Check out our Self-Guided Audio Walking Tour!

Now when you visit the South End, you can learn more about its history with an audio tour created by the South End Historical Society and UniGuide. Starting at the South End Historical Society in Chester Square, the walking tour takes you through 12 points of interest in this historic neighborhood (such as the Porter House, Blackstone & Franklin Square, and Union Park).

UniGuide is a free smartphone app that provides you with hundreds of audio tours across the United States. Access all tours in a single app, stream them or download ahead of time to save data.

Get the app for your phone and listen to a wonderfully curated tour of the South End.

All tours in UniGuide are available for offline use, including the maps.

Download for Apple iPads and iPhones

Download for Android tablets and phones

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!

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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!

 

Fox Brothers, South End Grocers

About six months ago, a SEHS member donated a billhead from Fox Brothers, Grocers that dates to June 7, 1895. It indicates that Mr. L. E. Spaulding sold 294 dozen eggs to Fox Brothers between May 7th and June 4th, 1895. At $0.17 cents per dozen, Fox Brothers owed Mr. Spaulding $49.48.

Why did Fox Brothers need 294 dozen eggs in one month? They sold them at the grocery that they operated at 685 and 687 Tremont Street, on the corner of Tremont and West Newton Streets.

In 1888, the publication Leading Business men of Back Bay, South End, Boston Highlands, Jamaica Plain and Dorchester described the store:

“Fox Brothers, Grocers…one of the very best examples of what a Metropolitan Grocery Store should be, with which we are familiar, is that afforded by the establishment of Messrs. Fox Brothers… we believe that it would be difficult for the most critical to suggest a needed improvement in the fitting up and management of the store under existing conditions. Neither pains nor expense is spared to make this establishment thoroughly attractive and ‘wholesome‘ looking, both within and without, and the result is seen in one of the neatest and handsomest Grocery Stores in the city. Fox Brothers…having had very nearly a quarter of a century’s experience… it is only natural that they should be perfectly conversant with their business in every detail. The [store] comprise[s] one floor and a basement, their dimensions being 40 x 70 feet, and employment is afforded thirteen efficient assistants, who may be depended on to strive their utmost to show customers prompt and civil attention. The stock on hand is so large and varied that it would be idle to even attempt a full description of it, but it may be said to include all kinds of Groceries, both Staple and Fancy, and to be as remarkable for uniform merit as it is for variety. The very finest flavored Teas, Coffees and Spices are handled by this house, and those who are able to appreciate a good article in this line will find that their tastes may be fully suited here, as all grades, from the mildest to the strongest, are supplied at the lowest attainable rates. Canned Goods are also given particular attention, and some delicious relishes and condiments are also on hand.”

Now this site is home to the eastern portion of the South End Branch of the Boston Public Library but the Fox Brothers occupied this location from at least 1870 to at least 1915. They may have been there longer—these are just the earliest and latest dates that I found evidence for. The excerpt above indicates that, in 1888, Fox Brothers had “very nearly a quarter of a century’s experience,” indicating that they had been in business since sometime in the 1860s.

The 1870 directory tells us that Charles E. Fox and Co. operated a grocery here and lived at 114 West Newton Street. By 1885 however, brothers John and Frank are listed as owning the grocery store and one or both may have lived at 114 West Newton Street. 114 West Newton Street was the same building as 685 Tremont Street, but the upstairs living quarters at 114 would have been accessed from a door on the West Newton Street side and the store accessed from the Tremont Street side. In 1905, John Fox was living at 126 Berkeley Street.

If you lived in the South End around the turn of the last century and wanted to contact them, all you had to do was call them on the telephone. The number? Trem. 230. Or you  might hop on the Tremont Street streetcar.

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.