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

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!

South End Architecture: Flemish Revival

Walking through the South End, the neighborhood’s streetscape is lined with row houses that at first look deceptively uniform. However, there are many variations in architectural style throughout the neighborhood. Although many people think of a Victorian row house as a specific architectural style, the row house itself is a blank framework on which several styles can be imposed.

A row house, also known as a town house, is a residence connected by a common or party wall to one or more other residences. Victorian refers to the period of the reign of England’s Queen Victoria (1837-1901), during which most of the South End land was filled in and the majority of houses built. South End row houses were built primarily between 1830 and 1880 as single family homes meant for middle class families who wanted easy access to downtown Boston.

289 Shawmut Avenue, 1972

289 Shawmut Avenue, 1972

One unique architectural style found in the South End that many may not be aware of is the Flemish Revival Style, which is part of the Renaissance Revival Style. Renaissance Revival is an all-inclusive term that covers many 19th century architectural revival styles that were neither Greek nor Gothic Revival.

The origin of Renaissance architecture is generally accredited to designer and architect Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) He is also known as the first modern engineer and planner. Brunelleschi strove to bring greater “order” to architecture, resulting in strong symmetry and careful proportion.

The Renaissance Revival of the 19th century drew inspiration from a wide range of classical Italian styles. These architects went beyond the style that originated in Florence and included styles that would be identified as Mannerist or Baroque.

A great example of the Flemish Revival Style is found at 281-291 Shawmut Avenue, at the corner of Waltham Street. These Flemish homes are easily distinguished by their roof lines of stepped Flemish gables with convex and concave curves, much like those atop the houses lining the canals of Amsterdam.

Block 293-275 Shawmut Avenue, 1972

Block 293-275 Shawmut Avenue, 1972

These Flemish Revival homes on Shawmut Avenue were built in 1851-2 by a brick maker, and they all have very simple flat fronts on which nearly all decoration is done with intricately patterned brickwork, rather than carved brownstone, cast iron or granite. The homes were originally covered in a stone-colored smooth stucco finish, scored with false joints to give the impression that the façade was constructed of stone blocks. Other homes in the South End were also once covered in this stone finish, but it was difficult and costly to maintain.

Want to know more about the architecture in the South End? Stay tuned for an upcoming walking tour with Executive Director Lauren Prescott on the different architectural styles found in the neighborhood.

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!

 

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 Academic Journal from the BU School of Medicine Historical Society

The Boston University School of Medicine Historical Society (BUSMHS- the group doing the event with us on the 24th) recently released the inaugural issue of their new journal, Aceso. Follow this link to visit the BUSMHS website and this link to access the journal.

Aceso editor Michael Sherman (B.U. School of Medicine class of 2015) shares his thoughts about why the BUSMHS felt that they needed to publish a journal about the history of medicine: “In a place devoted to the study of ‘hard’ science, it is not always easy to find interest in the humanities…Yet, as I have been told time and again, medicine is not a science, it is an art.”

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.