The South End neighborhood of Boston lies south of the Back Bay, and northwest of South Boston, northeast of Roxbury, north of Dorchester, and southwest of Bay Village. It is North America's largest surviving Victorian residential district.
The neighborhood is built on a former tidal marsh, a part of a larger project of the filling of Boston's Back Bay (north and west of Washington Street) and South Bay (south and east of Washington Street), from the 1830s to the 1870s. Fill was brought in by trains from large trenches of gravel excavated in Needham, Massachusetts. The South End was filled and developed first, before the Back Bay which was mostly built after the American Civil War.
The South End was once bordered to the north and west by the Boston & Providence Railroad, which terminated at the B&P RR Station bordering the Public Garden. The railroad line is now covered by the Southwest Corridor Park and terminates at Back Bay Station. Most of the cross streets in the neighborhood are named after cities and towns served by the railroad: Greenwich, Connecticut, Newton, Canton, Dedham, Brookline, Rutland, Vermont, Concord, Worcester, Springfield, Camden, Maine, Northampton, Sharon, Randolph, Plympton, Stoughton, Waltham, Dover, Chatham, Bristol, Connecticut, and Wareham.
The MBTA Orange Line rapid transit train runs along the partially covered Southwest Corridor, with neighborhood stops at Back Bay (also an MBTA Commuter Rail stop due to its proximity to the Copley Square employment center) and Massachusetts Avenue.
The South End is built mostly of mid-nineteenth century bowfronts — aesthetically uniform rows of five-story, predominantly red-brick structures, of mixed residential and commercial uses. The most common styles are Renaissance Revival, Italianate and French Second Empire, though there are Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, and Queen Anne style houses, among several other styles. Despite the style, a common palette of red brick, slate, limestone or granite trim, and cast iron railings provide great visual unity. Over the last few years, many of its Victorian brick row houses have been converted into luxury condos, and the local shops and retailers have kept par with the upward trend. The lovely neighborhoods that make up the South End all seem to have small markets, trendy restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and art galleries on just about every corner.
Although there are many side streets and neighborhoods in the South End, the major shops and restaurants are located on either Tremont Street, Washington Street, or Columbus Avenue. In addition to the many brown stones that line them, several large condominium buildings have been constructed in recent years, or converted from older structures. One such project is the new D4 condominiums by famed architect Philip Starck, which was converted from the old D4 Fire Station. Other new buildings include: The Penmark, Atelier505, The Modern, The Metropolitan, and Laconia Lofts.
Eleven residential parks are located across the South End, most are oval in shape with passive-use green space located in the middle. These residential squares vary in size, and take inspiration from English-inspired residential squares first laid out by Charles Bullfinch downtown. Many of the parks have a central fountain and are bordered with cast iron fencing. Complimenting the nineteenth century residential parks are several newer parks, and a series of sixteen community gardens and pocket parks operated by the South End Lower Roxbury Open Space Land Trust.
The neighborhood is very diverse, integrating people of nearly every race, religion, and sexual orientation.
While known for being a mostly upper middle class, gay/cultural neighborhood, housing in the South End is very expensive by US and Greater Boston standards. Although very expensive compared to most areas, it is still relatively inexpensive compared to other central Boston neighborhoods like the Back Bay and Beacon Hill.
The South End is home to "restaurant row', offering a diverse mix of cuisines, many at a relatively high price point. The South End's range of restaurants include American southern "Low Country", French, Ethiopian, Brazilian, Indian, Italian, Korean, Greek, Middle Eastern, Cuban, Thai, and Japanese among others. The South End has a growing retail presence, much of it aimed primarily at upper-middle class shoppers.
New retail shops offer a range of home furnishings, men's and women's clothing, stationary, specialty foods, spa services and a rapidly growing number of manicure and pedicure shops.