It is sometimes said that Boston, despite being a metropolitan city with cultural and lifestyle parallels to New York City or London, is a small, manageable, even homey little place. And within this little “big city” is a downtown neighborhood known as the South End, exemplifying this paradoxical blending of urban sophistication with down-home neighborly charm. The result is a highly walkable neighborhood with a uniquely honed atmosphere—that of city living infused with a small town feel.
Perhaps one of the most defining physical attributes of Boston’s South End is its brick and brownstone row houses dating to the mid 1800s. With prominent front stoops adorned with decorative wrought iron rails, these row houses are often found on narrow tree-lined streets with red brick sidewalks. Many of these row houses have been renovated into luxurious modern single-family homes and condominiums, but the classic hominess and friendly feel of these neighborhood streets remains. Some blocks, known as “squares,” have a lovely center garden running the length of the entire block, often with a fountain.
Historic brownstone homes and luxury condo buildings gracefully share the limelight here, reflecting the diversity of South End real estate. In the last decade, many contemporary residential buildings have arisen in Boston’s historic South End, adding a welcome eclecticism to South End architecture. Wilkes Passage, a luxury condo building built in 2002, combines mid-century style exterior with loft interiors. Not long after, in the SOWA (“South of Washington”) district, industrial loft buildings were re-adapted as artist studios, galleries, and a vintage goods marketplace. In 2004, the Atelier 505 condo building opened, its name playing on the idea of artists’ studios with large windows. In 2008, the newly constructed 700 Harrison opened, with a decidedly modern design featuring 6-foot wide floor to ceiling windows. Currently, construction of the InkBlock complex on the former site of the Boston Herald newspaper is underway. The complex will contain the largest Whole Foods in Boston, as well as other retail, hundreds of apartments, and SEPIA, a luxury condo building.
Despite so much growth and development, Boston’s South End remains a congenial place. Highly walkable, it is rich with green spaces to suit every personality. In some parks, salsa dance enthusiasts gather on summer nights to dance outdoors with partners, while in other parks dog lovers and their four-footed companions gather all year round. Those seeking solitude can find it in the tiny, quiet gardens tucked away on side streets. Others gather in airier parks for early morning Tai Chi, for little league games, socializing or exercise.
Southwest Corridor Park, a linear park almost 5 miles long, lies on the border dividing the South End from Boston’s Back Bay, stretching through many neighborhoods with a street-level green space suited to strolling or bicycling.
Day or night, the sidewalks in Boston’s South End are lively and social. A vibrant nightlife includes fine dining and casual eateries, theatre and dance performances, live jazz, artist open studio events, and community adult education classes. SOWA (South of Washington street) features art galleries in readapted industrial loft buildings. On Sundays, the district hosts a farmer’s market with local vendors selling produce, honey, fresh herbs, teas, coffee, meats and breads. A sea of bright white tents is the Sunday home to artisans selling paintings, jewelry, handmade soaps, stationery, and home goods, as originally painted food trucks line up to offer a diverse range of dishes and fresh-pressed juices to shoppers and browsers.
The diversity of people, homes, lifestyles and accessible activities in the South End make it one of Boston’s most sought after neighborhoods to live in. Life in the South End offers the cultural stimulation and excitement of city living in a quaint, friendly and aesthetically pleasing environment.
Guest blog post from Joe Wolvek, Associate Director of Sales, Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty