South End


Development in the South End between 1850 and 1873 focused primarily on the construction of fashionable, single-family rowhouses.  These three and four-story structures, built on filled-in marshland, are markedly uniform; restrictions on building size and materials, along with the presence of real estate speculators who built rows of identical houses, led to a remarkable degree of visual unity.

The development focus in the South End shifted from single-family to multi-family housing following the Financial Panic of 1873.  As many well-off Bostonians moved from the South End to the newly developed Back Bay, development and construction in the South End began to focus more and more on multi-family dwellings and lodging houses that would be accessible to the working classes.  This trend continued until the mid-1880s, at which point nearly all new residences in the South End were lodging houses.  Development in the South End continued through the early twentieth century, sometimes with new lodging houses being built where rowhouses had once stood.

It was around this time that land use in the area expanded to include commercial, industrial, and institutional uses.  The many immigrant groups that settled in the South End during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including Germans, Irish, Armenians, and Greeks, among others, formed religious congregations that either built new churches or adapted existing structures to suit their needs.  Buildings such as the Hotel St. Cloud were designed to include apartments for the well-to-do, and many residential structures began to include storefronts at the ground level.

Today, the South End is characterized by two predominant building types.  The most common type of building is the double basement, bow-fronted rowhouse with a mansard roof.  The second type of building is the low basement, flat-fronted rowhouse faced with brick and often adorned with a projecting oriel window.  Within these two types of buildings several architectural styles are represented.  The most common of these is the Italianate style, with Greek Revival, Renaissance Revival, and Second Empire styles also present.  Greater variety in design and materials can be found in areas such as Washington Street and other major streets where some lots pre-dated the City’s land filling efforts; Massachusetts Avenue (Chester Park), where larger lots and wider streets enabled the construction of more lavish homes; and Shawmut Avenue, where many simple Greek Revival style houses preceded the later trend of the bow front house.


The South End Landmark District and Protection Area were designated in 1983.

Scope of Review

All exterior work at front facades, all exterior work at rooftops (when visible from a public way), and all exterior work at side and rear elevations (when side and rear elevations face a public way) are subject to the review of the South End Landmark District Commission.  A Certificate of Appropriateness, Design Approval, or Exemption Application must be submitted to and approved by the Commission prior to beginning any exterior work that is subject to Commission review. See the Standards and Criteria for the South End Landmark District Commission for further information.

In the South End Landmark District Protection Area, only certain items of work are subject to review.  See the South End Landmark District Protection Area Standards and Criteria for further information.

Applications, application instructions, and a schedule of filing deadlines and hearing dates are available below.  To save time and costs, property owners and developers are encouraged to contact staff early on in the project planning process, in order to obtain information on compliance with guidelines.

Katie Reed, preservation planner for the South End Landmarks District, may be reached at or at 617-635-3850.

  • Please note that Commission staff is not available to review applications for completeness immediately upon submittal. 

  • Please review all instructions and documentation requirements carefully before submitting your application. 

  • It is your responsibility to ensure the application is complete before submittal.  Incomplete applications will not be accepted.

South End Information

Certificate of Appropriateness, Design Approval, and Exemption Application


  • SELDC Agenda June 2016

    The South End Landmark District Commission will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 at 5:30 p.m. in Boston City Hall, Piemonte Room, 5th Floor.

    SELDC Agenda June 2016 AMENDED

South End Landmark District Commission Agenda Archive

Social Media »