The Scollay Square neighborhood stood here until the 1960s. Its colorful, Victorian buildings, bearing large painted advertisements, originally teemed with shoppers and theatergoers.
By the mid-20th century, however, this warren of 22 streets had become seedy. Scollay Square's theaters became burlesque houses surrounded by bars and tattoo parlors that attracted sailors on leave.
Eventually, public opinion censured the lively squalor, and Scollay Square became a candidate for urban renewal. Its buildings were razed and replaced by the "superblocks" of Government Center, where, by 1969, a monumental new City Hall anchored a vast 10-acre plaza. Bostonians still debate the consequences of urban renewal, but the bold rebuilding reversed the decline in Boston's fortunes that occurred during the first half of the 20th century.