The South End is a neighborhood in central Boston bordered by Roxbury, Chinatown, and Back Bay. Built on man-made land in the mid 19th century, South End was originally intended to be a residential area for wealthy tradespeople. Instead, in the following 150 years, it became a home to numerous immigrants and gay populations that have continued to define the region to this day. South End is also renowned for its Victorian architecture and became a National Register Historic District 1873.
The construction of South End
began in 1849 on the tidelands on either side of the Boston Neck—a strip of
land that connected the downtown Boston area to rural outposts such as Roxbury.
During its construction, planners envisioned the neighborhood as an enclave of
townhouses and rowhouses (houses with shared sidewalls) that would draw in
to the expectations of city planners, affluent individuals neglected South End
in favor of the more-convenient and posh Back Bay, which was the result of
another landfill project just North of the neighborhood. Economic elites began
to leave South End as Back Bay townhouses became available in the 1870s.
financial crisis of 1873 in Europe and North America triggered a depression
that further exacerbated the movement of wealth out of South End. At the same
time, it contributed to the influx of working class immigrants of over 35
distinct linguistic groups who sought cheap housing and new opportunities in
Boston. Irish, Lebanese and Greek immigrants came to dominate the area in the
1880s. By the 1940s, South End also hosted a substantial African American
middle class population and a growing gay population that eventually led to
South End’s reputation as a “gay ghetto” in the 1970s and 80s.
the same time, the South End became one of Boston’s poorest neighborhoods: Most
of the rowhouses built at the neighborhood’s inception became boarding houses
for those who could not afford them, and over 70% of the adult population at
the time did not receive a high school education. Subsequent gentrification
movements in the 70’s remediated poverty in the local area, reducing the number
of adults without high school education to 35% by 1980 and 14% in 2015.
the same time period, in the 1960s and 70s, a movement to protect South End’s
buildings was sparked by members of the South End Historical Society. As a
result, South End’s housing area was eventually recognized for its historical
significance, becoming a National Register Historic District in 1973. The
district is the oldest remaining enclave of Victorian architecture in the USA.
its renowned architecture, today, the South End supports young families,
professionals, gay individuals, and a burgeoning Hispanic population on top of
other cultural groups.