Row Houses in Boston's South End Essay

Row Houses in Boston's South End Essay

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In the early nineteenth century, Boston increased in size by filling in the marshy area around where Washington Street is today. The city, concerned about crowding in the already established neighborhoods downtown and on Beacon Hill, decided to develop this area into new residential neighborhoods. The population of Boston had increased dramatically in the first half of the nineteenth century from the large number of immigrants and the steady rise of industry in a port city. Between 1850 and 1875, the area south and east of Washington Street (the ocean side) became the South End, which was intended to attract the growing middle class and to persuade them not to move to the suburbs. The pattern and plan of the South End are the main contributors to its architectural unity and also what sets it apart as its own distinct neighborhood. The choices in materiality and organization of space give the South End a visual coherence unlike any other neighborhood in Boston. It is one of the largest remaining Victorian residential neighborhoods in the United States.
To appreciate a row house neighborhood, one must first look at the plan as a whole before looking at the individual blocks and houses. The city’s goal to build a neighborhood that can be seen as a singular unit is made clear in plan, at both a larger scale (the entire urban plan) and a smaller scale (the scheme of the individual houses). Around 1850, the city began to carve out blocks and streets, with the idea of orienting them around squares and small residential parks. This Victorian style plan organized rectangular blocks around rounded gardens and squares that separated the row houses from major streets. The emphasis on public spaces and gardens to provide relief from the ene...


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...Jennings. American Vernacular Design 1870-1940. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1985.
Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. "The South End Today." Boston Magazine, October 1965.
Johnson, Amy E. "Crooked and Narrow Streets: Photography and Urban Visual Identities in Early
Twentieth-Century Boston." Winterthur Portfolio. No. 1 (2013): 35-64.
Kilham, Walter H., FAIA. Boston After Bulfinch: An Account of its Architecture 1800-1900. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1946.
Stanwood, Edward. Boston Illustrated. Boston: J.R. Osgood, 1873.
Smith, Margaret Supplee and John C. Moorhouse. “Architecture and the Housing Market: Nineteenth Century Row Housing in Boston’s South End.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians No. 2 (1993): 159-178.
Whittlesey, Robert B. The South End Row House and its Rehabilitation for Low-Income Residents. Boston: SECD, 1969.

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