The South End of Springfield, Massachusetts is a small but culturally rich neighborhood in the Downtown area of Springfield. It is an urban residential and commercial neighborhood home to all types of vibrant businesses both old and new.
The Western half of the South End includes riverfront access to the Connecticut River. It is surrounded by the Metro Center (North), Six Corners (East) and Forest Park (South). Interstate 91 runs through the South End separating part of the neighborhood from the Connecticut riverfront.
The homes in the South End are predominantly multi-family due to the fact that it was once a crowded neighborhood housing wave after wave of immigrants. The housing includes Victorian three family houses, brownstones, lofts and even 19th century row houses. Stretches of row houses can be seen down Central Street.
The portion of the South End to the West of I-91 includes the world famous Basketball Hall of Fame as well as establishments such as the LA Fitness gym and WMAS 94.7 radio station. Restaurants include Plan B Burger Bar, Samuel’s Tap & Tavern and Coldstone Creamery.
The Connecticut Riverwalk and Bikeway runs parallel to the CT River. The riverwalk gives bikers and runners great views of the Springfield skyline and CT River as well as access to the businesses listed above. In 2019, a $3 million renovation project was completed which improved the riverfront park and walkway. These renovations added a new park and made the area more accessible for events such as the yearly 4th of July celebration.
The Basketball Hall of Fame is home to many large scale events including the Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony and the Springfield Hoophall Classic. The enshrinement ceremony draws in NBA players, Hall of Famers and media personalities to the area every year.
The Springfield Hoophall Classic is a 3 day event that brings some of the best High School basketball teams together to play in a tournament. The event has hosted over 100 past and current nba players when they played in high school including Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis and Kylie Irving. In 2019 LeBron James made a surprise appearance before his game against the Boston Celtics to watch his son, Bronny James play in the tournament.
In the early 1900’s the South End was home to Americans, Irish immigrants and then French Canadian immigrants. Soon after, Italian immigrants began to move in and their footprint in the South End still exists to this day.
About 4 million Italians immigrated to the United States between 1880 and 1924 to escape poverty in Southern Italy. These early immigrants spoke little to no English and worked jobs in construction, on railroad gangs and as food vendors.
Throughout the years, Italian immigrants began as low skilled workers and then started rising into other professions as they became more established in the area. Italian-Americans became police officers, firefighters, politicians, barbers and teachers just to name a few. Many Italians opened their own businesses, restaurants and barber shops. A large amount of Italian owned businesses still exist in the South End to this day. The current and longest running mayor of Springfield, Domenic Sarno is an Italian-American descendent. Mayor Sarno’s late father, Alfonso Sarno was an Italian immigrant, was well respected in the community and was known as “Al The Barber”.
Italian restaurants in the South End include La Fiorentina Pastry Shop, Mom & Rico’s Specialty Market, Frigo Foods and the esteemed Red Rose Pizzeria. The South End includes many Italian cultural sites such as the Italian Cultural Center and the Mount Carmel Society.
Every year during Italian Heritage Month in October, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church holds the Taste of Italy festival. Taste of Italy is an event in which local businesses prepare Italian dishes and deserts of all types. The event is attended by about 800 people.
In June 2011, an F3 tornado caused extensive damage to the South End and other parts of Springfield and Western Massachusetts. The tornado damaged many significant buildings such as the South End Community Center (formerly the State Armory), the Zanetti (Howard Street) School and Red Rose Pizzeria. This left many parts of the neighborhood in blight reducing some buildings to rubble.
The Massachusetts Expanded Gaming Act which passed in 2011 allowed for the establishment of 3 casinos and 1 slot parlour in Massachusetts. In 2013, the South End was selected as the site of MGM’s proposed $800 Million casino. The casino known as MGM Springfield opened in 2018 and became the first resort casino in Massachusetts.
The site of the casino includes a gaming floor, a six story hotel, a gym, pool, spa, comedy club, movie theater, bowling rink, skating rink, salon, barber shop, shops and a concert venue. Restaurants in MGM Springfield include Mark Walhberg’s Walhburgers, South End Market, Tap Sports Bar, the Chandler Steakhouse and Costa.
The completion of MGM Springfield in Springfield ignited what is known as the Springfield Renaissance, a cultural and economic development movement that led to massive investment in Springfield’s downtown district. Throughout the mid to late 2010’s: rubble from the tornado was cleaned, businesses were rebuilt, new businesses sprouted up, loft apartments were put on on the market, murals were painted and the South End rebounded from the lows of the early 2010’s. The Springfield Renaissance can be accredited for the life, jobs and investment pumped back into the historic South End.