Unlike so many other neighborhoods, which have seen their identities become much more anonymous through the gentrification process, South Boston, or “Southie” as it’s known to locals remains one of the most well-defined of Boston’s many neighborhoods. Historically, Southie has been a blue-collar neighborhood primarily populated by large Irish Catholic families (including my own direct bloodline).
Southie of course is also a neighborhood infamous for being the epicenter of the Irish Mob, the Winter Hill Gang who controlled it from the early-1960s to the mid-1990s, and their most notorious leader, James “Whitey” Bulger. For better or worse, Whitey and his network contributed to Southie’s ever tight-knit sense of community over the years. Yet even Southie has not been immune to Boston’s ever-extending gentrification.
Within the past two decades, Southie has seen a large influx of young working professionals of all ethnic backgrounds, considerable revitalization of its public buildings and historic triple deckers as well as new construction, numerous trendy restaurants and bars opening up where 20-something professionals can’t help being found until last call, and most significantly, an almost exponential skyrocket in property values.
Southie may look and feel dramatically different than it did several decades ago, but thankfully signs of Southie’s faithful old guard remain alive and well today — whether it be indicators such as the groups of senior citizens who congregate among their lawn chairs and Dunkin’ coffee at Castle Island or coming across a car like this elderly and decidedly “old Southie” Mercury Grand Marquis.
This particular example hails from 1985, the seventh year overall of the Panther platform and this body, and the third year following the car’s first minor facelift and official renaming to “Grand Marquis”, regardless of trim level due to the 1983 addition of the smaller Fox-based Marquis. This particular car is a base model, lacking the LS trim’s loose pillow gathered velour upholstery in favor of less plush but still soft cloth Twin Comfort Lounge Seats. I would’ve photographed the interior but didn’t want to overstep my bounds, even if I do have Irish blood and Southie roots to stake claim to.
Originals are kind of a Southie thing, and I’d like to think that this Grand Marquis has resided in Southie its entire life. Given its nature and appeal, coupled with the steadfast loyalty to their neighborhood amongst born and raised South Boston locals, I’m optimistic this is true.
Photographed at the intersection of East Broadway and Farragut Rd, South Boston, Massachusetts – September 2019