The South End Historical Society's Local/Focus Installation for April Showcases 1912 Maps, Images of Chester Square and a Slide Show of Ye Old South End in the Library's Tremont Street Window


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The South End Historical Society (SEHS) has called Chester Square home since the mid-1970s. SEHS was founded in 1966 by a group of residents concerned with preserving the unique architectural integrity of the neighborhood. As a result, SEHS filed an application to have the South End listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. As part of the application, SEHS took photographs of every existing building in the South End during that time, and these photos are now part of SEHS’s largest collection.

The City of Boston created Chester Street and Chester Square in 1850 as a grand boulevard and residential square for the South End’s fashionable upper middle-class residents. It was the widest and grandest of the neighborhood’s famed garden squares, with several walking paths and a three-tiered cast iron fountain situated in the center of the park. A 987-foot cast iron fence identical to the lotus style fence that still surrounds Beacon Hill’s Louisburg Square enclosed the park. 

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In the 1950s, Boston divided Chester Park with a six-lane continuation of Massachusetts Avenue to accommodate traffic from the newly constructed Southeast Expressway. It destroyed the square, which became run down. A recent redesign of the divided park by Halverson Design Partnership encourages pedestrian traffic and created small gathering spaces. The twin fountains recall the original fountain and help buffer the sounds of traffic from Mass Ave. The park is maintained by the City of Boston and the Chester Square Area Neighborhood Association.

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Local/Focus is a program sponsored by the Friends of the South End Library to connect the South End branch of the BPL with local artists, non-profit institutions and creative entrepreneurs through informative and interesting installations in the library’s Tremont Street window(s).