District of Columbia County, District of Columbia
March 2, 2005
The historic North End is Boston’s oldest neighborhood and one of the city’s most interesting areas. Once separated for from the rest of the city by the ugly, rusting, elevated John Fitzgerald Expressway, on this visit, it was quite a positive change to find this neighborhood no longer feeling so isolated. The once elevated "green monster" freeway is now underground thanks to the decades-long Big Dig, and the old, elevated structure is a thing of the past. Within a few years, the old freeway route will be developed into a new greenbelt of parks lined by new residential and commercial development. In the meantime, a barren construction zone remains, but even that is a remarkable improvement over the old freeway.
Visitors to the North End will find a variety of historic sites important to the American Revolution, including Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, the final resting place for several important colonists and a British armament during the war; Old North Church, where Paul Revere’s famous signal lanterns were hung; and Paul Revere’s house (which is incidentally the city’s oldest surviving clapboard home), which is open as a museum. You’ll also find the beautiful Italian Renaissance St. Stephen’s Church; the peculiar Narrowest House; and a host of Italian restaurants, coffee shops, and bakeries on Hanover Street, reflecting the neighborhood’s history as a home for Italian immigrants.
The North End is one of my favorite parts of Boston, and the removal of the old elevated Central Artery just improves it. With the noise of the old freeway and the associated construction project to put it underground gone, a walk through the North End is more enjoyable than ever before. On this trip, we visited the North End our first afternoon in Boston, after having flown up that morning, checking into the hotel, and eating lunch at Quincy Market. As a result, we arrived in the neighborhood too late to tour any of the historic buildings (most close at 4pm during the winter), but we were still able to stroll through the Italian business district on Hanover, enjoy the beautiful setting of Paul Revere Mall in the snow, and explore the historic gravesites of Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. The walk through the neighborhood was quite enjoyable, and I did not miss getting to go into sites like Old North Church, St. Stephen’s, and the Paul Revere house that much, as I had toured these three buildings before.
In addition to the major historic sites in the North End, the neighborhood is full of old houses and multi-family residential buildings, many of which are very expensive condos today. This neighborhood is so pleasant and so important to the history of Boston and the American Revolution that a visit here is an absolute must. And while you’re in the area, don’t miss having a meal or stopping for snack of coffee and pastries at one of the fine Hanover Street restaurants or bakeries.
From journal Winter Weekend in Boston