The South End: A Walking Tour with Boston By Foot

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South End is one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in Boston. Now known for its wonderful restaurants, funky boutiques, artist lofts and theaters, there is a lot to see and explore in this neighborhood.

The South End was Boston's first big land-making project designed for new housing for Boston's growing upper class. It is based on an English plan, with lovely parks and squares framed by rows of houses. The layout and early South End homes were inspired by Charles Bulfinch, the great architect of the Massachusetts State House.

In the 19th century, the waters of the South Bay gave way to new land for Boston. The South End was envisioned to be the finest of neighborhoods and its grandeur can still be experienced. One of the largest collections of Victorian architecture in the country, the latter parts of the 1800s brought a wonderful array of brick row houses of many different architectural styles to the South End.

After Back Bay provided a newer and more fashionable place to live, the South End evolved into an area occupied by many different immigrant groups. Major institutions, like the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Boston City Hospital, came into the South End to serve these new populations.

The story of the South End is one of sociological change. By the mid 20th century, many of the surviving Victorian row houses had been converted to single-room occupancy apartments and flop houses among the rumble of the Washington Street elevated train.

As the century progressed, the South End was again transformed as a strong gay community created a niche for themselves in the fabric of the city marking an era of renewal in the South End. Now, there is the tension between long-term residents and more recent newcomers attracted to beautifully restored homes in a vibrant urban setting. This walking tour poses questions about diversity and the dynamics of living together in a neighborhood that embraces that concept.