Fenway Through Time – Paola Nouel

Story Map

Over the past century the city of Boston has grown immensely but also maintained much of its historic charm and character. This can be seen in more recent changes to the Fenway area that are taking the neighborhood from one that lacked much commerce and investment to one of the most modern neighborhoods in the city. The neighborhood has many sites that have influenced the growth of the area including the Longwood medical area, the Landmark Center, Fenway Park, the Charles River, Boylston Street and the Fenway CDC. Each of these sites has shaped the neighborhood specifically in terms of which kinds of people come to Fenway to eat, shop and live. The area has changed and new developments are raising the cost of living which no doubt has an affect on who is able to afford living in the Fenway neighborhood. Each of the sites discussed will either focus on how they may impact the diversity of the neighborhood or the economic gains that will be seen throughout.

Longwood, although not part of the Fenway neighborhood, plays a large role in what kinds of people venture to and from the Fenway neighborhood. Since Longwood is mostly medical and research institutions and has very few actual residents it has a large influence on the surrounding neighborhoods. With some of the most prestigious hospitals in the world like Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, the Dana Farber Research Institute and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the area is a center for academia. As people who are typically more well off, those in the medical field, many of the people who work in Longwood are commuters and not residents of Longwood nor any of the surrounding areas. In a way this can be viewed positively, because although these potentially wealthy people are not investing much into the community, they are also not disturbing nor attempting to displace those living there, up until perhaps now when developments are going up. Now, it is likely that many of the people employed in the Longwood area would opt for more high end housing in the neighboring Fenway neighborhood.

Fenway Park’s role in the Fenway neighborhood has changed over time. In 1912 when the historical park was built and for many years after that, it was the only real attraction of the Fenway area other than the Back Bay Fens. More recently however, Fenway Park is only one of the many reasons one would visit the neighborhood. The park is a historical landmark that signifies America and the age-old game of baseball for those who are privileged enough to enjoy the ballpark, however, for people of color and minorities the park has a very different narrative of racism and exclusion. The Red Sox were owned by Yawkey beginning in the 1930s and remained under the Yawkey Trust until 2002, which brought the team a lot of success yet was also the reason that the Red Sox were the last team to integrate in the Major Leagues. Thomas Yawkey was an incredibly racist man who turned down players such as Jackie Robinson, simply for the color of his skin. Now, the road outside of Fenway Park is famously known as Yawkey Way, only making this history even more difficult to forget. Furthermore, the fans inside the stadium tend to be particularly racist, especially towards players of color.

The Landmark Center was built in 1928 and was a great economic center in the Fenway neighborhood, attracting crowds and commerce to the area for over 30 years, yet unfortunately had to close. For a few decades the historic building remained empty, greatly affecting the community. What had once been a thriving workplace that drew thousands of people to Fenway became forgotten and left the community feeling a loss. The abandoned building may have played a role in why this neighborhood took so long to experience the new developments that are now taking place. Now, however, the building is in the beginning stages of renovations that would create residences, work spaces and public space while also implementing green technology. These new changes will hopefully increase a sense of community and give the Landmark center purpose that it has been without for quite some time.

Much of the new economic development that is occuring in Fenway can be seen on Boylston street where the neighborhood has been transformed into a center of commerce. The new high end stores and restaurants and coffee shops bring many more people to Fenway than would not be visiting otherwise, however, it also makes the area less welcoming to those who aren’t upper class and do not regularly shop at boutiques or spend their days sipping coffee while working on their laptops. Now, there are some groups working to maintain the diversity of the neighborhood. One of these groups is the Fenway Community Development Corporation which is working to provide affordable housing for people within the neighborhood as well as providing other services that would help people who identify as minorities find work. Groups like this one work to aid those who are negatively affected by so called “economic growth’ and are incredibly important in ensuring that communities remain strong and prosperous when their physical space is changed.

Overall, the many sites discussed all have their impacts on the Fenway community, whether they help bring more economic activity, make the area less welcoming to minorities, help maintain the original community of the neighborhood or provide public recreational spaces that can be used by everyone. Fenway is changing, there is no denying it and with new developments still to come such as the Landmark center’s developments, it will keep changing for quite some time. It is important to note that although there is a change in the demographics of the communit, there are people working to keep the original community intact and public spaces, perhaps excluding Fenway Park which has a racist history, such as the Back Bay Fens are still open to everyone as they should be. With groups such as Fenway CDC these new developments may be able to serve rich and poor and create a community that thrives due to its diversity.