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Neighborhood Photo: North End Stucco Building

A lovely stucco building and antique lamppost is tucked away in the North End on the corner of Lewis Street and North Street. Photo submitted by Pearson O’Meara.

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2 Replies to “Neighborhood Photo: North End Stucco Building

  1. This seemingly odd stucco wall with chimneys jutting out is a result of an early example of urban renewal.

    Prior to the days of formal redevelopment authorities, municipalities still tried to carry out urban renewal by taking small pieces of private land in strategic places as a way to “improve conditions” in areas of utmost concern for a number of reasons, whether well intentioned or not. In those days, municipalities such as Boston wanted to convert privately owned courts and places—which the North End is well known for today—into public streets so that they could get more control of what was being built there, etc. They also wanted to eradicate dead ends and narrow streets, which were ideal places for un-puritanical behavior. Furthermore, municipalities were trying to eradicate overly large, deep blocks, which were viewed as enabling the construction of dark, windowless dwellings and exacerbating the absence of “light and air.” This was largely an anti-density campaign but it did end up benefitting us Bostonians today by creating smaller blocks which make pedestrian distances shorter and thus more walkable.

    Municipalities often cited light and air as reasons for taking land and widening streets, although we now know that we don’t get sick from “miasma” but rather just poor water and food quality and pollution, which we have largely solved in the Boston area except for the pervasive presence of cars and trucks.

    In 1874, this block of Lewis Street did not exist. There was a short, narrow, dead-end street called Moon Street Court, which extended into the middle of the block from Moon Street but did not connect to North Street. The west side of North Street was uninterruptedly lined with buildings from Sun Court Street to Fleet Street until some point between 1874 and 1895 when the City took Moon Street Court and a few buildings and basically extended Lewis Street. In person, you can actually tell that something is fishy because the widths of the two blocks of Lewis do not match, in addition to the presence of the stucco wall and exposed chimneys. That was a mostly positive urban renewal project in my opinion. Destroying Scollay Square, the South Cove, the West End, the New York Streets, Lower Roxbury, Mission Hill, et cetera was not.

    1. I meant to start the last paragraph with: “So the reason this building’s wall doesn’t look like your typical street-fronting wall is because, in 1874, this block of Lewis Street did not exist.”

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