Boston Remembers Native Leonard Nimoy, Old West End

Actor best known for portraying Mr. Spock on "Star Trek" grew up in Boston neighborhood that has changed significantly

Boston's West End looks nothing like it did when Leonard Nimoy was born there in 1931. Then, there were half a dozen schools, 32 ethnic groups and hundreds of tenement houses.

But that is where the actor's legacy remains.

"I think he's just a neighborhood guy made good," said Duane Lucia, curator of The West End Museum.

Before he was Mr. Spock to legions of Trekkies the galaxy over, he was Leonard Nimoy, of Chambers Street, born in the old West End neighborhood on March 26, 1931.

The son of Ukrainian immigrants, raised Jewish, he spent much of his time at the West End House and Elizabeth Peabody House, running track and, according to Lucia, getting an early bite from the acting bug.

"They put on plays, full-on productions," said Lucia. "That was where he learned how to act."

Chambers Street is gone, replaced by highrises and a walking path.

Nearly all the West End tenements were torn down in 1958 and 1959. One still stands, now alongside the billboard of the modern world - an example of what Nimoy's old world was like.

"When he came home from Hollywood, from the West Coast, he actually had to sleep in the same bed as his brother," said Lucia. "They lived in a very crowded tenement house, like everybody else, where you might have three generations in a two-bedroom apartment."

He never forgot his roots, greeting fans while receiving an honorary degree from Boston University in 2012.

He returned to the West End to shoot a documentary, meeting with Lucia and others in the neighborhood.

"The West End is gone. He was part of the West End, now he's gone. It's too bad," said Steve Zaidman, who grew up in the West End.

It's a city Nimoy remembered, in a neighborhood that was not the same.

"He said he couldn't really recognize the neighborhood from what he had remembered as a kid," said Lucia. "Leverett Street was gone, Allen Street was gone," Lucia said.

"With the passing of Leonard Nimoy, we have not only lost a talented actor, but a proud product of Boston’s neighborhoods and English High School," said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh in a statement. "Mr. Nimoy never forgot his Boston roots and the spirit of his work lives on in the future generations of children who continue to be inspired by his iconic portrayal of Mr. Spock."

Nimoy's family says burial will be private. He was 83 years old.

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