Sites

What is it like to live in Boston’s North End?

Location, Location, Location Boston North End
Salem Street in Boston's North End is a great place to walk.
Salem Street in Boston's North End is a great place to walk. Jonathan Wiggs/GlobeStaff

Nancy Caruso said she never leaves her home without bumping into someone she knows.

“The best part of the North End is you see the same people day in and day out,’’ Caruso said, regarding Boston’s traditionally Italian neighborhood. Her family immigrated to the North End from Italy in the late 1930s, settling on Endicott Street. Caruso still lives on that street today, but in a different building.

She reflected on the days when the North End was filled with nearly all Italians and when the women would spend Saturday mornings washing their windows and sweeping the steps while the men went to work. All would chitchat on the sidewalks.

Though Caruso — who is involved with North End/Waterfront Neighborhood Council, North End Waterfront Health, and other local organizations — misses parts of the North End’s past, she thinks the neighborhood still has everything people need.

“We have just about everything down here,’’ Caruso said. “We have the best butcher shop downtown. Who would go to big markets when you can get fresh meat here every day?’’

She also mentioned the neighborhood’s coffee shops, pastry stores, library, churches, schools, and historical sites and the myriad activities.

“In the North End you stay young forever,’’ Caruso said. “No one gets old. The years go by, but who cares? That’s just the calendar.’’

 

BY THE NUMBERS

1680

The year that the famed Paul Revere house was built, which was long before the patriot owned it. It is one of the only frame structures of its period left in the central part of the city. According to the Boston Landmarks Commission, disastrous fires in 1676 and 1679 encouraged building in “the red brick that has been the hallmark of the North End ever since.’’

90

The percentage of neighborhood residents of Italian heritage by 1920. In 1855, nearly half of North Enders were Irish. The influxes of Polish and Russian Jews and Italian immigrants began in the 1870s, according to the Boston Landmarks Commission.

21

The number of people killed in the Great Molasses Flood of 1919, which also crushed buildings and tore a firehouse from its foundation. According to a study, the tank was stressed well beyond capacity and made from a steel susceptible to fracture, the Globe reported.

1630s

When the North End was settled. It it considered the city’s oldest residential community, according to the Boston Planning & Development Agency.

2,200+

The number of grave markers in Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. The earliest dates to 1661.

 

PROS & CONS

Pro

Feasts

There are fewer feasts now, but the North End still hosts five full-scale ones. Hundreds of thousands eat, drink, and watch the processions.

Con

It’s not easy being popular

Whether they are walking the Freedom Trail or just coming to eat, tourists fill the neighborhood’s winding streets (and wait in line at its restaurants) much of the year.

Pro

Ah, yes, the food

The North End has some of Boston’s highest-rated restaurants. Don’t forget the cafes, gelaterias, bakeries, meat and fish markets, and delis.

Modern Pastry is a fixture on Hanover Street in Boston’s North End. —Jonathan Wiggs/GlobeStaff
Hanover Street in the North End. —Jonathan Wiggs/GlobeStaff
Interior of the Old North Church, in Boston’s North End. —Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Domenic Pizziferri is photographed inside Modern Pastry on Hanover Street. He was picking up a birthday cake for a cousin who is turning 80 years old. —Jonathan Wiggs/GlobeStaff
Saint Leonard Church, in Boston’s North End. —Jonathan Wiggs/GlobeStaff
Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. —Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
A bustling Hanover Street in the North End. —Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
The Paul Revere Statue. —Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
The Paul Revere House. —Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Megan Turchi, a reporter for Boston.com, can be reached at megan.turchi@boston.com. Follow her on Twitter @meganturchi.