Since its founding, the Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) has stayed true to its mission to preserve and enhance the quality of life on Beacon Hill. Following are just a few of the organization's more interesting history notes:
The Beacon Hill Civic Association was formed in 1922, largely at the prompting of political activist and “life-long crusader for good government” Marian Nichols, a feisty ‘street fighter’ who organized neighbors and stormed City Hall to protest the city’s decision to pave the brick sidewalks.
In 1923 the BHCA created the first zoning committee, which is still in existence today.
A years-long effort by the BHCA to get both Charles and Cambridge streets widened and a subway station at Charles Circle became a reality in 1932.
Although the first references to carol singing on the Hill date back to 1859, the popular tradition of caroling, bell ringing and lighting candles in Beacon Hill windows on Christmas Eve became a tradition in the 1920s. By 1936, however, more than 15,000 people strolled the Hill, and the behavior became a bit rowdy. A year later the tradition met its end when the carol band announced it would no longer play.
In 1947 the “brick savers” – enraged housewives, children and grandmothers – again tried nonviolent tactics to stop the paving over of the brick sidewalks. After several skirmishes over the cherished bricks, they staged a ‘sit-down’ on West Cedar Street in front of workmen with picks on their shoulders who were ready to dig. Mayor Curley finally bowed to the 75 Hillers who stormed his office and brought national attention to the drama.
In the first fight against the encroachment of modern age, in the late '40s, the “Mothers against Storrow Drive” organized hundreds of women and children who converged on the State House to protest the multi-million-dollar highway bill that ended in a compromise which depressed the proposed six-lane highway to four and built overpasses for pedestrians.
After witnessing the destruction of the West End by “urban redevelopment” in the '60s, the BHCA succeeded in getting the South Slope and later the North Slope and the Flat of the Hill, designated as historic districts – thus preventing the neighborhood from meeting the same fate as its neighbor.
Since its formation, the association that was born out of spontaneous voluntarism has been an articulate voice for the community. Throughout the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, the BHCA played key roles in balancing the demands of modern life with the traditions of the past. It has always kept the door open to public debate and organized residents to fight for the best interests of the neighborhood.
Adapted from "Beacon Hill: the Life & Times of a Neighborhood,"
published in 2002 by Moying Li-Marcus
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Enhancing Residential Living
Attracting Families to Beacon Hill
Protection from Institutional Expansion