"Holyoke Street, a single block of row houses in the South End of Boston, was built in the 1860s as housing for upper- and middle-class families," is how Lynne Potts begins the memoir of her time in what is now the largest Victorian neighborhood in the United States. In a carefully documented paperback illustrated with photographs and drawings, the author weaves a history of the beginnings of the South End in the early 1800s, when it was still mostly underwater, to its nascent form as a neighborhood for wealthy Bostonians decades later, and its subsequent decline toward the end of the 19th century. How it reemerged in the 20th and 21st centuries as one of the most sought-after and diverse neighborhoods in Boston is the tale with which she intertwines her own, arriving first in 1968 from New York City as a student and ten years later as a single mother with two young children, Sam and Emmy, to whom the book is dedicated. Many names of local characters who helped shape the history of the neighborhood can be found in the pages of this delightful book, some still around, others not, including Eleanor Strong, Allan Crite, Ann Hershfang, Marcie Curry and Mel King. The movement to preserve open space in the neighborhood by means of establishing community garden plots, the opening of first Bread and Circus store (now Whole Foods), the creation of Southwest Corridor Park and historic fights to keep the South End branch of the Boston Public Library open are covered as well. In the 1980s, Potts began to write about it all for The South End News, then just founded as a 24-page local newspaper by Alison Barnet and Skip Rosenthal.
Lynne Potts is a poet who currently lives both in the South End and in New York City, where she received an MFA from Columbia University. Her poems have appeared in the Paris Review and other literary journals, and she was the Poetry Editor of the Columbia Journal of Literature and Art. Her five favorite books are listed under The South End Reads on this web site.