When the 20th annual “Garlands & Green” fundraiser comes to Hampshire House later this month, it will mark the two-decade mark for not only the neighborhood’s lavish holiday decorating program, but also the inception of the Beacon Hill Business Association.
In 1995, Tom Kershaw, who serves today as chairman of the Hampshire House Corporation, was at the helm of the Business Association’s forerunner, the Charles Street Merchants. By chance, two neighborhood residents, Ivy Turner and Chris Quigley, attended his “Cheers for Children” fundraiser at the Hampshire House that November, when Kershaw lamented to them that the dwindling Merchants Association had no plans to continue its annual holiday tradition of decorating gas-lamps on Charles Street. Turner and Quigley agreed to assist Kershaw and a local floral arranger in spearheading the effort to decorate the street. Under the auspices of the newly christened Business Association, they helped stage the first “Garlands and Green” fundraiser at Hampshire House to help underwrite the cost of the holiday decorations.
“It got people out and created a sense of camaraderie in a way that was not over the top, not garish, but very Beacon Hill-ish,” Kershaw said. “It was also a great opportunity for them to meet their neighbors from other parts of the Hill.
Decorating expanded the next year to Cambridge Street and subsequently reached all areas in the neighborhood where businesses could be found.
In 2000, the Business Association set out to decorate all the lamp-posts in the neighborhood in what was intended as a one-time-only event to ring in the new millennium.
“Afterwards, people weren’t okay with being once in a lifetime, and we’ve ending up
decorating the whole neighborhood every year since then,” Turner said.
The Beacon Hill Civic Association joined in the cause around this time and gradually assumed the reins as the program shifted from a business to more residential focus.
The Civic Association soon began fostering partnerships with groups to help decorate, including members of the Suffolk University community and the non-profit Boston Cares. At the suggestion of Civic Association member and Acorn Street resident Kain Dunbaugh, the program also took further shape when it named “block captains” to help recruit neighbors to decorate the areas surrounding their individual homes.
“Above all else, it’s a gift to the neighborhood,” Turner said. “Every person who walks through Beacon Hill can see it brings a lot of joy.”
Today, “Garlands and Greens” raises much of the $12,000 needed to decorate the neighborhood’s 1,089 lamp-posts and has become one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the neighborhood during the holiday season.
“I love that the event kicks off the holiday season,” said Suzanne Besser, who served as executive director of the Civic Association when that group became engaged in decorating program. “It’s a time for the whole community to start thinking about the holidays and the first festive event of the season.”
The “Garlands & Green” event, which includes drinks, hors d’oeuvres, live music and a drawing of items, takes place at Hampshire House, located at 84 Beacon St., on Tuesday, Nov. 17, from 6 to 9 p.m. Advance tickets cost $30 each through Nov. 16 and can be purchased online at www.bhcivic.org. Tickets are also available for $35 each at the door.