Skip to main content

North End Union Records, 1903-1998

 Collection — Container: MS 7110
Call Number: MS 7110

Scope and Contents

This collection contains records from the North End Union, a non-profit organization that was located at 20 Parmenter Street in Boston’s North End. The collection documents the North End Union’s efforts to improve the quality of life and opportunities for residents of the North End, by providing adult education courses, senior services, and youth recreation activities. Records include board of director meeting minutes, grants and contracts, photographs, and newspaper clippings.


  • Majority of material found in 1903-1998
  • Other: Date acquired: 00/00/1998


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Items in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. The Boston Public Library does not hold copyright on the material in this collection. Researchers are responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations that hold copyright.

When reproducing material from this collection please cite as Boston Public Library/Special Collections.

Biographical or Historical Information

Founded by the Benevolent Fraternity of Unitarian Churches on January 1, 1892, the North End Union served the predominantly Italian-American community of the North End, Boston until 1998. The North End Union was the fifth oldest settlement house in the United States. As the principal human service agency serving the neighborhood, the North End Union’s mission was to improve the quality, opportunities, and standard of living in the community. Located at 20 Parmenter Street, the North End Union building included a large hall and gymnasium and featured fitness and education courses, as well as recreational programs for North End residents. Programs included English as a second language tutoring, citizenship classes, and workforce training. From the 1970s-1990s recreational activities included competitive sports teams which competed throughout the Boston area, local art shows, community dances and luncheons. The North End Union served as a training and placement site for graduate and undergraduate students in education, psychology, and social work. The nature and scope of the organization’s activities were designed over the years to accommodate the changing needs of what at the turn of the 20th century was an immigrant neighborhood.

In 1975 the governance of the North End Union was passed from the Benevolent Fraternity of Unitarian Churches to a non-profit organization governed by a Board of Directors. In the 1970s the North End Union took on the challenge of transitioning from a predominantly Italian-American community to the city of Boston’s growing diverse population, and aimed to meet the needs present in the community, which included providing adult education courses, fitness and sports leagues, a teen drop-in lounge, and senior support. Youth programs and recreational activities focused around the goal of providing positive alternatives to youth at risk of substance abuse or criminal involvement. In addition, the organization conducted both a boys and girls summer camp program at Camp Parker located at Hale Reservation in Westwood, MA. The North End Union was involved with the Can Do Alliance, a coalition of North End organizations working to strengthen the North End community by protecting rising property values due to the demolition of the Central Artery.

In 1985 the North End Union partnered with the North Benett Street School to streamline their programs and reach a broader portion of the community, servicing over three hundred local area youth through recreational programs and activities. The organization faced financial hardship in the late 1980s, and in 1989 it was reorganized with a balanced budget and rejuvenated programs. The early 1990s saw efforts to renovate the aging facilities and overhaul the youth programs. In May 1992 the North End Union celebrated its centennial with a 500-guest dinner at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library. The North End Union closed its doors in 1998 after the building’s owner, the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry, sold the building.


7.00 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



This collection documents the North End Union’s efforts to strengthen the Italian-American community of Boston’s North End through education, fitness, and job training programs. Established in 1892 by the Benevolent Fraternity of Unitarian Churches, the North End Union served the neighborhood until 1998 by providing adult training courses, senior support, the nation’s first supervised child care center, and a wide range of youth programs. The primary goals of the North End Union were to enhance the quality of life for residents of the North End and Waterfront neighborhoods by expanding their horizons for personal, social, and vocational success. Included in the collection are board of directors meeting minutes, grants and contracts, and photographic images and scrapbooks.

Arrangement Note

Arranged into five series:

1. Administrative

2. Board of Directors

3. Grants, Contracts, and Proposals

4. Programs

5. Photographic Images, Posters, and Scrapbooks

Physical Access Requirements

This collection is housed off-site and requires a 2 business-day advanced notice for retrieval. Please consult the Rare Books Department for further information.

Custodial History

Originally, the collection was donated to the North End Branch, but was later transferred to the Central library.

Source of Acquisition

Donated to the Boston Public Library by Frank Limoncello.

Processing Information

Finding aid written by Vincent Capone, May 2013.
North End Union Records, 1903-1998
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

About this library

Part of the Boston Public Library Archives & Special Collections Repository

700 Boylston Street
Boston MA 02116 United States