Walking Tours Visit Last Vestiges of Historic West End

The West End Museum welcomes local historian Jim Briand, who will reveal the story of the neighborhood’s demolition under Urban Renewal with stops at five of the dozen buildings in the neighborhood to be spared the wrecking ball during walking tours on Saturday, Oct. 3, at 10 a.m. and on Saturday, Oct. 17, at 1 p.m.

Briand, who has led tours of the neighborhood for the West End Museum since 2009, will bring guests to Old West Church, the Otis House, Vilna Shul, West End House, and St. Joseph’s Church, sharing with them information culled from his planned lecture series at the museum, which launched in February with one well-received talk, before it was postponed due to the pandemic.

“Jim’s lectures had a really successful opening, and this will give him the opportunity [to continue with his programming],” said Sebastian Belfanti, the museum’s director. “And it’s nice for people to get out and learn about history through the program at a time when we can’t really do indoor programming.”

Registered guests will receive a series of photos to view on their phones during the tour, which will allow them to make visual comparisons between the West End of today and of the past, and Briand will tie the locations to different aspects of the neighborhood’s history, including its origins and transformation from an elite neighborhood into a tenement district; the influx of Jewish, Italian, and Southern European immigrants; and the family experience. Several factors that laid the groundwork for Urban Renewal — such as the influence of ethnic bias and Progressive Era (1890-1920) thinkers — will be considered. Briand will also discuss the roles of religious institutions, social welfare organizations, business forces and local politics.

The tours will conclude by reflecting on how the West End’s destruction shaped subsequent public policy and city planning, as well as the legacy of its about 7,500 exiled residents.

            Tickets are available at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/walk-and-learn-exploring-the-west-ends-origins-destruction-legacy-tickets-122424203087, or visit the West End Museum online at westendmuseum.org for more information.

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