From left to right: The West End in the 1950s; during the demolition; present day.
Letters to the Editor
On May 17, Boston Globe reporter Thomas C. Palmer Jr. wrote a story detailing the Boston Redevelopment Authority's decision in the 1950s and '60s to build the $40 million urban renewal project Charles River Park. The project wiped out almost all of Boston's West End neighborhood. After nearly half a century, the new owners of the same apartment complex that once uprooted 2,800 families decided to change the name to "West End Apartments."
Below are readers' responses to Palmer's article:
Thank you for Thomas C. Palmer Jr.'s interesting story on the West End.
I'm writing to clarify whether you intended to say that Charles River Park
is being renamed. As a resident of Hawthorne Place, I
am not aware of any initiative to rename the complex. It appears that the
two high-rise buildings and three townhouse buildings currently under
construction in the Park will be called West End Apartments, but I am not
aware that the developer of these buildings, Equity Residential Properties
Trust, has any intention of renaming the entire mixed-use complex of
condominiums, apartment buildings, and commercial establishments. You may
want to put a clarification in the paper, unless you have correctly
characterized Equity's intentions, in which case you may need to do a
-- Susan R. Boyle, Boston
I just finished reading Thomas C. Palmer Jr.'s article during my morning
break at MGH. I was a toddler when my dad, Joseph Caruso, spearheaded an
organization against developer Jerome L. Rappaport Sr. and the Boston Housing Authority. Even
though that was more than 40 years ago, the wounds are still open. Many
residents have wonderful memories of growing up in the West End, which was
truly a culturally diverse neighborhood. My dad is 84 years old and still
maintains friendships with people he grew up with. Also the West End is
studied even today in our university's sociology departments as the worst
case of urban renewal on record.
-- Margaret Caruso Wilson, Wakefield
"Urban Villagers," written by Herbert Gans, is the definitive story of the
West End. It was a multi-ethnic area of the city that worked because the
residents got along with each other. Its land was coveted by the city and
taken by eminent domain to be given to a private developer. The Catholic
Church also abandoned its faithful, and they received Regina Cleri for their
retired clerics. St. Joseph's Church was spared the wrecking ball as a
result. "Pardon our dust" was also a sign at the project. Getting rid of
undesirables was the message. The project galvanized much of the city
against urban "renewal" and saved a good part of Charlestown, altlhough we
also had private land taken and given to private developers. It was
brutal, almost Soviet in method, but the final result was middle-class
people coming back into the city. I know I would have never moved into the
city 36 years ago unless I saw the promise of what could be.
-- Lawrence Rinaldi, Charlestown
I really enjoyed Thomas C. Palmer Jr.'s article. I have been a resident of
Hawthorne Place since 1989, and my parents met and grew up in the West End.
Thanks for giving our amazing neighborhood some terrific coverage.
-- Ann Marie Lyons, Boston