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Bay Village

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1825–1967. Broadway, Columbus Ave., and Shawmut, Berkeley, Cortes, and Fayette sts.
  • 42-52 Fayette Street (Peter Vanderwarker or Antonina Smith)

In Boston it is safe to assume that any flat terrain represents filled land, and the tiny enclave south of Park Square known as Bay Village is no exception. Following the construction of a tidal dam in 1825, brick row houses, modest in size but charming in detail, began to rise on the former mudflats of the South Cove. Some early houses were occupied by housewrights working on nearby Beacon Hill. The very earliest, such as those at 42–52 Fayette Street, are notable for their elliptically arched entrance recesses and splayed window lintels, typical of the Federal style. Later houses, such as 33–37 Melrose Street, feature the square-headed openings and heavy entablatures of the Greek Revival. The mid-nineteenth-century bowfronts of 137–145 Arlington Street and 1–11 Cortes Street, by contrast, recall those of the adjacent South End, while the Queen Anne style popular in the 1880s appears at 8–34 Isabella Street. At 35–37 Winchester Street (1967, Hardy, Holzman and Pfeiffer), a note of modernity in the brick fabric is struck by the asymmetrical articulation of windows and doors with ocular openings on the lower-story walls.

In the first half of the twentieth century, commercial and light industrial uses became prevalent within the neighborhood, adding a number of handsome warehouse and factory buildings to the local building stock. Some were exotically Moderne in style, as at 95–97 Broadway and 105–115 Broadway. The proximity of Bay Village to the Theater District made it particularly attractive to the entertainment industry. Several Hollywood studios, including MGM, United Artists, and Columbia Pictures (45 Church Street), built film distribution facilities in the neighborhood, some of which remained active until quite recently. Designated as a local historic district in 1984, Bay Village has experienced many of the same development pressures that have transformed other downtown Boston neighborhoods, as rooming houses, nightclubs, and commercial and industrial enterprises have yielded to a seemingly unquenchable demand for luxury housing. Ironically, after many decades of mixed use, the neighborhood is perhaps more exclusively residential today than it was in the nineteenth century.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan


What's Nearby


Keith N. Morgan, "Bay Village", [Boston, Massachusetts], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Massachusetts

Buildings of Massachusetts: Metropolitan Boston, Keith N. Morgan, with Richard M. Candee, Naomi Miller, Roger G. Reed, and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, 130-131.

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