BHCA Community Corner

Remembering Jim McNeely

He was this generation’s Charles Bulfinch, a man deeply rooted in the great cultures of the past and yet a true visionary, steadfastly working to apply the wisdom of our history to shape the world around him for the betterment of future generations.  And like Bulfinch before him, Jim McNeely actually managed to achieve that noble end – in his love of and service to the neighborhood, he made a mark on this place, a legacy that will long endure.

Jim’s work is everywhere in Beacon Hill if you know where to look for it, but it’s most prominent on Temple Street. Like Bulfinch’s State House this is his magnum opus, the fulfilment of a grand vision not just of a way of building, but a blueprint for more civilized living. What was once a crowded byway choked with cars and devoid of trees is now a flourishing pedestrian thoroughfare alive with greenery. Its shared street concept is a model of accessible streetscape design, accomplished years before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. And well before it was fashionable even in Europe, Temple Street dared to imagine a modern city oriented around people rather than cars.

Bulfinch is best known for his buildings, rather than his equally great contributions to Boston’s civic life, but it’s for his steadfast service to this community that I hope Jim McNeely will most be remembered. He too was a great architect, an artist of exquisite taste and talent, and in every respect a true renaissance man.  But like Bulfinch he also never retired, I suspect because like that great master planner and builder before him, he never tired of giving.  On behalf of a grateful neighborhood, we say thank you Jim.

Mark Kiefer

Chairman of the Board

Beacon Hill Civic Association

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