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North End

Home > Boston's Neighborhoods > North End

Learn more about your ancestor's neighborhood through the timeline, find more information in the Further Reading section, or use the links to experience life in that community today.


  • 1635: The first ferry to Charlestown begins its route, leaving from Hudson Point, named after ferryman Francis Hudson.
  • 1636: North, Hanover, and Salem Streets are laid out.
  • 1646: The North Battery is built for the defense of the area. It later gives its name to Battery Wharf.
  • 1650: The Second Church of Boston (North Church) is built in North Square. It is destroyed in the devastating fire of 1676, but is immediately rebuilt.
  • 1652: John Hull of Sheafe Street mints the first coins in Boston. Another North Ender, John Cony (1655-1722), engraves the template for Boston's first printed money.
  • 1660: Copp's Hill (formerly Windmill, Mill, and Snow Hill) Burying Ground is created. The Hill is named for shoemaker William Copp.
  • 1675: Increase Mather (1639-1723), pastor of the Second Church in North Square, writes The Wicked Man's Portion, the first book published in Boston (by publisher John Foster). Increase is succeeded by his son Cotton Mather (1663-1728), the author of Magnalia Christi Americana, as the head of the Second Church.
  • 1676: North Square is destroyed by fire. At the time, North Square is the center of Boston market life and only a block from the wharves on the harbor.
  • 1677: The Mather-Eliot House is built on Hanover Street. In the late 19th century, it becomes a home for Azorean sailors.
  • 1679: The Baptist Church is built on Salem Street.
  • 1680: Paul Revere's (1735-1818) future House is built. In the early 20th century, it becomes an Italian Bank and cigar shop.
  • 1689: North End resident Increase Mather (1639-1723) travels to England where he convinces King William III to grant the colonies a second charter. Mather is prominent in the defending (and physically hiding) the original colonial charter granted by King Charles I which gave the Puritans a large measure of autonomy and which the English subsequently try to revoke. While the second charter is more restrictive than the first, Mather does succeed in getting a new governor appointed to the colonies. The new governor is named William Phips, a Maine native who worked as a ship's carpenter in the North End.
  • 1711: The Hutchinson House is built on the corner of Garden Court and Fleet Street. It is the first example of Classical style architecture in Boston. Home to Governor Thomas Hutchinson (1711-1780), the house is extensively damaged (Hutchinson barely escapes with his life) in 1765 by a mob enraged by the Stamp Act.
  • 1713: The North Latin (Grammar) School is given to the city by Captain Thomas Hutchinson.
  • 1714: The New North Church is constructed. Charles Bulfinch redesigns the building in 1802. Paul Revere makes the church bells. In 1863, the church becomes St. Stephen's, a Roman Catholic place of worship and the only remaining Bulfinch-designed church in Boston.
  • 1723: The Old North (Christ Church) Church, the oldest continuously operational church in Boston, is constructed using a design by William Price. It is the second Anglican church built in the North End. In 1774, Paul Revere installs the first church bells in America in its tower. Later, during the Revolution, Robert Newman hangs lanterns in the tower as a signal that the British are approaching.
  • 1735: Paul Revere is born in the North End.
  • 1741: Reverend Samuel Mather (1706-1785), the son of Cotton Mather, leaves the Second Church. He brings his followers to a new building on Hanover and North Bennett Streets where they found the 10th Congregational Church. In 1785, this building becomes Reverend John Murray's First Universalist Church.
  • 1742: Peter Faneuil (1700-1743) presents Faneuil Hall, "The Cradle of Liberty," to the city.
  • 1770: The Gray House is built on Prince Street. After the Battle of Bunker Hill (1775), British troops use the building as a hospital.
  • 1775: Paul Revere arranges with the sexton of Christ's Church (the Old North) to hang lanterns in the church belfry signaling the direction the British will be taking in their expedition to seize the arms the patriots have been collecting at Concord; Revere crosses the Charles River from the North End to begin his famous "Midnight Ride"; British troops gather in North Square prior to their departure for Concord.
  • 1776-1800: After the Revolution, loyalists move out of the neighborhood. The increase in the construction of docks, warehouses, etc. make the once posh neighborhood less desirable. In the early 1800s, the wealthy begin moving to the West End around the time of World War I.
  • 1781: After the Revolution, loyalists move out of the neighborhood. The increase in the construction of docks and warehouses make the once posh neighborhood less desirable. In the early 1800s, residents begin moving to the West End and later Back Bay.
  • 1786: The Charles River Bridge, the first bridge out of Boston, is constructed and connects the North End to neighboring Charlestown.
  • 1789: The North Latin School, at Hartt's Shipyard on the North End waterfront, becomes part of the North Writing School and today is the oldest grammar school in the country.
  • 1795: Paul Revere, goldsmith, silversmith, engraver, powder mill operator, and patriot founds the Charitable Mechanics Association.
  • 1796: Hanover and North Bennett Streets is the location of the second Methodist Church in Boston. In 1828, a new building is constructed which today is St. John the Baptist, a Portuguese church.
  • 1797: U.S.S. Constitution, known as "Old Ironsides," is built.
  • 1798: The Columbian Artillery, an Irish military group, is founded and is stationed on Cooper Street.
  • 1810: The Baldwin Place Baptist Church is built on Salem Street. It is later home to the Home for Little Wanderers (1865) and the Temple Beth Israel (1889-1920).
  • 1824-1826: Quincy Market, designed by Alexander Parris (1780-1852), is constructed on landfill at Dock Square and named after Boston's second mayor, Josiah Quincy (1772-1864).
  • 1825: The "Beehive" brothel is raided by a mob of incensed citizens. At the time, Ann Street is known for its gambling, bars, crime, sailors, and whorehouses. The area is known as "Black Sea" or "Murder District."
  • 1826: The Union Oyster House, built by Hopestill Capen, opens on Union and Marshall Streets. The building is formerly the location of Isaiah Thomas' Massachusetts Spy during the American Revolutionary period and the home of exiled King Louis Phillipe of France after the French Revolution.
  • 1828: Seaman's Bethel is constructed in North Square. There, Reverend Edward Taylor (1793-1871) gives religious instruction primarily to sailors.
  • 1832: The Marquis Nicholas Reggio, who serves as Consul in Boston of the Papal States, Kingdom of Sardinia, and Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, settles in the North End.
  • 1834: The first Catholic church in the North End, St. Mary's of the Sacred Heart, is built.
  • 1839: The First Universalist Church is built on Hanover Street for Reverend John Murray, the founder of Universalism.
  • 1840: Phips Mansion is converted into the Asylum for Indigent Boys to provide services to immigrants.
  • 1844: The "Old Cockerel" Church is built on Hanover Street.
  • 1847: The Mariners' House is built in North Square, catering to passing sailors.
  • 1851: Barney McGinniskin, an Irishman living in the North End, becomes the first Irish Police officer in Boston. His critics claim that he will be unable to do his job since he will primarily be arresting fellow Irishmen. A victim of politics, he is fired in 1852.
  • 1862: Colonel Thomas Cass of North Bennett Street is killed in action leading the Irish 9th MA regiment in the Civil War.
  • 1863: Irish immigrant Andrew Carney (1794-1864) founds Carney Hospital for the poor. That same year, North End Irish riot on Prince and Cooper Streets after police come with conscription papers. Six are killed. John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, United States Congressman, Mayor of Boston, and grandfather of President John F. Kennedy, is born on Ferry Street.
  • 1866: Twelve Italian priests are listed in the official diocese records of Boston.
  • 1868: Three Order of the Friars Minor (Franciscans) become the first priests of an Italian language ministry: Emiliano Gerbi, Vincent Borgialli, and Angelo Conterno.
  • 1873: Saint Leonard's is built becoming the second oldest Italian church in America and oldest in Boston. At the same time, the Italian-Portuguese Catholic Church St. John the Baptist is dedicated on North Bennett Street. Bishop John Williams pays $28,000 for the former Free Will Baptist Meeting House. Father Angelo Conterno is appointed to serve as the Italian priest and Father John Ignazio Azevedo as the Portuguese priest. A two year fundraising contest is held to determine which ethnic group will get official ownership of the building. The Portuguese win by out-fundraising the Italians $12,000 to $10,000.
  • 1876: Father Joachim Guerrini raises money to purchase the Hooten Estate at the corner of Prince and Hanover Streets which becomes Saint Leonard of Port Maurice, the first official church of all Italians -- especially the Genoese and Neopolitans. The congregation contains nearly 1,500 Genoese in Boston proper, North End Italians from Genoa, Naples, Parma, Piacenza, etc. and 2,000 Merrimack Valley and South Shore Italians covering an area of over 1,000 square miles.
  • 1877: Saint Mary's of the Sacred Heart Church is rebuilt following a design of Patrick Keeley.
  • 1878: After a falling into debt, Father Guerrini moves to New York to escape his creditors. He is replaced by Father Boniface Bragantini who presides from 1878 to 1887 over a mostly Genoese parish suddenly besieged by increasing numbers of Irish parishioners and Southern Italians who cause the Northern Italians to withdraw to other parts of the city.
  • 1884: The North Bennet Street School is founded to give immigrants vocational instruction.
  • 1886: The Children's Mission builds the first playground for children in the country.
  • 1890: Rose Kennedy, eldest child of John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, and mother of President John F. Kennedy, is born at 4 Garden Court, near North Square.
  • 1890-1910: At this time the North End and the West End are the centers for Jewish life in Boston. Within twenty years this has shifted to the South End and Roxbury, and the North End becomes the center of Italian life.
  • 1892: North End butchers start a trust on kosher meats that prompts a meat strike by Jewish housewives in the North End, where many Jews live. North End artisan Luigi Totino does the mosaic work in the Hall of Flags in the Massachusetts State House.
  • 1893: North Station is constructed.
  • 1895: Italian North End settlements now include the block bordered by Prince, Salem, Tileston, and Hanover Streets (home to Abruzzi and Neapolitans) as well as the triangle bordered by North Square and Hanover and Fulton Streets (home to Campanians from the towns of Taurasi, Chiusano San Domenico, and Mirabella Eclano in the Province of Avellino 30 miles from Naples -- the largest group from any Italian province including Sicily). The Genoese continued to live on North Bennett Street and Court.
  • 1900: North End rivals Calcutta, India in density of population. Sicilians start settling along North and Fleet Streets in the North End near the fish pier which they utilized more than any other Italian group. This area is also home to the Calabrians as well as the Commercial Street area. Avellinese increase and spread into Shaefe St./Copps Hill as well as North Square. The Genoese community decreases as many move into Charlestown.
  • 1903: The Italian St. John's School is founded.
  • 1906: North Ender John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald is elected Mayor of Boston.
  • 1908: Guiseppe Parziale introduces pizza at his shop on Prince Street.
  • 1910: Massachusetts General Court recognizes Columbus Day as an official holiday in response to pressure from North End Italians.
  • 1915: Norman Franzein establishes the Maplewood Caddy Camp that allows North End boys to leave the city for the summer.
  • 1917: Beth Israel Hospital opens on Salem Street. North Ender Joseph Cefalo is the first man drafted for World War I.
  • 1919: A molasses storage tank explodes burying twenty-one people and many horses in two million gallons of molasses. The Spanish influenza kills many North Enders. A group of Italian merchants and professional men from the North End join forces to found the Home for Italian Children in Jamaica Plain to care for the orphans of the victims of the epidemic.
  • 1920: The North End is 90% Italian.
  • 1921: Joseph Campana, "The Father of Credit Unions," opens the first credit union in the country using $14.25. Two years later he has 243 clients and over $5,000.
  • 1927: Nicola Saco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Italian immigrants and admitted anarchists, are executed at the Charlestown Jail for a fatal 1920 robbery in South Braintree, Massachusetts, despite international protest and suspicion they were innocent. Their wake, held at the Langone Funeral Parlor on the North End's Hanover Street, is attended by 100,000 mourners. Their funeral procession, which carries their bodies to the Forest Hills Cemetery for cremation, consisting of some 50,000 marchers, originates in the North End Playground on Commercial Street. This is said to have been the biggest funeral ever held in Boston.
  • 1930s: Robert Chase and other "Bohemian" artists move into the North End.
  • 1932: Joseph Langone Jr. is elected state senator. He is the first Italian elected to a major public office and breaks decades of domination by Irish politicians despite the weak Irish physical presence in the North End at this time.
  • 1933: The Paul Revere Mall or Prado is designed by Arthur Shurcliff on Webster Ave.
  • 1937: Italian immigrant, Charles Ponzi, is deported after earning $15 million largely off North End Italian immigrants with his "Ponzi Scheme" money scams.
  • 1945: Two parochial high schools, Columbus High School for boys and Julie Billiart High School for girls, are the first high schools in the neighborhood.
  • 1946: The North End Branch Library holds the first of its annual, popular puppet shows.
  • 1947: North End born self-made millionaire John Defarrari donates $3 million to the Boston Public Library. The Defarrari wing at the Boston Public Library is named in his honor.
  • 1951: Despite protests, construction begins on the Southeast Expressway resulting in the loss of many buildings in the neighborhood.
  • 1961: Jane Jacobs writes about the North End in her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
  • 1965: Richard Cardinal Cushing restores St. Stephen's Church.
  • 1976: Queen Elizabeth II gives a speech in the Old North Church in honor of the United States Bicentennial.

Further Reading

  • De Marco, William. Ethnics and Enclaves: Boston's North End. Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Research Press, 1981.
  • The North End. The Boston 200 Neighborhood History Series. Boston: Boston 200 Corporation, 1976.
  • Russo, Gloria, "Boston's North End: A Historical Study of Assimilation and Multiculturalism in an Urban Neighborhood," American Cultures: Assimilation and Multiculturalism, edited by Elzbieta H. Oleksy. Bethesda, MD: International Scholars Publication, 1996.
  • Sammarco, Anthony Mitchell. The North End. Images of America Series. Dover, NH: Arcadia, 1997.
  • Stack, John F. International Conflict in an American City: Boston's Irish, Italians, and Jews 1935-1944. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1979.




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