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

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!


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.”

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. 

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:

embodies all piano excellences,
and has attained the highest level
possible in the art of piano making.

Unexcelled for
Design and

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
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

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

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!