The North End is Boston’s oldest neighborhood and its streets are laden with the treasures of time.  Not much is known about the native Americans or anyone living here until the Puritans arrived in the 1600’s. As the colonists settled in, streets began to branch throughout the North End.

Much has been written about the North End’s famous history and the neighborhood is filled with plaques depicting historic locations. In this article, we highlight some of the lesser known street stories in the North End and make our own plaque proposals. You won’t find anything about the Freedom Trail sites, Paul Revere, the molasses flood or the Brink’s robbery on this list. But, we think you will find these street stories just as interesting!

 

1.  Phip’s Corner at Charter and Salem Streets

The corner where Charter meets Salem Street (map) is Phip’s Corner where a 17th century mansion stood consuming half of Charter Street.

Photo Courtesy of City of Boston
Phip’s property on Charter Street is highlighted in yellow in the upper left corner across from Christ Church. (City of Boston map)

Sir William Phip was a North End resident and the first governor to rule under the new Massachusetts charter — a 1708 charter that unified Maine, Plymouth and Massachusetts into Massachusetts Bay Colony. The North End is tied to the governor whose legacy began when he recovered sunken treasure from a Spanish galleon near the Bahamas. His mansion had a spacious courtyard with cascading gardens that toppled the property line as far back as to Hull Street.

We propose a plaque recognizing the corner of Salem and Charter Streets as the former location of Phip’s Mansion.

2. North Margin Street Water Line

North Margin Street

The Shawmut Peninsula, according to historic Boston maps, show a time of the past when the city was nothing more than a spidery “island.” The North End, in particular, was distinct from the rest of the main land; high tides often nearly isolated the neighborhood from the rest of Boston (Boston: History of the Landfills). 

History requires the calling upon of visuals — and for a neighborhood that has worn many masks, its waterline has surely receded from the streets and memories alike. Adding landfill means that many of the man-made streets of Boston were once waterways. On the southern side of the North End, the shore line once came up to the line around North Square – the first square in America. On the other side of Hanover Street, the water line hugged the northern most side of the neighborhood up to North Margin Street.

It would be nice to preserve a watermark line with a plaque that describes a visionary account of the 17th century urban seascape.

 

Bartolomeo Vanzetti (left), handcuffed to Nicola Sacco (right). Massachusetts Superior Court, 1923. (Wikipedia Commons)

3. Sacco and Vanzetti Defense Committee

256 Hanover Street

“What more can these immigrants from Italy expect? It is not every prisoner who has a President of Harvard University throw the switch for him.”- Heywood Broun, N.Y. World.

The plaque fading into the facade of 256 Hanover Street is in need of renewal in order to draw attention to “Remember: Justice Crucified, August 22, 1927.

The current plaque reads,

Sacco and Vanzetti Defense Committee In May 1920, two Italian immigrants were arrested for the murder of two payroll guards in South Braintree. A group of friends and fellow anarchists organized a defense committee for the accused men, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. For the next seven years the committee struggled to free the two, whose cause became a passionate controversy the world over. In 1925, the committee moved to upstairs rooms at 256 Hanover Street, where the drama intensified. Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in 1927, but theirs is “the case that will not die.”

This story deserves more recognition than the one that is faded on the facade of Hanover street.  We propose an expanded commemoration or memorial at this location (map).

 

4. Jewish Synagogue Off Shalom Street

Jerusalem Place

Jewish immigrants built a lot of the North End. They financed most of the construction between 1865 and 1895, and there used to be three synagogues just in this neighborhood. Nineteenth-century North End was predominantly Irish but increasingly laden with Jewish and Italian immigrants that began arriving around 1870.

Jewish Drive takes the length of Salem Street and a side street, Jerusalem Place. Salem Street at one point even had the nickname “Shalom” Street. In 1903, there was a synagogue, Shaarei Jerusalem, on Carroll Place, where upon the street became Jerusalem Place. These streets were once predominantly occupied by Jewish families. Most clothing stores were run by Jewish families because they were once the predominant business population of the neighborhood.  Jewish inscriptions along several weathered tenement buildings survive like indelible ink to remind the neighborhood of its Jewish history. Even further back, history dates Chamber St, part of the Old West End, pre-Urban Renewal, as having once having a Jewish Burying ground– just blocks from the North End.

We propose a plaque on Jerusalem Place to recognize the synagogue and Jewish contributions to the North End.

5. Origins of Boston College

Lynn Street

BC-LogoThe North End has connections to the origins of Boston College.

In October 1847, Father McElroy was sent to Boston, Massachusetts by the Bishop of Boston, John Bernard Fitzpatrick, to serve as pastor of St. Mary’s parish in the North End. Bishop Fitzpatrick set McElroy to work on bringing a college to Boston.

Throughout the 20th century, St. Mary’s Church was located behind the current Casa Maria House (what is now Lynn Street).  St. Mary’s was not only the first parochial school for boys, it was also the First Parish Church in Boston. It served the community of Boston as a place of religious and educational services until it was demolished in 1977. St. Mary’s held the first parochial school that eventually influenced the formation of Boston College and Boston College High School.

We propose a plaque to recognize the work of Father McElroy and his ties to the North End and Boston College.

6. Cushman School

44 Prince Street

A primary school on Parmenter Street (at the time when it was the North side of Richmond Street), the “Cushman School,” was named in honor of the birthplace of the celebrated actress, Charlotte Cushman. When it opened early in 1872 it was the first school ever named after a woman in Boston. Today, the site location of the demolished nineteenth century Cushman School operates as the North End Branch of the Boston Public Library as well as a gated community of luxury condominiums. Behind mostly closed walls are plaques that chapter the Parmenter Street history. The plaques need to be made public on the Parmenter street-facing facade of the library. Boston City Archives also document this location that was once an open park and the first official community playground in America.

7. Second Site for Sacco and Vanzetti – The Funeral

158 Endicott Street — corner building of Thacher/Endicott Streets

“What stands out in my mind when Sacco and Vanzetti were electrocuted was that they had undertakers, the Langone Family, located on Hanover Street…There were no automobiles in those days – just horse and wagon teams, but they had automobiles as funeral cars for them – I have no idea where they came from.” (Phil D’ellasandro, Boston’s North End by Anthony V. Riccio)

Capodilupo, Italian for ‘Head of the Wolf’ is a legend derived from the old country that is something of a Robin Hood of Italy. The Capodilupo limousines were housed in the second floor garages at the corner building of Thacher and Endicott Streets. Their limousines serviced the Sacco and Vanzetti funeral, a procession that stretched from Hanover to Tremont Streets. The building across the garage was the Capodilupo residence– a place where public figures like Frank Sinatra and JFK were no strangers to as they were friendly with several members of the family. Additionally, in the basement of their house across the street, at 158 Endicott, was a speakeasy during Boston’s Prohibition.  Capodilupo power surged through the streets for over a century.

We propose a plaque to be installed at 158 Endicott Street to recognize the funeral of Sacco and Vanzetti.

8. Puritan Landing

585 Commercial Street

The Pilgrims had their rock, the Puritans had their picnics. We propose a plaque at 585 Commercial Street, the new location of a North End school (map). 

The Puritans that landed near this site were known to have ‘Puritan Picnics,’ on what is now “Copp’s Hill,” Boston’s second oldest burying-ground. The same land that was originally used for Puritan leisure and recreation is also the site of the first erected windmill in the nation. North End had a chocolate mill, among others, located in nearby locations as well. The spot also may have been near where the legendary Ann Pollitt, a 17th century teenager, was the first Puritan to step foot in Boston.

We propose a Puritan Landing plaque at 585 Commercial Street.


9. Visit Venice

25 Parmenter Street – North End Branch Library

The Palazzo Ducale was not only once the center of “La Serenissima,” Venice’s nickname for being ‘the most serene place,’ but according to scholars like John Ruskin, it was the center of the world.  For nearly four-hundred years it ruled the as the Empire of the Mediterranean Sea.

There needs to be a 180 degree rotation of the Ducale Palace diorama that is displayed in the North End Branch of the Boston Public Library. It currently hides behind center column of the library and faces out towards the back wall, seen by the lucky few that already know it is there. This scale-size diorama was originally headed for the Museum of Modern Art in New York City but was re-routed back to its permanent home on display in the North End. The diorama underwent a recent restoration and should be front and focus of the library. A 180 degree rotation is needed so that the facade of the showcase faces out to the street allowing visitors and residents to visit Venice in the North End.

We also propose a plaque outside the library highlighting this hidden treasure.

Boschetto Bakery on Salem Street – Photo by Adam Castiglioni

10. Bakeries Bygone 

158 Salem Street – Former location of Boschetto’s Bakery

For a neighborhood that was once bustling with a dozen bakeries, these streets are past the peak of Italian bread baking. Over the years, rises in rent have driven many of the Italian families out of the area, forcing century-old family-owned businesses to close their doors. When Boschetto’s Bakery turned off their ovens in the summer of 2013, long time residents had a hard time accepting the void.

We propose a plaque to Bakeries Bygone at 158 Salem Street.

 

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31 COMMENTS

  1. As a person that grew up in the north end i love this idea and will help to show the rich of old north end forgotten and should also be put on a local map for people so when walking around will know there is one at a point

  2. A plaque should be added to honor Dom Campocchiaro who has done a great deal for the North End youth since the 1950’s.

  3. Thank you for the very interesting info on 10 Historical Sights of the North End. Another historical site that seems to have been forgotten is Prince Hall’s burial place in Copps Hill Cemetery. He was the Father of Black Masonry and an abolitionist. President Obama is a Prince Hall Freemason.

  4. There should also be plaques at lower Hanover Street in memory of Christopher Seider, age 11, first to die in the American rebellion, two weeks before the Boston Massacre; at the corner of North Bennet and Wiggins streets (former site of Eliot School) in tribute to Father Bernardine Wiget and the boys of the 1859 Eliot School rebellion – this story is likely related to the story above about Father McElroy and St. Mary’s parochial school; at lower Hanover Street where Dr. Joseph Warren had his home and office (he reportedly tried to save the life of Christopher Seider there); and at the site of the old Cooper Street Armory, in memory of the many men, women and children who died in the Boston Draft Riot in July 1863.

  5. My dad told me that he would get two cents to lite the gas lanterns for the Jewish Synagogue in Jerusalem Place.
    I remember a beautiful wrought iron gate with a big Jewish star on it, the star was made of gold. The story is that
    someone took the star off the gate and it was never seen again. Next to my building at 125 Salem Street was a
    fire station with the horse driven cars. My great grandmother would pass the firemen food from her second floor
    apartment. Did you know that Sophie Tucker grew up in the North End. She was born in N.Y. and came to the
    North End as a child, she lived in the double buildings next to our building at 122 Salem Street. Her parents were
    part of the Jewish community. Is their a plaque at 6 Garden Court where Rose Kennedy was born. I can go on and on about the N.E and all their underground tunnels that lead to the Old North Church ..

  6. Magaret d, nice job you stole my thunder I was going to post that Rose Kennedy was born in the North End & that her funeral service was held at St. Stephens Church.

    • Sorry Michaeld if you know anything the underground tunnels I’ll give that one to you if not I’m going to
      write about them tomorrow.

      • Margaret D, growing up I did hear some stories about tunnels under the Old North Church & other places but I didn’t know if they were just North End tales so I look forward to your comments.

        • In regards to the tunnels in the North End, there are tunnels that are under Copps Hill Cemetery that go to the Old North Church. Vicar Ayres knows a lot of tunnel history.

          • Between Vicar Ayres and myself maybe we can tell the people a lot about them. Tomorrow I’m going to write what I saw and know about them.

    • In 1848 Luigi Pastene came from Italy to Boston’s N.E. and sold his produce from a pushcart. In the 1870’s opened up the Pastene Corp, to this day Pastene has been owned and operated by the descendants of Luigi. It’s the oldest continuously operated family business in the North America. I use Pastene all the time.
      Don’t know to much about Jordan Marsh, I can tell you a few things. In 1841 Eben Jorden had a dry good store in Boston, then in 1851 he became partners with Benjamin Marsh. Their store could have been on Hanover Street because it went all the way to Scollay Sq. now know as Government Center that was built in the 50’s.Boston had the first Public School-1635,and the first subway system-1897. Lots of history.

  7. Rose Kennedy’s apt. bldg. is on Garden Court St. and looking at if from the outside, the building is an
    eye sore, but from what I understand, the apts. are supposed to be very nice inside.

  8. A few years ago the 8th grade students at SJS worked with Mary Smoyer of the Women’s Historical Society to see if we could get something going to repair the facade of the building, and place a new plaque there. We were even asked to help design the plague. Stephen Passacantilli also contacted us, but there was no response from the landlord! Many tourist are shocked to see it in such a state of disrepair! Rose Kennedy lived here, attended an immigrant school (the present SJS) , and when she passed on, her funeral was at St Stephen ‘s .As the funeral entourage went down Hanover St, the students of the North End lined the street.
    The present 8th is still very interested in this endeavor … We plan to reach out to Ms Smoyer again. Hopefully we can get something going. Any ideas?

    • Dear Margie, your SJS 8th graders might yet realize their project to better document the childhood home of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy on Garden Court Street in the North End if they consider reaching out to the owners of the adjacent building at n. 6 Garden Court, which seems to date no later than the mid-1850’s. The latter building, with its four-storied, bow-fronted façade, is the “twin” of the building that stood on the site of 4 Garden Court in the late 19th century, and therefore better reflects the residence of the Fitzgerald family during that era. The building today at n. 4 is a tenement from the early 20th century – constructed long after the Fitzgerald family had left the premises (Rose’s father had been born in a North End tenement on the now-destroyed Ferry Street, but with a Latin School/BC education and native “Dearo” connections, he was able to claim as a U.S. congressman by 1899 to live out in Concord Junction – while still being assessed from his North End address).

    • I am a local tour guide and I always point out Rose Kennedy birthplace maybe you can work local tour guide to have the tourist they are guiding to write letters or email.?

    • St Leonard’s Church also known as St. Anthony’s( where I got married) was the first Catholic Church in the N.E.
      1873. What I do know the very first Catholic Church is in N.Y. in Greenwich Village it to is called St. Anthony’s 1866.
      In Boston and in N.Y. they are both Franciscans that serve the Church. The oldest active Church building in Boston is the Old North Church 1723. The oldest continually used is the Unitarian Church known as Kings Chapel 1686 in Boston.

  9. Thank you to everyone who posted such interesting facts. A North End Historical Seminar Series would be excellent. The proceeds would help with the plaque costs. I would look forward to learning more about the History of this incredible Neighborhood.

  10. This is a great idea. A number of plaques were put up throughout the North End for the Bicentennial during the mid-1970s including one for the Sacco and Vanzetti Defense Committee. That’s how I learned about it. Also, in the Prado there use to be large beautiful bronze reliefs mounted on the walls in the far right corner depicting the Puritan landing and other historical events. They were similar to the ones that still exist on the opposite end. My guess is that vandals removed them. Tremendous public art and history was lost. Very sad.

  11. As a young girl growing up in the N.E. I did what I did everyday I walked from my building on Salem Street to my grandmother and grandfathers building on Wiget Street its off of Salem Street. This day I will never forget I was so amazed what I saw. I couldn’t walk in the street like I usually did because they were digging up Salem Street, when I got to Wiget Street I looked down at this big hole in the street and saw a curved brick tunnel. The tunnel was about 4 feet wide and 4 feet high. I asked one of the construction guys what it was they told me it was the main underground tunnel that was connected to other tunnels in buildings down peoples cellars and that they all led to the Old North Church and down to the harbor. I asked where the other ones were they named a few streets Hull, Shief and Charter. They should me a few gold coins they found and some other things I can’t remember. I must have been their a few hours watching them and waiting to see if they found anything else.

    So remember when your walking down the streets of the N.E. your walking on a bit of History. The N.E. was settled in the 1630’s and its only 0.36 sq. miles. The N.E. started out as a African American community then the Irish, Jewish, Italian and present day. In 1849 a cholera epidemic swept through Boston hitting the N.E. and seven hundred people from the N.E. died. In 1918 the Spanish enfluenza hit the N.E. leaving so many children orphaned that’s when the city created the Home for Italian Children. My Aunt worked their for many years.

    The N.E. also has so many famous people to name a few are:
    Thomas Carr he was a military figure, Tony DeMarco he was a boxer if you wanted to find Tony he was always on Hanover Street, John Fitzgerald he was a politician and grandfather to President Kennedy, Rose Kennedy mother of President Kennedy, Increase Mather was president of Harvard University, Cotton Mather Puritan Minister he was known for the Salem witch trials he and his family are buried in Copps Hill., Joseph Mayo Puritan Minister, Charles Ponzi creator of Ponzi scheme, Paul Revere activist and artisan, David Walker abolitionist. I’m sure their are many more to add to this list.

    The N.E. is a place of so much history its just to bad that SOME of the new people moving in can’t understand and respect it. I don’t live their anymore and not by choice, but my friends and family still do. I hope they bring back the N.E. as it was before a close net community where everyone helped and respected each other. I know my friends are trying so hard to bring it back like it was. Don’t forget some of these people are their just temporally my family and friends are their to stay.

  12. Part of the history of the North End was the Old North Church steeple that was toppled & crashed onto Salem St. during Hurricane Carol in the fifties.There are some incredible photos on line of the event fortunately no one was hurt.

  13. I remember Hurricane Carol my friend Marie lived across the street from the Old North Church. Part of the steeple fell on her roof.. We didn’t have power for days. We ate by candle lite every night. I thought that was great.

  14. MARGARET D. You are so right there are people that don’t respect the neighborhood. Those of
    us that still live here have an ongoing battle regarding trash & noise. We lived in the North End
    when it was considered a “SLUM”, and now that it isn’t considered a “SLUM” anymore, the
    streets are filthier than ever. Take your camera in the neighborhood & take pics of our streets,
    they are disgusting. We will keep the fight going for the better of the Neighborhood, because for
    those of us that remain, it is our ”HOMES”. Thanks again MARGARET D. for telling the
    TRUTH.

  15. I stumbled on this little known fact quite by accident. Did you know that the forerunner of Stop N Shop started at a grocery store by 3 North Enders at the current site of Bova’s Bakery. If I am not mistaken they sold the property to Old Man Bova in 1908, when he started his bakery.

    Stop & Shop’s roots can be traced back to 1892, when Solomon and Jeanie Rabinovitz opened a grocery shop, called the “Greenie Store”, at 134 Salem Street, in Boston’s North End. This store lasted at this location until 1908.[3] According to the company’s web site, Stop & Shop was founded in 1914 in Somerville, Massachusetts by the Rabinowitz family.

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