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South End Landmark District Commission records

Identifier: 5213.001

Scope and Contents

Master files and audiotapes documenting the meetings of the Commission.


  • 1985-2009


Historical note

The South End Landmark District and Protection Area were designated in 1983. All exterior work at front facades, all exterior work at rooftops (when visible from a public way), and all exterior work at side and rear elevations (when side and rear elevations face a public way or permanent public open space) are subject to the review of the South End Landmark District Commission. A Certificate of Appropriateness, Design Approval, or Exemption Application must be submitted to and approved by the Commission prior to beginning any exterior work that is subject to Commission review.

Originally marshland and a narrow strip of land called The Neck (now Washington Street), the South End is a unique neighborhood consisting of historic residential blocks, graceful parks, and main thoroughfares lined with commercial, industrial and institutional buildings.

From 1850 to 1873, after the marsh was filled, South End development focused on fashionable, single-family rowhouses. Real estate speculators constructed three and four-story structures in long uniform rows because they faced restrictions on building size and materials. This led to a remarkable degree of visual unity throughout the neighborhood.

After the Financial Panic of 1873, the most wealthy Bostonians moved to the brand new Back Bay, and construction in the South End focused on multi-family properties. By the turn of the century, lodging houses geared towards the working class were almost the only residential structures built.

Early in the 20th century, commercial, industrial, and institutional uses became popular along the main streets in the South End. Immigrant groups built churches or adapted existing structures, and hotels appeared to accommodate travelers. Many residential structures now include storefronts at the ground level.

Today, there are two main rowhouse types in the South End. Most common is the double basement, bow-fronted rowhouse with a mansard roof. The second most common type is the low basement, flat-fronted rowhouse faced with brick and often adorned with a projecting oriel window. The most common architectural style is Italianate, with Greek Revival, Renaissance Revival, and Second Empire styles also present.


12.0 Cubic feet

Repository Details

Part of the City of Boston Archives Repository

201 Rivermoor St.
West Roxbury MA 02132 United States
617-635-1194 (Fax)