241 Hanover Street, Boston, MA 02113

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF BOSTON'S NORTH END

DURING COLONIAL TIMES, the North End was known as the "Island of North Boston". It was a narrow peninsula reaching into Boston Harbor surrounded by water on three sides. Map of Boston's North End in 1769 By 1750, the North End had become a commercial hub. Old North Church, officially Christ Church, was erected on Salem Street in Old engraving of Christ Church in Boston 1723. As a teenager, Paul Revere rang the bell at the church. Revere, who lived and worked in the North End, is known for his historic ride to alert the Patriots of the British approach in the events leading up to the Revolution.

By 1800, the shipping industry drew thousands of mechanics, journeymen, and sailors to the North End and it became a thriving working class neighborhood. Since the 1800s, the North End has served a a home for immigrant populations looking for a better life. Each new group found a way to "become American" through hard work.

The Irish started arriving in the North End in 1815 at the start of the Potato Famine. Many Irish became laborers filling in Boston's Back Bay area or working as servants in more affluent areas of the city. By the late 1870's, the Irish population peaked and the North End began experiencing an influx of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. old photo of North End Jewish neighborhood Salem Street became a thriving center of the Jewish community with kosher butchers, bakeries, delicatessens, and tailoring shops. The Italian masses flowed into the North End on the heels of the departing Irish at the apex of the Jewish settlement. old photo of an Italian grocery  store in the North End The Italian immigrants made their living as fruit and vegetable vendors and a peddlers selling wine, cheese and olive oil. The Italians were also able to find work in the booming commercial fishing fleets and the construction trades, Today, the Italian-Americans still comprise more than 41% of the resident population and the North End still retains its Old World charm.

Two men chatting outside Polcari's in the North End
Nearby in the North End
  • Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Birthplace

    photo of a young Rose Kennedy

    4 Garden Court Street

    Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy was the oldest of six children born to Josephine Hannon and John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, a colorful Boston politician. Rose organized groups to discuss current affairs and taught catechism in Boston's neighborhoods. Rose married young bank president Joseph Kennedy in 1914.

  • The Rose F. Kennedy Greenway

    Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy | 617-292-0020
    www.rosekennedygreenway.org/

    photo of the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway

    When the Big Dig relocated Boston's elevated highways underground, the city found itself rich in prime urban land. Boston seized the opportunity to enhance city life by providing graceful parks and gardens to connect its oldest, most diverse and vibrant neighborhoods, including the North End. Today, the Greenway is often called the "front porch" of the North End.

  • The Pierce Hitchborn House

    photo of the Pierce Hitchborn House

    North Square  |  617-523-2338  |  www.paulreverehouse.org

    Built about 1711, is one of the earliest remaining brick structures in Boston. The house is an excellent example of early Georgian architecture. Its elegant symmetrical style was a radical change from the wood-framed Tudor dwellings, such as the Revere House, common in 17th-century Boston. The home was built for Moses Pierce, a glazier, and was later owned by Nathaniel Hitchborn, a boatbuilder and a cousin of Paul Revere.

  • Paul Revere House

    19 North Square  |  617.523.2338  |  www.paulreverehouse.org

    famous portrait of Paul Revere

    On the night of April 18, 1775, silversmith Paul Revere left his small wooden home in Boston's North End and set out on a journey that would make him into a legend “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”. Today that home is still standing at 19 North Square and has become a national historic landmark. Built around 1680, it is downtown Boston's oldest building and one of the few remaining from an early era in the history of colonial America.

  • Sacred Heart Church

    photo of Sacred Heart Church

    12 North Square  |  617-523-5638

    Formally designated a national church, it was started by immigrants to serve their community. National churches refl ect the ethnic characters of their parishioners. Sacred Heart was built in 1888, largely by folks from Genoa. Later, the Genovese were joined by Sicilians, fishermen whose progeny still dominate the congregation.

  • Saint Leonard's Church

    14 North Bennet Street  |  617-523-2110
    interior photo of St. Leonard's Church www.catholic-church.org/stleonard/index.html

    Founded in 1873, St. Leonard's is the first Roman Catholic Church in New England built by Italian immigrants. St. Leonard's is known to many visitors for its Saint Anthony shrine located in the downstairs church, the oldest shrine dedicated to the saint in Boston. The beautiful Peace Garden adjoining the church provides a serene haven in which visitors can escape the bustle of Hanover Street. .

  • Saint Stephen's Church

    photo of St.Stephen's Church

    401 Hanover Street  |  617-523-1230  |  www.socstjames.com

    The Missionary Society of St. James the Apositle was founded in 1958 to serve the needs of the poor in South America by then Archbishop of Boston, Richard Cardinal Cushing. At the urging of Pope John XXIII, the Society evolved into an international organization of diocesesan priests who devote fi ve years of their priesthood to service in South American missions.

  • Old North Church

    Old North Church interior

    193 Salem Street  |  617.523.6676  |  www.oldnorth.com

    The Old North Church is officially known as Christ Church in the City of Boston. It was built in 1723, and is the oldest standing church building in Boston. The enduring fame of the Old North began on the evening of April 18, 1775, when the church sexton, Robert Newman, climbed the steeple and held high two lanterns as a signal from Paul Revere that the British were advancing to Lexington and Concord by sea and not by land. This fateful event ignited the American Revolution.

  • Copp's Hill Burying Ground

    old gravestone in Copp's Hill burying ground

    Hull Street

    Boston's second oldest burying ground, it was fi rst founded in 1659, as Windmill Hill. The area got its name because a shoemaker, William Copp, once owned the land. Among others interred at Copp's Hill are the Mather family of ministers, shipyard owner Edmund Hartt, and Prince Hall, the anti-slavery activist and founder of the Black Masonic Order.

  • Molasses Flood Site

    1919 photo of molasses flood aftermath

    Commercial Street

    The Boston Molasses Disaster, also known as the Great Molasses Flood or the Great Boston Molasses Tragedy, occurred on January 15, 1919, in the North End. A large molasses tank burst and a wave of molasses ran through the streets at an estimated 35 mph (56 km/h), killing 21 and injuring 150. The event has entered local folklore, and residents claim that on hot summer days the sweet scent of molasses still fills the air.