Fall House Hunt: What is it like to live in the South End?

Buying Location, Location, Location Boston South End
A bronze sculpture dedicated to the memory of Harriet Tubman, who lead many enslaved African-Americans to freedom and had strong ties to Boston’s abolitionist movement.
A bronze sculpture dedicated to Harriet Tubman, who lead many enslaved African-Americans to freedom and had strong ties to Boston’s abolitionist movement. Pat Greenhouse/Globe staff

In search of a place where neighbors enjoy sitting out on their stoops and aren’t too in a rush to have “long-winded chats,’’ Steve Fox and his future husband left the Back Bay and rented a row house apartment on Dartmouth Place in the South End in the late 1980s.

The centerpiece of the couple’s apartment was a camelback couch that was “just drop-dead gorgeous, and it was a beautiful, brilliant shade of green.’’

After two years, Fox noticed a wave of South End apartments being converted into condominiums, and then it was time for his. If they wanted to remain in the neighborhood, they had to buy. In their 20s, and with Fox’s partner beginning his medical residency, the two pooled their scant resources and bought a condo in a bow-front Victorian brownstone a few blocks away on Rutland Square, where they still live today.

As for the green camelback couch — a newly renovated entryway in the old apartment made it impossible to move it. It didn’t fit through the windows either.

“For all I know it’s still at Dartmouth Place,’’ he said.

It’s been nearly 30 years, and Fox said moving to the South End was the best decision he’s ever made. It was a place with a budding gay community during a “time you could feel less threatened; coming home from a bar at one in the morning you were likely to meet someone else on the street rather than feeling you were going to get beaten up. It was a really evolutionary time in the South End.’’

He became active in the community and 15 years ago cofounded the South End Forum, an umbrella group for the 17 neighborhood associations that advocate for the South End. Fox is the chairman.

As one of the city’s most desired neighborhoods, the South End has become a mix of multimillion-dollar homes and low-income public-housing communities, like Villa Victoria on Tremont Street. Fox said his focus now is on helping bring in more affordable and workforce housing.

“We kind of wanted the stability of wanting to call a place our home and create a social fabric in our neighborhoods,’’ Fox said. “Coming into the South End means you automatically are going to have to deal with different strata of socioeconomic means. That’s part of what creates neighborhoods.’’

Steve Fox of the South End. —Handout



The year the South End was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It boasts the largest Victorian brick row house district in the country.


The year the South End became a Landmark District, which means any changes to existing structures require approval.


The sole surviving street from the South End’s former New York Streets area, razed in the mid-1950s as part of urban renewal. Albany Street was one of the streets named after places in New York along a railroad route to Boston. The others were Troy, Rochester, Genesee, Oswego, Oneida, and Seneca.


The percentage by which the South End population grew from 2000 to 2015, outpacing the city’s growth of 15 percent over the same time period.



Its nearly 30 parks, open space, and thriving arts community

Even as its population grows, the South End doesn’t feel claustrophobic, thanks to its tree-lined streets and many pocket parks. The neighborhood lends itself to many outdoor events — including the popular SoWa Open Market featuring artists, farmers, chefs, and an adjacent food truck lineup — and the two-day Festival Betances, an annual celebration of Latino culture. The neighborhood is also home to a number of art galleries and boasts some of the city’s most popular restaurants.


Increasingly unaffordable for middle-income earners

So-called workforce housing is almost nonexistent in the South End as property values continue to skyrocket. Brownstones that were once multifamily are increasingly being converted into single-family dwellings. Longtime resident Steve Fox said that trend “is attracting an investor class that can sometimes destabilize the nature of a neighborhood.’’ The real estate website Zillow recently put the median home value in the South End at $827,200, up 7.1 percent over the past year.

Katheleen Conti can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKContiSubscribe to our free real estate newsletter — our weekly digest on buying, selling, and design — at