We who live in the neighborhood consider it to be friendliest, most dynamic and most conveniently located neighborhood in Boston.
Though we may be the smallest and the least known neighborhood in Boston, we are close to the best parks, restaurants, theaters and cultural attractions in the city. The neighborhood offers an eclectic mix of architectural styles and an equally interesting mix of residents – married, single, students, professionals, families with children of all ages, varied ethnic backgrounds – all calling Bay Village their home.
Bay Village History
Since having been created by landfill in the 1820’s by developer Ephraim Marsh, Bay Village has been known at different times as the Church Street District, South Cove and Kerry Village. Many of the homes look like smaller versions of Beacon Hill townhouses because many of the craftspeople who built the Beacon Hill residences settled in this area and built the local residences for their own use. Fayette Street, named for the Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette, has numerous houses dating from the Federal Period. Grander five-story townhouses in the Greek Revival style may be found on Melrose Street. At one time, the general area became known as South Bay because the water actually came up to Arlington Street, which was then named Ferdinand Street. The massive landfills that created what is now Back Bay and the South End began in the mid-1800’s and changed this. It was during this period that some streets in Bay Village were raised 12-18 feet. You can see evidence of this today by noting the location of the basement windows in some of the buildings on Fayette Street, as well as arches opening to horsewalks that ran under the houses to stables in the rear. After the area west of Arlington Street was filled in, developers built luxury residential “hotels” in the Victorian style on Cortes and Isabella Streets.
In more recent times, Bay Village was home to many speak-easys during Prohibition. It also housed major players in the film industry such as MGM, RKO and Pathe. Pathe provided news coverage across the United States through newsreels produced in this small neighborhood. Townhouses on Piedmont, Winchester and Church Streets were demolished to make way for film warehouses. The buildings were built like fortresses, simply because the buildings had to be able to accommodate the weight of countless containers of film, which were stored in metal tins, as well as to minimize the risk of fire. In 1983, the Boston City Council enacted an ordinance forbidding exterior alterations in Bay Village without the approval of a Historic District Commission.
Bay Village was also the home of the Coconut Grove nightclub, which burned to the ground in November of 1942. This horrendous disaster killed 492 people, and its aftermath led to the creation and enforcement of stringent fire codes nationwide, in the hope of preventing another tragedy. The Bay Village Neighborhood Association placed a plaque commemorating the 50th anniversary of the fire at the club’s former site on Piedmont Street, now occupied by the Radisson Hotel.
Bay Village is bounded by Charles Street South, Marginal Road, Cortes Street, Berkeley Street, and Stuart Street. The neighborhood is directly adjacent to Park Square and Boston’s theater district.