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Westenders respond
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 follow-up story!
-- 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

For an audioslide show of the quotes and scenes of the West End urban renewal project, go to http://boston.com/business/specials/westenders.
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