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Street Tour of Union Park in Boston’s South End

Posted by Moshe on August 17, 2012
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Union Park is arguably the most iconic and desirable block in the South End neighborhood of Boston. Union Park is the section of the street located between Tremont Street and Shawmut Avenue, whereas the rest of the street is known as Union Park Street. The evolved neighborhood aspect of the area are a large draw, as is the proximity to many of the city’s best dining options. The location also provides  an easy commute to offices in Back Bay, the Financial District, and Downtown. The sunny nature of the wide street built around a park is another reason the block is sought after, but the combination of all Union Park offers is what sets it above other blocks in the area.

Another aspect to the appeal of Union Park is the large footprints of the buildings, with Union Park lots offering some of the widest lots in the South End. Chester Square on Massachusetts Avenue and Worcester Square are the other two South End blocks known for their wide lots.

The Union Park block was inspired by the elegant garden squares of London and followed Charles Bullfinch’s use of park squares in downtown Boston. Union Park and Worcester Square, another South End park square, were laid out as parks in 1851. Construction of the houses surrounding Union Park was complete by 1859.

The original design of the park included fountains topped by the mythological “Leda and the Swan” and featured a central path of crushed stone. The path was lined trellises and flower beds with a row of elm trees along each side. The fourteen original trees survived until the 1990′s and it is said their high canopy formed a cathedral over the park, which was particularly beautiful when covered with snow.

Union-Park-in-Bostons-South-End

The original cast-iron fence surrounding the park matched the one around Beacon Hill‘s Louisburg Square. The fence present today replaced the original in 1913 and was restored in 2009.

The homes surrounding Union Park consist of both flat and bow-front brick row houses originally built as single-family mansions. The homes feature Victorian details such as their ornate cast-iron fences and railings, operable wood shutters, and carved limestone headers above the windows and entryways. Examples of various architectural styles are present around the block such as Greek Revival, Italianate, and Renaissance Revival.

Stone stoops leading to the parlor level are another feature of Union Park homes. Warm summer nights often result in residents enjoying  the weather with their neighbors. A couple of years ago, the stoops were filled with wine-drinking residents watching Ben Affleck and Tommy Lee Jones film a scene from the movie Company Men.

Whole buildings sold in the last 10 years as either single-family homes or multi-family buildings sold between $1.22 million and $4.55 million with a median price of $2.2 million. These buildings are around 35,000 square feet, which means they sold for an average price per square foot of $480.

Many of the the houses built at single-family homes have been divided into condos over the years. These condos range from a two bedroom/1 bath with 811 square feet that sold for $426 thousand to a 3 bedroom/3.5 bath condo with 3400 square feet that sold for $3.275 million. The median price of condos on the block was $685 thousand over the last ten years with an average of $661 per square foot.

Former famous residents of Union Park include:

  • 4 Union Park – John Quincy Adams Brackett, Governor of Massachusetts. The house last sold in 2006 for $4.55 million.
  • 5 Union Park – Samuel Stillman Pierce of S.S. Pierce & Co. The grocery magnante got his start by bartering with ship capitains in Boston Harbor, exchanging provisions for delicacies from foreign ports. His business thrived in part because of celebrity clients Daniel Webster, John Quincy Adams, and Oliver Wendall Homes, Sr. The house last sold in 2005 for $2.1 million.
  • 16 Union Park – H.P. Kidder, founder of the stock brokerage firm Kidder, Peabody, and Co.
  • 34 Union Park – Alexander H. Rice, politician. Rice was a founder of the Republican party in Massachusetts and the first Republican Mayor of Boston. During his tenure as Mayor, Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood was developed. Rice went on to serve as a member of Congress during the Civil War and then as Governor of Massachusetts.
  • 51 Union Park – Dr. Joseph H. Warren, medical aide to Abraham Lincoln.

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