West End Museum Hosts Heritage Honoree Night

Story by Marianne Salza

The West End Museum (WEM) celebrated Richie Harnett, Cathleen Griffin, and the late Claudia and Stephen Edgell for their significant impact in the community during West End Heritage Honoree Night on December 8.

“I love Honoree Night because it’s not only about people doing things today in the West End,” said Representative Jay Livingstone. “What comes through with all of these stories is how strong a sense of community people have in the West End. The West End Museum is representative of that. They keep alive what existed before, and recognize people coming to the community to make it better.”

Displaced West Ender, Richie Hartnett, served as WEM’s first president. He guided the museum during its formative years, and remains active on its board.

Hartnett is “an original West Ender, born and raised in the Charlesbank Homes,” described Duane Lucia, WEM secretary. “When the neighborhood was demolished, and later referred to as Charles River Park, he was there, alongside a cadre of other old West Enders, to remind the city and the world what was lost. What started as a reunion of displaced residents in the 1980s turned into a newspaper, a housing corporation, and a museum. Richie Hartnett has been there every step of the way.”

Cathleen Griffin founded West End Tree Boston, a non-profit organization that protects, plants, and maintains trees in the West End.

“It’s a wonderful community, and we’re glad to have moved to the West End,” exclaimed Griffin, who hung 100 holiday wreathes around the neighborhood with volunteers. “If you see things getting greener, it’s because everyone is doing their part.”

Claudia and Stephen Edgell documented the destruction of the West End — before, after, and during urban renewal. The compilation of over 2,000 photographs and negatives was donated to WEM by their son, Stephen Edgell III, and is the largest collection of West End photographs in existence. Although never published, Claudia and Stephen Edgell’s book, “The Old West End of Boston” features over 300 pages of Claudia’s text and Stephen’s photographs.

“My mother did not like the idea of bulldozing buildings and destroying communities,” recalled Stephen Edgell III, who remembered attending mayoral meetings with his mother as a child. “As a family, we took lots of photographs of the West End to preserve that era and area. The old West End may be gone, but it will live forever because of the creation of the West End Museum.”

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