After three years of going virtual amid the pandemic, the South End Historical Society ‘s 55th annual South End House Tour will return as an in-person event on Saturday, Oct. 21, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The tour features an inside look at five restored and renovated homes in the largest Victorian rowhouse district in the U.S., which spans 300 acres, said Jason Amos, executive director of the SEHS, and which he estimates comprises around 3,000 buildings.
“We think we have some really interesting houses, and we think people will be excited to see them,” said Amos, who added he couldn’t divulge the locations of the featured houses ahead of the tour out of respect for the privacy of the homeowners.
Tour-goers will receive each a guidebook, which includes descriptions of the private homes and a map so that they can design a tour at their own pace or follow the suggested route.
In addition to the five single-family homes included on the tour, this year will also feature the South End Burying Ground, located on Washington Street between East Concord and East Newton streets, as one of the stops along the way. Its grounds will be open for the duration of the tour, while a talk about the Burying Ground will be offered at 11 a.m. and again at 2 p.m.
“When the South End Burying Ground was opened in 1810, it was located on the narrow strip of marshland, Roxbury Neck, which connected the peninsula of Boston to the mainland,” according a description of the Burying Ground available on the City of Boston’s website (https://www.boston.gov/cemeteries/south-end-burying-ground). “The gallows stood at the east edge of the burying ground, near the tidewaters of South Boston Bay, leading to the persistent myth that primarily hanged pirates and other criminal were buried here. In fact, it is difficult to know exactly who is buried here. In the nineteenth century, people of modest means had recorded, but unmarked graves. They could not afford elaborate headstones or other types of monumentation. While there are only 20 grave markers, records indicate that over 11,000 are buried at this site. Successive filling of the marshy site permitted burials in several tiers. It has been reported that South End Burying Ground contains the graves of paupers from the Alms House and inmates from the House of Industry. Mostly, though, this site is known as a working man’s burying ground, where families paid a small fee to the City for burials. Interments ceased in this graveyard in 1866.”
While the Burying Ground has been featured before on the tour, the site wasn’t actually open to the public then and instead only included a short description of its history posted just outside the gate. This year, however, tour-goers will be able to actually access and enter the historic site instead.
“It will be exciting for people on the tour to go in and walk around, rather than just peering through the gate,” said Amos.
And since this will mark the tour’s first return as an-person event after going virtual for three consecutive years between 2020 and last year due to the pandemic, Amos hopes the event will again be graced by favorable weather, as it often has been in years past. (The South End House Tour dates back to shortly after the formation of SEHS in 1966, but it went on hiatus for a few years in the ‘90s, said Amos.)
“We just hope people come back,” he said. “We just want to see people are out walking around the neighborhood and learning about the history of the neighborhood. We just hope people have a good time.” Tickets for the tour are $30 in advance and available at www.southendhistoricalsociety.org/housetour. Tickets will also be available on the day of the Tour for $35 each at Sprogis & Neale Real Estate, 679 Tremont St.