West End

West End residents struggle to raise neighborhood’s profile
By Vivienne Belmont

Old loyalties survive

After the BRA tore it down in 1959, the West End looked like a war zone, Thomas said. But the West End, wiped clean from the city, lived on in the collective memory of those who had lived there.

That is due to the strong loyalty that former residents have for the old neighborhood. It has been nearly fifty years and the children who witnessed the destruction are now in their 50s and 60s, yet they continue to long for the lost neighborhood.

“It has been some four decades now since the last West End building was destroyed… and today just the mere mention of the West End brings a sparkle to your eyes,” wrote J. Almeida in a letter to the West Ender. “The West End was a fantastic place to live and for us who grew up there… the destruction of the West End is a pain that has no medicine.”

James Campano, the driving force behind much of the continued cohesion and nostalgia, edits and publishes a quarterly newsletter titled The West Ender. In the paper, former residents, now scattered all over the country, contribute stories, letters and photos of the old neighborhood.

“The Lazzaros, the West End Branch Library, the Lanky, Max’s, Stop & Shop, Mass Gen., Bal-A-Rue, Barney Sheff’s, Morris Hyde, the West End House dances after basketball games, the “Blacky”, North Station, Joe and Nemo’s and Clayman’s corned beef sandwiches” wrote Elise Lockhart in a letter to the West Ender.

“I remember it all.

“I remember Lauren Gould, Gerry, Vinny, Gracie Muscaritolo. When I opened a haircut shop in Belmont in 1994 I advertised in The West Ender. Gerry called and Ann Marie Spina (we were in 6th grade together). We three got together, kept in touch for a while. It was as though all those years had never come in between our friendships. That’s what the West End was all about.”

Campano is also struggling to get funding to open a museum commemorating the old West End. The funds that Campano has collected are quickly being depleted by the $900 a month condominium fees and expenses related to starting up.

Only a few of the old West Enders have returned to the neighborhood, Campano said, because few can afford the rents, even today. Some live in subsidized units at the Blackstone, a retirement home built in the 1970s, and others live in the Amy Lowell, a building run by the Boston Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Historical West End Museum will open in the West End Place on Lomasney Way.

The West End Place, built in the 1990s, was designed to resemble the former West End buildings, which were four to five story tenement buildings, and in the original plans, the West End residents were supposed to be offered first claim on the units, Campano said. But the plan fell through when federal laws allowed only a few of the low- to moderate-income units to be reserved for the West Enders, according to news reports.

One resident, who doesn’t want to be named, confirmed that only eight families from the old West End live at West End Place.

“[The BRA] went out of their way to discourage people to come here,” Campano said.

“It was a really friendly area, very friendly…. You could leave your doors unlocked. Nobody bothered you. We had a mixed population of all nationalities. We were like brothers and sisters.” –Ray Lapointe

The old West Enders did manage to get a unit in the West End Place to house the museum.

Ray Lapointe, 84, lived on Staniford Street in the old West End, but he had to move after urban renewal because the high-rise apartments in Charles River Park were too expensive.

“I had a beautiful apartment,” said Lapointe. “But the rent went up so high I had to move. It was a really friendly area, very friendly…. You could leave your doors unlocked. Nobody bothered you. We had a mixed population of all nationalities. We were like brothers and sisters.”

“[The neighborhood] is not getting any recognition. It seems like the politicians ignore us.” –Ray Lapointe

After urban renewal Lapointe moved to Beacon Hill where he lived for 31 years before moving into the Blackstone in the West End. Today, he enjoys living in the West End because it is a convenient location, but he is concerned that the city pays little attention to the area.

“[The neighborhood] is not getting any recognition. It seems like the politicians ignore us,” Lapointe said.

Next: A New West End Emerges

Inside this story:

West End Home
1. A Historic Past
2. Old Loyalties Survive
3. A New West End Emerges

Photo Gallery
Old West End
New West End

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West End History


 

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