Hip in the City
It's not Southie. It's not the new SoHo. And it's not stereotypical, eggheaded Boston.
Nestled beneath the afterglow of the John Hancock Tower, just beyond the roar of
the Mass. Turnpike, a thriving community is hard at work building a utopia of Old
World architectural preservation and a progressive cultural charisma all its own.
The South End-encompassing an area bordered by South Bay on the east and running
south along Massachusetts Avenue, with another side on the north outlined by the
Turnpike and a small projection near Arlington Street containing Bay Village-is
as old as Boston, but it has seen more change during the past 300 years than perhaps
any other neighborhood in the city. Today, the South End is regarded not only for
its beautiful, narrow streets and Victorian bow-front row houses, but also for its
presence in the arts, its vibrant gay community, its fine restaurants and its racial
The Hub of the South End, however, remains the opulent dome of the Boston Center
for the Arts' Cyclorama Building. From this focal point, the non-profit BCA provides
artists with affordable work space; sponsors exhibitions, theatrical performances
and residencies; and develops outreach programs to promote the arts. The results
have been dramatic. Two BCA regulars are bringing critical acclaim to the South
End's performing arts scene-the avant-garde SpeakEasy Stage Company and the Irish
troupe of the Sugan Theatre Company. The two performance spaces at the BCA's new
Calderwood Theatre Pavilion have provided a larger home for these acclaimed troupes,
as well as a second stage for the widely hailed Huntington Theatre Company.
But it's the aroma of the culinary arts that most notably attracts visitors to the
South End. It was Gordon Hamersley, award-winning chef/owner of Hamersley's Bistro,
who first lit the flames on this hot dining scene when he opened up shop in a quaint
storefront on Tremont Street in 1983, triggering a now-thriving scene that includes
cuisine from Southern barbecue to Ethiopian.
The very essence of the South End resists stereotypes. Its only predictable elements
are the breathtaking architectural detail and the community's open-minded, colorful
character. Beloved Bostonian John F. Kennedy might have envisioned a place such
as this when he said: "I look forward to an America that will reward achievement
in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft."