A Changing Canal Street

By Kathleen Bondi
October 2017

As the weather in Boston begins to cool, the sports scene heats up. There’s the onset of Soxtober playoffs plus more Patriots’ action and — in the West End — the Bruins home season opener and the Celtics last preseason home game at the TD Garden.

If you haven’t visited the home turf lately, you may be surprised by the changing landscape around North Station and the nearby pre- and post-game staple, Canal Street. Bars like Boston Beer Works and The Fours are game day favorites, but stroll a bit further and you’ll see an evolving neighborhood welcoming new residents and businesses. This past July saw the first of what will hopefully become an annual block party type of event on this street.

Open Canal St

A perfect summer day in Boston can sweeten the thoughts of even the saltiest New Englander. To walk through the city under blue skies with the sun on your skin and the occasional waft of sea mist in the air is to experience the finest of days in the city. The Open Canal Street celebration on July 8 began as one of those days and saw visitors from all walks of life come together to enjoy a neighborhood that has seen many iterations over the years.

Boston sports teams who call The TD Garden home were well represented. Boston Bruins mascot, “Blades,” took pictures with those in attendance, and folks from the Celtics organization provided a basketball net and other games for all to enjoy.

Barbara Haley & Paula Andreottola at Museum's Open Canal St. table

Barbara Haley & Paula Andreottola at Museum’s Open Canal St. table

Local area business opened their doors, vendors set up on the street, and live music played. Parents pushed strollers, while kids played corn hole and blew bubbles. Volunteers from The West End Museum were on hand to talk about the history of the area, invite people to visit the Museum, and to simply offer conversation.

Although attendance at the first Open Canal Street celebration suffered a bit from competition with the Boston Pizza Festival happening on nearby City Hall Plaza, the mood was fun and lighthearted.

The purpose of events like Open Canal Street is to bring people together to notice and enjoy Boston’s many diverse neighborhoods. With the construction of new high-rise apartment and condo buildings in the West End, plus major renovation plans for The TD Garden on the horizon, new residents will soon inhabit and frequent Canal and the surrounding streets.

Already rich in history and culture, the West End is undergoing yet another transformation, hopefully one that will bring back some of the sense of community, walkability and vitality of the old neighborhood. Open Canal Street aimed to expose new residents and tourists alike to this sometimes overlooked part of the city. We at the Museum encourage newcomers to lay down deep roots in our historically tight-knit community and happily invite everyone to visit us and hear the fascinating tale of Boston’s West End.

As the city looks to the future, we’re reminded that it’s always important to remember and respect the past. We’re also reminded that our communities are strengthened when we are able to come together, even if it’s just to talk and watch kids play basketball on a sunny day.