South End

Before there was Villa Victoria, there was the South End.

The South End was Boston’s first planned community, built almost entirely on landfill between 1800 and 1850, when dirt was piled on either side of the narrow neck of land leading to the Shawmut peninsula, now modern downtown Boston. The neighborhood was constructed by city hall to lure the upper middle class back into the city with rows of handsome brick houses.  After wealthy residents relocated to Back Bay and nearby suburbs, the South End became a home for immigrants and the working poor, especially factory and railroad workers, who were attracted by the affordable rents and proximity to downtown.

However, by the 1960s large portions of the neighborhood had fallen into disrepair.  At the time, many urban planners believed that the only way to “clean up” urban neighborhoods was to bulldoze and build from scratch.  Influenced by the large-scale renewal projects undergoing in (and in some cases devastating) cities across the east coast, including New Haven and New York, the Boston Redevelopment Agency began undertaking drastic redeveloping plans to create a “New Boston”. One of the most controversial projects razed the predominantly Italian West End to build a new government center. The image below shows the West End before and after government development.

In 1967, the BRA focused its sights on Parcel 19 in the South End, which is where the story of IBA and Villa Victoria begins.

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