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South End Landmark District

The South End Landmark District was designated in 1983.

The South End Landmark  District Commission (SELDC) meets on the first Tuesday of each month to review proposed exterior design changes and alterations.


PLEASE NOTE FOR 2017: We now accept applications on a rolling basis. Staff must determine that your application is "complete" fifteen (15) business days prior to the public hearing date for it to be added to an agenda. We cannot add incomplete applications to a public hearing agenda.

All exterior work at front facades, all exterior work at rooftops (when visible from a public way), and all exterior work at side and rear elevations (when side and rear elevations directly face a public way) are subject to the review of the SELDC.  You must submit a Design Approval Application to the Commission and it must be approved by the Commission before beginning any exterior work that is subject to Commission review. In the South End Landmark District Protection Area, only certain items of work are subject to review.

  • To save time and costs, please contact staff early in the planning process to determine project compliance with the standards and criteria.
  • Review all instructions and documentation requirements before submitting your application to ensure it is complete. Only complete applications will be added to a public hearing agenda.
  • Please review all instructions and documentation requirements before submitting your application.
  • Submit your application well in advance of a filing deadline in case it is marked incomplete and additional or revised information needs to be submitted.
  • Staff is not available to review applications for completeness immediately upon submittal.
  • Do not begin any work, or buy materials, until after you have received confirmation you project has been approved.

Originally marshland and a narrow strip of land called The Neck (now Washington Street), the South End is a unique neighborhood consisting of historic residential blocks, graceful parks, and main thoroughfares lined with commercial, industrial and institutional buildings.  

From 1850 to 1873, after the marsh was filled, South End development focused on fashionable, single-family rowhouses.  Real estate speculators constructed three and four-story structures in long uniform rows because they faced restrictions on building size and materials. This led to a remarkable degree of visual unity throughout the neighborhood.

After the Financial Panic of 1873, the most wealthy Bostonians moved to the brand new Back Bay, and construction in the South End focused on multi-family properties. By the turn of the century, lodging houses geared towards the working class were almost the only residential structures built.   

Early in the 20th century, commercial, industrial, and institutional uses became popular along the main streets in the South End. Immigrant groups built churches or adapted existing structures, and hotels appeared to accommodate travelers. Many residential structures now include storefronts at the ground level.

Today, there are two main rowhouse types in the South End.  Most common is the double basement, bow-fronted rowhouse with a mansard roof. The second most common type is the low basement, flat-fronted rowhouse faced with brick and often adorned with a projecting oriel window.  The most common architectural style is Italianate, with Greek Revival, Renaissance Revival, and Second Empire styles also present.