Street. 

Check out the exhibit for yourself.  Find out more at


BPL Elevated View

Our Year in Review: Oral Histories, New Historical Images, and a New Website!

As the year draws to a close, the Society reflects on the many projects that we have undertaken in 2012. We launched a new website, held more than a dozen programs and walking tours, completed our collections inventory, and continued our oral history initiative- now in it’s second year. The Society began processing and digitizing several hundred items donated to our collections by a long-time South End resident- a project that will continue through most of 2013. In 2012, we had a record number of researchers, South End residents, local news outlets, and others use our collections and resources, a trend that we anticipate will continue.

The Society’s yearly operating income pays our hard-working staff and allows us to continue to advocate and advise for preservation in the South End. However, in 2013 we need to begin implementing major improvements to our historic South End rowhouse- the Francis Dane House. We also need to continue the massive overhaul of our collections management system, and to expand our use of digital tools in an effort to make our collections and South End history more accessible to the public.

Click this button to donate now!

Please consider making a generous tax-deductible contribution to help us meet these goals.

For 46 years, the Society has worked to promote the rich history of the South End and to preserve its architectural integrity through advocacy, education, and documentation. Please join us to help make our 47th year a successful one.

Great turnout for “Four Families” program!

Executive Director Hope Shannon presenting “Four Families and Their Rowhouse.”

We had a great turnout at the “Four Families and their Rowhouse” program last Thursday night.  With well over fifty people, we were definitely at maximum capacity.  Current and former residents of the rowhouse we discussed, 175 West Brookline Street, attended the program and answered audience questions.

Thank you to everyone who helped to make this program a success!  And a special thank you to the Bonner family for allowing us to document part of their lives.

Event Announcement: Making Older Homes Green, Historic Preservation Meets Energy Conservation

This event will provide guidelines and information about how older or historic houses can be turned green without losing their historic character. Some areas that will be covered are: how to add alternative energy systems, the value of retaining and upgrading wood windows, and ways to properly insulate an historic house.  This event is sponsored by the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay and is free and open to the public.  For more information about location and signing up, see our Neighborhood Events page here.

Spring Newsletter and Events Calendar

We released our spring newsletter today.  In this issue, Vol. 40, No. 1:

  • Local historian and author Alison Barnet’s article about South End police officer John Sacco’s beat and South End News column. 
    See page 2. 
  • “A South End Love Story” on page 5, which I also posted on this blog earlier this year.
  • Our May and June events calendar on page 4.
  • My Executive Director letter on page 1.

We’ve been busy here at the SEHS preparing for our 46th Annual Spring Ball, “A Venetian Masquerade,” scheduled for this Saturday, April 28th from 8pm to midnight at the Lenox Hotel.  We have a great band, Malloi, delicious light fare and dessert, prizes for the most classic, elegant, and creative masks, and a silent auction with items from local restaurants, businesses, and cultural institutions. 

Visit our website for to purchase Masquerade tickets online or call 617-536-4445 to pay by check.  Proceeds from our two annual fundraisers, the Spring Ball and the House Tour, fund one third of our annual operating budget and we could not continue without them.  Come enjoy the event, make new friends, and support local history! 

I posted the picture above in honor of our early balls.  It was taken at the 4th Annual Ball, February 1970, at the Franklin Square House on East Newton Street.  Guests often wore Victorian costume to early balls and in the picture you can see the costumes worn by the two women on the left.  Betty Gibson, founder of what is now Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty and an early SEHS board member, is on the right. 

The South End Historical Society | 532 Massachusetts Avenue | Boston, MA 02118 | 617-536-4445 |
© 2017 South End Historical Society, Inc. All Rights Reserved.