the south end historical society
about the idea o “play” and recreating in the inner city. Theimportance o physical activity or those living in the innercity is not a new idea. As early as 1867 James FreemanClarke, who was the pastor o the Church o the Discipleson West Brookline Street, was advocating the importanceo recreation to protect youth rom more sinul activities. The Reverend Charles A. Dickinson o the Berkeley Tem-ple, in an article written in 1889 or the
,concluded that i sport and games could engage young men
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and keep them “rom the streets and saloons” then every church should have a gymnasium and ball ield.But it was Edward Everett Hale, born in 1822, who ledthe charge on the importance o athletics and recreation orbuilding good health and character (
ublic Amusement for oor and Rich
, Boston: Phillips, Sampson and Co., 1857).A group including Hale, Henry C. Wright, Ralph WaldoEmerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Thomas Went- worth Higginson was known as the “Muscular Christians,”and they advocated sport and eercise as ideal recreation orurban dwellers.Hale, a man o many talents including writer andminister, served or a time as a minister at the SouthCongregational Church on Union Park Street and then aschaplain at Harvard. It was while at Harvard that he, inassociation with others, ounded the Hale House settlementat 6 Garland Street. Functioning as neighborhood centersand oering social and educational services, the settlementhouses were ound throughout the South End. Othersincluded Denison House at 93 Tyler Street, incoln Houseat 116122 Shawmut, and the South End House (originally Andover House) ounded by Robert A. Woods. Woods, who came to the South End in 1892, strongly believedin the importance o community and saw the settlementhouses as one way tobring a diverse ethnicand religious neigh-borhood together.And Woods, likeHale, concluded thatsports and athletics were more desirablethan billiard parlorsand brothels. Duringthe summer, several o the settlement housesoered summercamps.
Camp Hale wasestablished in 1900to serve the needs o the boys o the SouthEnd. The irst camp was held on OnsetIsland in BuzzardsBay, the boys travel-ing by train and thenboat to their destina-tion. Daily activitiesincluded sailing, row-ing, bathing, baseball,quoits, card games,elling trees, and trips to the town o Onset. Fourteen boysattended the irst session. The net year the camp moved toSquam ake in New Hampshire, where it has remained tothis day. Twenty-our boys attended camp in 1901, takingthe train rom North Station to Ashland, New Hampshire, where they debarked and hiked a mile to the steamboat“Kusumpe” or the trip down ittle Squam to Squam ake.Camp Halers in the early years came primarily romincoln House and Hale House and also rom the rec-reational programs at Holy Trinity Church, Our ady o Pompeii, South Bay Union, and the South End Boys Club.For many o the South End boys this was their irst timeout o the city.Reading the reminiscences in the Camp Hale centen-nial book, one senses the etraordinary importance o thiscamp or South End boys. One camper, Chatta Anthony, who irst went to Camp Hale in 1923, sold newspapersaround Dover and Albany Street to raise the $50 or ten weeks at camp. (The $50 also included two pairs o knick-ers, two gray lannel shirts, two pairs o sneakers, and sipairs o black socks.) “Chatta once told his grandson,Bobby Nicholas, that when he was a camper he lived a wonderul lie at Camp Hale and never wanted to leave.Once, he went so ar as to hide up a tree, while the old mailboat, “Uncle Sam”, waited at the dock with all the othercampers on board to start the trip or Boston….he was abright lad, ull o potential, but like many others in theSouth End, with ew inancial resources to take him beyondGrammar School and Commerce High School...” (
Cam Hale: A Century of Caming -
, September 2000).By 1952 Hale House had closed, ollowed by the clo-sure o incoln House in 1964. Today United South EndSettlements is the merger o South End House, incolnHouse, Hale House, and Harriet Tubman House. CampHale continues to lourish, operating out o the UnitedSouth End Settlements, and last year had its largest enroll-ment to date.Camp Hale was but one o the settlement house sum-mer camps. There were several others including Camp Takahontay or girls run out o incoln House and Deni-son House’s Camp Denison in Georgetown.
Boston had the Common, but as early as 1869 the city triedto close the space to baseball play, restricting boys’ sportsto only a small area. Finding the space inadequate, resi-dents presented the city council with a petition signed by 2,000 residents and stating that the approimately 30,000 young men represented were unable to aord epensiverecreations, nor the time to go to the outskirts o the city toobtain eercise. This was the start o the “play-ground” movement. As one councilor pointedout, it would be wise to create play areasor boys “who would otherwise be back in the slums, or perhaps saloons, andother places qualiying themselves tobe criminals, and entailing epenseupon the city in reorming them.” (City Council
, May 10, 1877). Soin 1877 $2,780 was appropriated or“playgrounds or boys in the several sec-tions o the city.”Ependiture on playgrounds grew to$180,000 in 1897. Mayor Quincy in an 1897 ad-dress stated “I know no direction in which the epen-diture o a ew hundred thousand dollars will do more or
Columbus Avenue layground, early twentieth century. Courtesy of Boston ublic Library, rint Deartment.
the community through the healthul development o itschildren than by the judicious provision o properly lo-cated and equipped playgrounds.” By 1915 the city had 100tennis courts, 3 toboggan slides, 8 beaches, 12 bathhouses,9 gymnasiums and 40 playgrounds, including at least oneplayground and two bathhouses in the South End.Playgrounds and summer camps in no way replacedstickball, handball, and other games played in the streets.Kahlil Gibran, longtime resident o West Canton Street, re-members playing handball on Tyler Street where he recallsbeing admonished or “shaking up all the crockery.” Everthe innovator, he also recounts making scooters or his bud-dies out o an orange crate on top o two-by-ours nailedto our-wheel roller skates rom Morgan Memorial. (Kahlilalso made model planes rom raw balsa wood and wasknown as the “mad bomber.”) To cool o there were alwaysthe pool rooms with their dark rooms and ceiling ans. Tohelp others cool o, he and a riend ran a “snow cone” busi-ness, selling shaved ice lavored with rose water.
There were two public “bathing places” in the South Endat the Dover Street Bridge. These were essentially “loatingswimming baths” owned and operated by the city rom June1 through September 1. One was or men and the other or women. Hours or the men were 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. week-days and 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. Sundays. The women’s bathhouseopened an hour later and closed an hour earlier.A much ancier bathing/swimming acility eclusively or women and children was to be ound at 42–56 St.Botolph Street. The Allen Gymnasium, Turkish Baths,and Swimming School was advertised in the 1898 BostonDirectory as oering “a large, handsome swimming plunge.”Its hours were 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily ecept Sunday. Mary E. Allen was the proprietor.
The bicycling craze swept the country in the mid1890s andBoston was not immune. By 1895 there weremore than 500 biking clubs and our millionriders in the country. And even Victorian women could engage in this sport, ridingon bikes that eatured a “drop” rame.First came the boneshaker in 1868. In1869 a velocipede riding school openedin the basement o a building ownedby W.P. Sargent & Co. at 155 TremontStreet. It was iteen laps to a hal-mile. Demand was high, and this wasone o many indoor riding schools in thecity, including the Waverly Bicycle RidingSchool located in the Cyclorama building at541 Tremont Street.
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