North End, Boston

North End
Neighborhood of Boston

Aerial view of the North End
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Suffolk
Neighborhood of Boston
  Total 0.366 sq mi (0.95 km2)
Elevation 16.036 ft (4.888 m)
Population (2010) 10,131
  Density 27,680.4/sq mi (10,687.5/km2)
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
ZIP Code 02109, 02110, 02113
Area code(s) 617 / 857

The North End is a neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, United States. It has the distinction of being the city's oldest residential community, where people have continuously inhabited since it was settled in the 1630s. Though small, only 0.36 square miles (0.93 km2), the neighborhood has nearly one hundred establishments and a variety of tourist attractions. It is known for its Italian American population and fine Italian restaurants. The district is a pending Boston Landmark.


The Clough House, built in 1712
Hanover Street, 1930
Hanover Street, 2010

17th century

The North End as a distinct community of Boston was evident as early as 1646.[1] Three years later, the area had a large enough population to support its own church, called the North Meeting House. The construction of the building also led to the development of the area now known as North Square, which was the center of community life.[1][2]

Increase Mather, the minister of the North Meeting House, was an influential and powerful figure who attracted residents to the North End.[1] His home, the meeting house, and surrounding buildings were destroyed by a fire in 1676. The meeting house was rebuilt soon afterwards. The Paul Revere House was later constructed on the site of the Mather House.[1] Part of Copp's Hill was converted to a cemetery, called the North Burying Ground (now known as Copp's Hill Burying Ground). The earliest grave markers located in the cemetery date back to 1661.[2]

18th century

The North End became a fashionable place to live in the 18th century.[2] Wealthy families shared the neighborhood with artisans, journeymen, laborers, servants, and slaves.[1] Two brick townhouses from this period still stand: the Pierce-Hichborn House and the Ebenezer Clough House on Unity Street.[2] The Christ Church, now known as the Old North Church, was constructed during this time, as well. It is the oldest surviving church building in Boston.[2]

In the early stages of the Revolution, the Hutchinson Mansion, located in North Square, was attacked by anti-Stamp Act rioters on the evening of August 26, 1765, forcing then Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson to flee through his garden.[3] In 1770, 11-year-old Christopher Seider was part of an angry crowd that attacked the home of a Custom's Office employee, which was located on Hanover Street. The employee, Ebenezer Richardson, fired a gun into the crowd, hitting and fatally wounding Christoper Seider.[1]

During the Siege of Boston, the North Meeting House was dismantled by the British for use as firewood.[1][3]

19th century

In the first half of the 19th century, the North End experienced a significant amount of commercial development. This activity was concentrated on Commercial, Fulton, and Lewis Streets. During this time the neighborhood also developed a red-light district, known as the Black Sea.[1] By the late 1840s, living conditions in the crowded North End were among the worst in the city.[3][4] Successive waves of immigrants came to Boston and settled in the neighborhood, beginning with the Irish and continuing with Eastern European Jews and Italians.[5] Boston as a whole was prosperous, however, and the wealthy residents of the North End moved to newer, more fashionable neighborhoods such as Beacon Hill.[3]

In 1849, a cholera epidemic swept through Boston, hitting the North End most harshly; most of the seven hundred victims were North Enders.[3][6] In 1859, tensions between the Catholic Irish immigrants and the existing Protestant community led to the Eliot School Rebellion. By 1880, the Protestant churches had left the neighborhood.[1]

The Boston Draft Riot of July 14, 1863 began on Prince Street in the North End.[3]

In the latter half of the 19th century, several charitable groups were formed in the North End to provide aid to its impoverished residents. These groups included The Home for Little Wanderers and the North End Mission. The North Bennet Street Industrial School (now known as North Bennet Street School) was also founded at around this time to provide North End residents with the opportunity to gain skills that would help them find employment.[1] Beginning in the 1880s, North End residents began to replace the dilapidated wooden housing with four- and five-story brick apartment buildings, most of which still stand today. The city contributed to the revitalization of the neighborhood by constructing the North End Park and Beach, Copp's Hill Terrace, and the North End Playground.[1]

20th century

In the early 20th century, the North End was dominated by Jewish and Italian immigrants.[5] Three Italian immigrants founded the Prince Macaroni Company, one example of the successful businesses created in this community.[3][7] Also during this time, the city of Boston upgraded many public facilities in the neighborhood: the Christopher Columbus School (now a condominium building), a public bathhouse, and a branch of the Boston Public Library were built.[1][8] These investments, as well as the creation of the Paul Revere Mall (also known as the Prado), contributed to the North End's modernization.[1]

In 1918, the Spanish Influenza Pandemic hit the crowded North End severely; so many children were orphaned as a result of the pandemic that the city created the Home for Italian Children to care for them.[3] The following year, in 1919, the Purity Distilling Company’s 2.3 million gallon molasses storage tank explosively burst open, causing the Great Molasses Flood. A 25 ft wave of molasses flowed down Commercial Street towards the waterfront, sweeping away everything in its path. The wave killed 21 people, injured 150, and caused damage worth $100 million in today's money.[1][5][9]

In 1927, the Sacco and Vanzetti wake was held in undertaker Joseph A. Langone, Jr.’s Hanover Street premises. The funeral procession that conveyed Sacco and Vanzetti’s bodies to the Forest Hills Cemetery began in the North End.[3]

In 1934, the Sumner Tunnel was constructed to connect the North End to East Boston, the location of the then new Boston Airport (now Logan International Airport). In the 1950s the John F. Fitzgerald Expressway (locally known as the Central Artery) was built to relieve Boston’s traffic congestion. Hundreds of North End buildings were demolished below Cross Street, and the Artery walled off the North End from downtown, isolating the neighborhood.[1][4] The increased traffic led to the construction of a second tunnel between the North End and East Boston; this second tunnel (the Callahan Tunnel) opened in 1961.[1] Although the construction of the Central Artery created years' worth of disorder, in the 1950s the North End had low disease rates, low mortality rates, and little street crime.[1] As described by Jane Jacobs in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, in 1959 the North End's "streets were alive with children playing, people shopping, people strolling, people talking. Had it not been a cold January day, there would surely have been people sitting. The general street atmosphere of buoyancy, friendliness, and good health was so infectious that I began asking directions of people just for the fun of getting in on some talk."[10]

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the North End experienced population loss. During this time, many shops in the neighborhood closed, the St. Mary's Catholic School and the St. Mary's Catholic Church closed, and the waterfront industries either relocated or went defunct. During the 1970s and 1980s, the Boston Redevelopment Authority approved high-rise, high-density housing projects in the neighborhood while North End residents worked to build affordable housing for the elderly. One of these projects, the Casa Maria Apartments, stands on the site of the St. Mary's Catholic Church.[1]

In 1976, the neighborhood welcomed President Ford and Queen Elizabeth II, who each visited the North End as part of the United States Bicentennial Celebrations.[1]

During the late 20th century through the early 21st century, the Central Artery was dismantled and replaced by the Big Dig project.[11] Throughout the construction process, access to the North End was difficult for both residents and visitors; as a result, many North End businesses closed.[1] The Rose Kennedy Greenway is now located on the former site of the Central Artery.[1]

Historic sites


North End has twelve places on the National Register of Historic Places.

Other notable sites include:


The North End has a mixture of architecture from all periods of American history, including early structures such as the Old North Church (1723), the Paul Revere House (1680), the Pierce-Hichborn House (1711), and the Clough House (1712). However, the bulk of the architecture seen in the area today dates from the late 19th to early 20th centuries, when tenement architecture replaced mansions and other buildings to accommodate the influx of immigrants. By the time of the Great Depression, the North End's reputation as a city slum resulted in lending discrimination; the area's residents could not obtain mortgages for construction or rehabilitation. Instead, residents, many of whom were carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and masons, lent their labor to each other and succeeded at rehabilitating the North End's buildings at low cost.[12]

Starting in the mid-1970s, the abandoned industrial area along the North End's waterfront was rebuilt and converted into a luxury housing and business district. After the 1970s and continuing to present day, developers converted tenements into larger apartments and condominiums. New development is regulated in this historic district under city zoning regulations.[12]


Approximately one-third of the North End's current residents are Italians or Italian Americans. The remainder are young professionals, college students, empty-nesters, business owners, and other families. The politics of the neighborhood are still dominated by Italian Americans.

According to the 2010 Census data, the neighborhood's population is 10,131, a 5.13% rise from 2000. The majority of the North End's residents are White (90.88%), followed by Hispanic or Latino (3.69%), Asian (2.83%), Black/African Americans (1.13%), two or more races/ethnicities (1.01%) other race/ethnicity (0.29%), American Indian and Alaska Native (0.15%), and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (0.03%).[13][14]

African American community

A small community of free African Americans lived at the base of Copp's Hill from the 17th to the 19th century. Members of this community were buried in the Copp's Hill Burying Ground, where a few remaining headstones can still be seen today.[1][5] The community was served by the First Baptist Church.[1]

By the late 19th century, the African American community of the North End was known as New Guinea. By that time, however, much of the community had actually moved to Beacon Hill.[1]

Irish community

Between 1845 and 1853, a massive wave of Irish immigrants settled in the North End; the neighborhood became predominantly Irish (the city’s overall population was also affected, going from a predominantly Yankee-Protestant city to being one-third Irish in just a few years).[3] Between 1865-1880, the North End was almost exclusively Irish (or Irish-American) and Catholic.[1]

Jewish community

In the late 19th century, a stable Jewish community began to develop in the North End. Much of the community settled along Salem Street. The community founded places of worship, a Hebrew School, and social programs. In 1903, the first and only new synagogue to be built in the North End was constructed. Carroll Place was renamed "Jerusalem Place" in honor of the new building.[1] By 1922, however, the majority of Jewish residents had moved out of the North End, preferring other neighborhoods such as Roxbury.[1]

Italian community

By 1890, the North Square area was known as Little Italy.[1] The population of Italian immigrants in the North End grew steadily until reaching its peak, in 1930, of 44,000 (99.9% of the neighborhood's total population).[15]

In 1923, the Michael Angelo (later renamed "Michelangelo") School was built in the North End and named in honor of the Italian residents. The street on which the building was constructed was renamed Michelangelo Street, and remains the only street in the North End with an Italian name.[1] The Michelangelo School closed in 1989, and the building was converted into housing.[1]

Italian bakeries, restaurants, small shops, and groceries opened in the first half of the 20th century. The first immigrants found work selling fruit, vegetables, wine, cheese and olive oil. Later immigrants found more opportunities in the construction trades, and by 1920 the neighborhood was served by Italian physicians, dentists, funeral homes, and barbers.[15] Residents founded businesses, some of which still exist today, including Prince Pasta[7] and the Pastene Corporation.[1][15][16]

The Italian American community faced anti-Italian sentiment, prejudice, and neglect. After World War II, however, Italian Americans began to gain political power which then helped the community to address these issues. Today, the "old world" Italian atmosphere of the North End helps to drive tourism, and many of the small neighborhood shops have been replaced by restaurants.[15] Italian religious feasts, such as the Feast of St. Anthony, and processions are still celebrated in the streets of the North End, and draw large crowds.[15]


Paul Revere Statue by Cyrus E. Dallin, North End, Boston, MA
The American and Italian flags on display during one of the summer festivals


The North End Music and Performing Arts Center (NEMPAC) and the Improv Asylum Theater are located on Hanover Street.[17] All Saints Way, a private art project located on Battery Street, is occasionally open to the public. It consists of framed portraits of Roman Catholic saints hung on a brick wall, some of which are visible from the street.[18]


At the end of the 19th century the North End was filled with small restaurants that served inexpensive meals. In 1909, there were 12 active Italian restaurants, and by the 1930s a few of these restaurants were renowned. Today, the North End's streets are lined with cafes, small grocery stores, and Italian restaurants.[19] These restaurants are a popular destination for both locals and tourists.

Sicilian immigrants also started food companies specializing in their native cuisine, which after successful expansion moved out of the neighborhood.[20] The Pastene company began as a family pushcart in the North End in 1848.[16] Beginning in 1912, Prince pasta was manufactured in the North End and sold at 92 Prince Street. (The brand is now owned by New World Pasta.)[7]

Public art

The North End is home to six of Boston's publicly accessible artworks. The Boston Art Commission has care and custody of all public art located on city property.[21]

Summer festivals

A life size statue of St. Agrippina di Mineo in an ornate canopy accompanied by the North End Marching Band.
A life size statue of Saint Agrippina di Mineo in an ornate canopy accompanied by the North End Marching Band.

Every summer, the residents of the North End hold festivals (feasts) to honor the patron saints of different regions in Italy. Statues of the saints are paraded down the streets of the neighborhood while well-wishers attach dollar bills to the statues as a donation and show of support. The feasts also include marching bands, food and other vendors, and live music.[22]


The North End is located within the A-1 police district (Downtown, Beacon Hill, and Chinatown are also included in this district).[23] Residents complain of repeated noise and litter problems stemming from loud partying in the neighborhood. As of 2012, Boston police officers have increased patrols in the North End to deal with noise complaints.[24] Other areas of ongoing concern are several attacks on women in recent years and a series of breaking and enterings to residential apartments.[25][26][27]

Members of the Patriarca crime family have historically lived in or operated out of the North End, including Gennaro Angiulo, Gaspare Messina, and the Dinunzio brothers (Anthony & Carmen).[28]


Primary and secondary schools

The Boston Public School system operates the John Eliot Elementary School in the North End. The school opened as the North Writing School in 1713 and merged with the North Latin School in 1790 to form the John Eliot School; it is Boston's oldest continuously-run school. In 2007 the Eliot school was considered for closure due to poor performance. Between 2007 and 2011, school administrators instituted a successful improvement program, and, by 2012 the Eliot school was classified as an innovation school which was recognized for excellence by Governor Deval Patrick.[29][30]

St. Johns School is a private Roman Catholic school that is located in North Square. It opened in 1873 and has served the neighborhood continuously since then.[31][32]

The North End is also home to the North Bennet Street School, a trade and craftmanship school that was founded in 1885.[31][33]

Public libraries

The Boston Public Library operates the North End Branch Library, located at 25 Parmenter Street. The branch was established in 1913 and moved to its present location, a building designed by Carl Koch, in 1963. This branch maintains an Italian-language collection as well as a local history collection in addition to its regular holdings.[21][34]


The North End has narrow, dense streets. There are no major through streets that penetrate the North End, and virtually all trips made within the neighborhood are made by walking. Commercial Street has two lanes of northbound and one lane of southbound traffic; and goes around the North End's perimeter. North Washington Street is the highest volume roadway in the area.[35] Hanover Street goes from downtown to the shoreline, and is the most concentrated area for tourists, parades, and festivals.

The North End is accessible via mass transit, including the MBTA's Orange and Green Lines at both Haymarket and North Station, by the Blue Line at Aquarium Station, and by the 4, 89/93, 92, 93, 111, 117, 191, 192, 193, 325, 326, 352, 354, 424, 426, 426/455, and 428 bus lines. It is also accessible by ferry at Rowes Wharf.

Notable residents

Other notable people connected with the North End:

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 Alex R. Goldfeld (2009). The North End: A Brief History of Boston's Oldest Neighborhood. Charleston, SC: History Press.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Boston Landmarks Commission (1995). "North End Exploring Boston's Neighborhoods" (PDF). Retrieved December 17, 2011.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 William P Marchione (2008). Boston Miscellany: An Essential History of the Hub. Charleston, SC: History Press.
  4. 1 2 Robert J. Allison (2004). A Short History of Boston. Beverly, Mass: Commonwealth Editions.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Anthony Mitchell Sammarco (2007). Boston’s North End. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing.
  6. "Cholera in Boston, 1849". Retrieved 2011-08-27.
  7. 1 2 3 "Prince - Our Story". Prince Pasta.
  8. "Penthouse of plenty in Boston's North End". 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  9. "A sticky tragedy: the rupture of a giant molasses tank in Boston just after the First World War caused devastation and led to the longest legal case in the city's history.". History Today. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  10. Jane Jacobs (1961). The death and life of great American cities. New York, NY: Random House.
  11. Commonwealth of Massachusetts (2011). "The Big Dig Facts and Figures". Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  12. 1 2 "Planning Boston". Retrieved 2012-12-16.
  13. "Census data: North End grew, but kept 'Little Italy' feel over past decade". Retrieved 2012-08-04.
  14. "Census data 2010". Retrieved 2012-08-04.
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 Guild Nichols. "North End History - The Italians". Retrieved December 19, 2011.
  16. 1 2 The Pastene Companies, Ltd. (2008). "Pastene - Imported Italian Foods Since 1874". Retrieved December 19, 2011.
  17. "NorthEndWaterfront". Retrieved 2012-08-05.
  18. "All Saints Way". Retrieved 2012-12-14.
  19. Religious Festive Practices in Boston's North End: Ephemeral Identities in an Italian American Community. State University of New York Press, Albany. Retrieved 2012-08-06.
  20. "Little Italy - Boston". ItalianAware.
  21. 1 2 "Boston Art Commission". Retrieved 2012-08-05.
  22. "". Retrieved 2012-08-05.
  23. "2008 Crime Summary Report" (PDF). City of Boston. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
  24. "North End residents support ordinance that would fine landlords for unruly tenants". Retrieved 2012-11-13.
  25. "Woman attacked in the North End; pattern similar to past assaults". Retrieved 2012-11-13.
  26. "Another woman attacked late at night in the North End". Retrieved 2012-11-13.
  27. "A series of breaking and enterings hit Boston's North and South Ends". Metro. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
  28. "Alleged Acting New England Crime Boss Anthony Dinunzio Charged in Racketeering and Extortion Conspiracy". United States Department of Justice. April 25, 2012. Retrieved May 10, 2012.
  29. "Eliot K-8 School". Retrieved 2011-09-04.
  30. "Eliot K-8 School". Retrieved 2012-12-18.
  31. 1 2 "Schools & Churches:". Retrieved 2011-09-04.
  32. "Eliot K-8 History". Retrieved 2012-12-18.
  33. "North Bennet Street School: History". Retrieved 2011-09-04.
  34. "BPL North End Branch Library". Retrieved 2011-09-04.
  35. "North End/West End Roadway System" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-08-04.
  36. Dello Russo, Nicholas (February 3, 2015). "Life on the Corner: A North End Mystery". North End Waterfront.

Further reading

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Coordinates: 42°21′54″N 71°03′18″W / 42.364949°N 71.055107°W / 42.364949; -71.055107

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