Immigrant Boston
Neighborhood History
Walk Historic Boston
Plan A Trip
Genealogical Resources
Family History for Kids
Home Search Guest Book Contact Us Boston History Collective
South End

Home > Boston's Neighborhoods > South 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.


  • 1600s: The South End consists of a large bay and tidal flats called South Cove. A neck of land called "Boston Neck" connects Roxbury to Boston. It is the guarded by sentries and is used as an execution site.
  • 1770: The South End is primarily open space with a few scattered mansions around Summer Street. The main road is Washington Street. Today, the area is the financial and retail district around Milk and Essex Streets.
  • 1801: Charles Bulfinch drafts the original layout of the South End with parks containing trees and fountains along the residential streets to promote open space. The neighborhood also has several examples of the connected row houses that Bulfinch introduced to Boston in the 1790s. Many of the later town houses are designed by Nathaniel J. Bradlee (1829-1888).
  • 1805: The Dover Street bridge is constructed.
  • 1823: Jonas Chickering founds a piano company on Tremont Street that produces 4,000 pianos a year. Three other major piano companies soon follow: Hallet and Davis in 1839 (Harrison Avenue, 2,500 pianos a year), Emerson Piano Company at Harrison Avenue, and Vose and Sons in 1851 (4,000 pianos annually).
  • 1830-1840s: Ellis S. Chesbrough and William P. Parrott further develop Washington Street and connected areas.
  • 1833: The South Cove Company begins to extend the neighborhood with landfill. By 1836, over 70 new acres have been added to the area.
  • 1843: The Kahal Kadosh Ohabei Shalom (The Holy Community Lovers of Peace) Synagogue is established in the South End by primarily "Polish" Jews from East Prussia . It is the first synagogue in Boston. It spins off, in 1854, Congregation Adath Israel. Ohabei Shalom moves several times until it settles on Beacon Street in 1929.
  • 1844: German Catholics build the Church of the Holy Trinity on Shawmut Avenue.
  • 1845: The Shawmut Congregational Church on Suffolk Street is designed by C.E. Parker. The building features a large bell tower.
  • 1848: Gridley J. Fox Bryant and Jean Lemoulnier design the Deacon House for Edward Preble Deacon (1813-1851) and his wife Sarah Annabella Parker Deacon. Their granddaughters, Marie Gladys Deacon and Dorothy Evelyn Deacon become The Duchess of Marlborough and Princess Radziwill respectively.
  • 1850s: Filling in South Cove and South Bay creates the "New South End."
  • 1850: Chester Square is engineered by Ezra Lincoln. The square includes the largest garden in the South End that includes a fountain and fish pond.
  • 1851: Union Park is designed by Ellis S. Chesbrough.
  • 1852: Worcester Square is laid out with row houses and fenced in fountains.
  • 1855: Gridley J. Fox Bryant designs Williams Market on Washington and Dover (now East Berkeley). It later becomes a vaudeville house and today is Harry the Greek's.
  • 1858: Luther Briggs Jr., nephew of Alexander Parris, designs the Francis Dane House at Chester Square which is now the site of the South End Historical Society.
  • 1859: The Dutch Jewish congregation Beth Eil is established in the South End.
  • 1860s: Middle class families move into the Tremont, Albany Street area.
  • 1860: Nathaniel J. Bradlee designs the Springfield Street Congregational Church. Today it is a Baptist church.
  • 1861-1864: The Gridley J. Fox Bryant designed Boston City Hospital is built on Harrison Avenue.
  • 1862: The Hammett Billins designed Gothic style Tremont Street Methodist Episcopal Church is the first church in Boston constructed out of Roxbury puddingstone.
  • 1863: Boston College is built on Harrison Avenue. In 1913 it moves to Chestnut Hill.
  • 1866-1875: The Patrick Keeley designed Cathedral of the Holy Cross is built on Washington Street.
  • 1867: Irish Catholics begin building the Holy Cross Church at Washington and Union Park. Patrick Keeley is the architect.
  • 1868: Montgomery Street is laid out.
  • 1869: The Church of the Good Shepard is constructed on Cortes Street. The first Reverend is Right Reverend F.D. Huntington, future bishop of Central New York. The Church of the Disciples is built on West Brookline and Warren. Pastor James Freeman Clarke gave his congregation an equal role to himself in their religious services.
  • 1872: The Odd Fellows Hall is built in the Gothic style on Tremont and Berkeley. The organization provides assistance to members during times of economic hardship.
  • 1873: Middle class residences quickly give way to working class boarding houses after the Panic of 1873.
  • 1875-1876: William Ralph Emerson designs the Massachusetts Homeopathic Hospital on Harrison Avenue. It is the largest homeopathic hospital in the United States.
  • 1877-1881: The 420 foot long Boston Latin and English High School, designed by George A. Clough, is the largest school in the country at this time. It is now the site of the McKinley School.
  • 1877: Colonel Albert A. Pope (1843-1909) founds a bicycle company that makes Columbia Bicycles. He is responsible for founding and popularizing the bicycle industry in the United States.
  • 1884: The Cyclorama is built on Tremont Street. Inside, a 400 feet long, two story high painting by Paul Philippoteaux shows scenes from the Battle of Gettysburg while imported canons, terrain, etc. add to the scene. Today, the building is home to the Boston Center for the Arts.
  • 1885: The German oriented Temple Adath Israel is designed by Weissbein and Jones. When the congregation moves, the building successively becomes the North Russell Street African Methodist Episcopal Church and then the Columbus Avenue Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.
  • 1886: Trade union members carrying banners from each of their trades parade up Columbus Avenue on May Day as part of a strike for the 8-Hour Day. Boston and Chicago are the centers of the national strike. Irish, German, and Jewish immigrants along with Yankee craft workers participate.
  • 1889: South Ender John L. Sullivan wins the last bareknuckle heavyweight boxing match in the United States in the 75th round against Jake Kilrain.
  • 1892-1894: The Edmund March Wheelwright designed Boston Fire Department headquarters is constructed on Bristol Street. The design is based on the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy. Today, the building is home to the Pine Street Inn homeless shelter.
  • 1891: The first settlement house in Boston, the South End House, is opened by William Jewett Tucker, a Theology professor and run by Robert Archey Woods (1865-1925). It offers clubs, activities, and a meeting place for inner city folk. It attracts many immigrants from the amazingly diverse South End population.
  • 1894: The South End (Walpole Street) Grounds baseball field is destroyed by fire during a game after a long career as the home to many teams including: the Rustlers, the Red Caps, the Doves, and the Boston Bean Eaters.
  • 1895: South End resident Alexander Hamilton Rice (1818-1895) dies after a long political career that includes terms as mayor of Boston (1856-1857), congressman, and governor (1875-1879).
  • 1899-1901: The Elevated railway is built along Washington Street with a terminus at Dudley Square in Roxbury. It is later extended to Forest Hills.
  • 1900s: The population of the South End includes Jews, Syrians, Greeks, Italians, Portuguese, Chinese, West Indians, African-Americans, Native Americans, and Puerto Ricans.
  • 1945: Immigrants move out of the South End. They are replaced by World War II veterans and Native Americans.

  • 1960s: The South End's lower income residents are involved in urban renewal conflicts with Mayor John F. Collins administration. In a controversial move, Boston Redevelopment Agency Director Edward Logue has several blocks in the South End leveled and new housing built.
  • 1963: The South End is a hotbed of activism in the school boycotts called against the Boston School Committee to integrate the Boston Public Schools.
  • 1968: Tent City occupation of the Boston Redevelopment Agency-demolished land at the corner of Dartmouth and Columbus Avenue , led by activist Melvin King, in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. leads the BRA not to build on the site for twenty years. King is elected as the South End's state representative in 1972.
  • 1970s: Puerto Ricans and later Dominicans increasingly move into the South End. Inquilino Boricuas en Acion-Puerto Rican Tenants in Action (IBA) takes over Parcel 19, and builds Villa Victoria, a tenant run housing project.
  • 1983: The South End is named a Landmark District.
  • 1985: South End residents vote on a referendum to secede from Boston and form their own city, with Roxbury as a principal part of the new city called Mandela. It is voted down.
  • 1994: The end of rent control in Boston leads to an increase in the departure of African American, West Indian and Latino South End residents, and an influx in white professionals.
  • 1999: The South End is the largest preserved Victorian neighborhood in the United States. Its boundaries are East Berkeley, Lenox, and Albany Streets.

Further Reading

  • Melvin H. King. Chains of Change. Boston: South End Press, 1981.
  • Sammarco, Anthony Mitchell. The South End. Images of America Series. Dover, NH: Arcadia, 1998.
  • The South End. The Boston 200 Neighborhood History Series. Boston: Boston 200 Corporation, 1976




Copyright © 2001-2002 Boston History & Innovation Collaborative. All rights reserved.
All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.