We are an association for businesses in Beacon Hill
Founded in 1980, the Beacon Hill Business Association (BHBA) works with the business district of this extraordinary neighborhood to make it a harmonious and lively complement to the stately, residential district. In a rapidly-changing retail world, the BHBA’s mission is to ensure that the shopping streets remain useful to neighbors, interesting to visitors, and tasteful and attractive for all.
Creation of the Beacon Hill Business Association
Reflections by BHBA founding member, Thomas A. Kershaw
For years the retailers on Charles Street had the Charles Street Merchants Association. I was not involved in this group because my business was on Beacon Street. In 1980, Dan McMillon, publisher of the local Beacon Hill newspaper, came to me and asked me to take over the association because it had ceased to function.
I said to Dan that I was never involved because it was the Charles Street Association. He said “let’s turn it into the Beacon Hill Business Association.” I said that would work and took over this new business group.
We recruited a Board of Directors from some of the younger merchants on the Hill, not just Charles Street. We set up a membership program and started to address some of the issues of doing business in this very residential neighborhood.
We decorated Charles Street for the holidays, we installed trash barrels, we addressed parking issues and traffic through the Hill. As a result of some of our efforts, Mayor Kevin White called me into his office and asked me to analyze traffic on Charles Street and what could be done to minimize the negative effects on Beacon Hill. I did a comprehensive review of the traffic down Charles Street. There was a steady flow of eighteen-wheel trucks and buses from the bus station in Park Square, plus a lot of vehicle traffic leaving the city.
The Mayor was getting ready to run for his fifth term as Mayor. He started a program to clean up the main streets in the various neighborhoods in Boston. His staff said he should look at his own neighborhood – Charles Street. He scheduled a weekend cleanup and repaving of the street. When the city reopened the street on Sunday afternoon, he had the traffic reversed to flow as it does now from Cambridge Street to Beacon Street. This eliminated the through traffic and made Charles Street the wonderful place that it is today - a very resident and visitor-friendly shopping street – in the village of Beacon Hill.
One of the other initiatives we did was to develop a brochure advertising the shops and businesses on Beacon Hill – you had to be a member to participate. This program increased our membership significantly.
Several developments of my business like Cheers and a restaurant in Salem, MA caused me to turn over the leadership to others. Over time the association once again fell into inactivity.
During the Weld Administration, State Treasurer Joe Malone decided to renovate the Boston Common Parking Garage. This was a wonderful long-term view for the area but the short term effect was difficult. In an effort to counter some of the changes to metered parking spaces restrictions to residents only after 6pm, I sought support from the businesses on the Hill. During this effort I found Chris Quigley was leading a one-man effort to clarify regulation for sidewalk signs and display boards on buildings and convinced him to work with me to revive the Beacon Hill Business Association. He said he would do this only if he could convince Ivy Turner to be Vice President. She agreed and the foundation for the present Beacon Hill Business Association was laid.
One of the first things that Chris, Ivy, and I decided to do was to rejuvenate the holiday decorating of Charles Street. I suggested we might have a cocktail reception at the Hampshire House to raise money to pay for the decorations. The saying that “from tiny acorns do mighty oaks grow” applies here. Look at what has come of those modest first efforts. We now decorate the 1,100 gas lamps on all of Beacon Hill annually under the direction of Ivy Turner.
I am glad to have had a hand in starting the Beacon Hill Business Association and reviving it several years later. It is great to see its operation as a vibrant organization initiating the Holiday Stroll as well as other activities that bring visitors and residents out to visit our retailers and see all that Charles Street and the rest of the Hill has become – a wonderful urban neighborhood where business and residents enjoy a mutually rewarding relationship and visitors feel they have found a wonderful place to experience historic Boston as well as some of the best shopping available in Boston.