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‘It’s just a house’: The guy who lives in this South End abode doesn’t get why it’s an Instagram star

Clockwise, from top left: @pocketboston, @anneearetz, @pocketboston, @ducklasagne

Paul Readdy Jr. doesn’t know what the fuss is all about.

“It’s just a house,” he says of his childhood home.

But to photographers who want an Instagram picture that perfectly captures a slice of Boston’s historic charm, Readdy’s South End abode has become a mecca — a “white whale” of social media posts.

On any given day, no matter the season or the weather, Instagrammers arrive at the Worcester Street home and aim smartphones and digital cameras at the front door as though a celebrity could walk out any second.

The reality is less red carpet and more blue collar: Just beyond the glass panels of the building’s garage bay doors is a makeshift workshop and, on the second floor, a modest apartment.


Yet if social media has taught us anything, it’s that outward appearances are everything. So it should come as no surprise that the home’s exterior has earned the squat, brick building the title of “most Instagrammable house in Boston” in some corners of the Internet.

“You’d think they’d get tired of taking them,” said Readdy, 65. “There’s enough pictures out there.”

The structure is tucked between the Worcester Street Community Garden and a line of classic South End rowhouses. State tax records show it was built around 1900, but because of spotty record keeping, it could be older.

In the early 1910s, it was the site of the George Grow Automobile Co., “Headquarters for High-Grade Slightly Used Automobiles,” an advertisement that ran in the Globe at the time read.

By 1917, it became the Packard Auto Renting Co., where gasoline was sold and stored, officials from the South End Historical Society said.

Later, in the 1920s and 1930s, the structure was used for auto repairs and to house “contractor equipment,” according to old city building permits.


Readdy said his father, Paul Readdy Sr., purchased the property close to 80 years ago.

City of Boston archives show he filed paperwork in 1946 to convert the upstairs of the two-story building into a one-family apartment.

For a time, the garage downstairs was used for Paul’s Auto Laundry, which specialized in hand car washes, the younger Readdy said.

Readdy’s father later got into the refrigerator and appliance repair business, and in the 1950s officially established Paul’s Refrigeration Service Inc.

Although Readdy’s father died in 2000, the family business lives on, and the garage is still used as its headquarters and to store equipment.

The apartment is currently occupied by Readdy, his nephew, and his mother, Norma Readdy, 88. But other family members come and go, Norma Readdy said, making it “like Grand Central” at times.

Paul Readdy Jr. said the house hasn’t changed much in the decades since his father bought it, aside from some windows installed on the side around the 1970s, after a row of adjacent businesses was knocked down. The empty lot next door became a community garden.

“Other than that, the only thing that may have changed is the direction of the brick steps at the very bottom” of the house, Readdy said.

It’s that preserved look, a window into the city’s past, that has turned the Worcester Street home into a darling of the social media age.

At the ground level, a peak-Boston cobblestone driveway feeds into the glass-paneled garage.


From there, steps zigzag along the facade and up to the second floor, where a set of doors lead into the living room. Above the doors, just below the pitched roof, a porthole window floats like a halo.

Adding to the picturesque scene are planters resting on the top landing and window ledge. They’re often filled with colorful flowers, or plants that cascade over the sides like green waterfalls.

Near the sidewalk, a large pine tree perfectly frames one side of the dwelling.

The details are a major draw for photographers looking to check off all the popular Boston spots on their Instagram bucket lists.

“The house is famous. The house is like a South End celebrity,” said Sofi Madison, owner of Olives and Grace, a nearby neighborhood shop. “People come in on the weekends asking me what my favorite places to walk to, shop at, and photograph are, and that is certainly high on the list.”

She said the house tickles the imagination when you stumble upon it.

“You get to make up in your head what could be, would be, and what you would do if you lived there,” she said. “You’re not looking at it just on beauty, you’re looking at the story.”

It was recently featured on the Olives and Grace Instagram account, where it garnered thousands of likes and comments from people gushing over its appearance.


“[Is] it just me or is this everyone’s favorite house in the South End?” one person wrote in November.

It’s also been a fan favorite on @IGBoston and @IgersBoston, two popular Boston-centric Instagram accounts that share photographs taken by people in the community.

“There’s something about it architecturally. It’s unique. It’s not a brownstone or your classic Boston townhouse. It’s this fun, kind of barn-like building,” said Brian McWilliams, founder of IGBoston, which boasts more than 58,000 followers. “It looks authentic. It doesn’t look like it was made to be cute, it just happens to be cute by accident.”

McWilliams said photographers are often curious about how to find the building, though he tries not to publicize it.

“It’s sort of big game hunting. People feel like they want to bag a certain house or they want to bag the big game in Boston,” he said. “This has entered that pantheon of, you know, great Boston shots.”

In the last few years, Readdy said, it has felt like people arrive in droves, “oohing and aahing” as they take pictures from the sidewalk.

Sometimes, the bold ones stroll up to the garage windows, cupping their hands to peer inside.

Once, a woman in a wedding dress posed against the railing of the rusted fire escape leading to the second floor.

“We had to tell them to get off the fire escape,” Readdy said.

It’s not just photographers who have an eye on the home, either. Readdy said real estate agents and interested buyers are constantly at his doorstep, or leave notes in the mailbox.


“They all drive down the street and all of the sudden they put on the brakes and say, ‘Hey, you want to sell that?’ Or they just walk up to you,” he said. “We have already had family meetings in that regard. We are not going to sell the building. This is the homestead, and it’s going to stay that way.”

As for the photographers, there’s not much he can do.

But he has a few requests: “Please stay off the steps,” he said. And also, “Stay out of the driveway.”

Otherwise, Readdy added, “They can take all the pictures they want.”

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Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear. Curt Woodward of the Globe staff contributed to this report.