End residents struggle to raise neighborhood’s
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
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.
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
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.
A New West End Emerges