By Mark Kiefer
The proposed expansion of the John Jeffries House hotel represents an important and rare opportunity to contribute to the vibrancy of Beacon Hill’s “Main Street” while also furthering our neighborhood’s legacy of nationally-recognized architectural distinction. New owner Related Beal, who purchased the property in the summer, has recently announced plans to expand the building into the parking lot that now sits between the hotel and the Charles Street Garage.
This prominent site on Charles Circle has been an important gateway to both the City of Boston and the Beacon Hill neighborhood ever since the opening of the West Boston Bridge in 1793, and housed the first permanent headquarters of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in a fine and elegant building constructed in 1850. Because traffic flows north-south on Charles Street, the new building will likely be the first thing most people will see when entering the neighborhood, and the site forms both the northern and western borders of the historic district. Given these considerations, the site requires a truly inspired design of the very highest quality.
Taking a cue from the natural world, the great architect Louis Sullivan famously observed that “form ever follows function,” and a community-oriented, public use for the new ground floor space that minimizes adverse impacts on immediate abutters could likewise help create a warm welcome to the neighborhood for residents and visitors alike. Such a neighborhood-friendly approach would provide a northern anchor to our commercial district, helping to draw patrons to the surrounding local businesses, bolstering public safety in an around Charles Circle, and increasing the livability of this important but often neglected corner of Beacon Hill.
A constructive dialog that proactively engages with neighbors and other stakeholders would help realize these lofty but achievable ambitions, ensuring a win-win for both the developer and the Beacon Hill community.
Mark Kiefer is Chairman of the Board of the Beacon Hill Civic Association