In 2014, Boston’s West End neighborhood continued its transition into a dynamic residential and corporate address. In some ways, the changing neighborhood is a reminder of the incredible transformation that occurred more than half a century ago as residents of the old West End relocated amid the slum clearance project that gave rise to a modern urban landscape.
On January 24 2014, the West End Museum premiered a new exhibit, A Neighborhood in Transition: 1961 -‐ 1980, featuring the photographs of West End resident Charles Frani, who snapped hundreds of images of his changing neighborhood over the course of two decades.
Exhibit Co-‐Curators Duane Lucia and Giselle Valdes spent hours poring through a large collection of Frani photographs to select those that most vividly depict the transformation and evolution of Boston’s West End. Valdes then painstakingly restored all of the chosen images—both original photo negatives and digital scans. The resulting exhibit captures the contrasting currents that swept out old West Enders while welcoming in new ones. Frani’s photographs provide a stark reminder of how thousands of Bostonians were driven from their well-‐worn tenement homes while others moved into gleaming, high-‐rise apartments.
“Most of the 8,000-‐plus West End residents evicted from their homes by 1960 had moved on,” according to Lucia. “However, seeing images of the final stages of the destruction of the neighborhood and the lingering few people and businesses left going about their daily chores as if normal resonates of a wartime surrealism.”
Frani captured key moments in Boston’s transition from an old, economically depressed city to a gentrified, world-‐ class center of education, healthcare and technology. One of the featured photos shows a crowd watching as firefighters battle smoke and flames at the Old Howard Theater in Scollay Square. The Howard, which had become a burlesque house and was closed by city censors in 1951, was razed after the mysterious 1961 fire. In its place, Boston built its new Government Center.
Exhibit and design copyright Duane Lucia and Giselle Valdes.