By Suzanne Besser
Fondly known as ‘your backyard in the city,” Hill House was once a small oasis for recreation on Beacon Hill that after years of nurturing by community members grew big enough to provide acres of opportunities for city children. This year it’s having a big birthday.
The community center that offers athletic, creative and intellectual programs to downtown children from newborn to age 12, is turning fifty. And to celebrate, it’s throwing a big party.
“To commemorate those fifty years, we are inviting the community to a black tie Gala on Saturday, October 1st at the Ritz Carlton in Boston,” said Alyson Lindsey, who is co-chairing the event with her husband Jeff Lindsey, Alexis and Chris Egan, and Annie and Alex Sacerdote. They’ve already started the ball rolling by putting together a Host Committee to welcome friends and neighbors to the event.
“This is a momentous occasion in our neighborhood and through the Gala we are striving to make it a community-wide event that will attract generations of Hill House families, volunteers and participants,” said Lisa Mullan-Perkins, Hill House co-president. “This is an opportunity to gather friends made through the years, as well as adult children to come back and celebrate.”
Hill House is, and always has been, a community effort, said Lindsey. Neighbors residing in the Beacon Hill area sought fifty years ago to promote a sense of community among the residents of downtown Boston neighborhoods by creating a space that could offer the type of youth activities normally available only to residents of the suburbs and become, in effect, their backyard in the city.
The community center has grown significantly since its 1966 formation at 74 Joy Street, an historic building it still operates and where it holds some of its programs. In 2001, a donation by the City of Boston under the leadership of Mayor Thomas Menino, combined with the generosity of many residents, spurred a three-year renovation of the old Firehouse at 127 Mt Vernon Street. Upon its completion, Hill House left Joy Street and opened its doors to the new building.
“After the move, the community’s growth and development were exponential,” said Lindsey. “Today, more than 5,000 children enroll each year in more than 100 programs available per season.” Neighbors as well enjoy visiting the community center to enjoy a stack of pancakes, volunteer for a senior dinner or find the perfect Christmas tree.
In advance of the Gala, Hill House is encouraging community members to share their memories and photos, which will then be incorporated into an historical look at the organization. “There is such a rich history between Hill House and the downtown neighborhoods that it has served for five generations,” said Lauren Schmieg, executive director at Hill House. “With everyone’s help, we hope to capture some of these memories and have them on display for the community.”
Anyone that has something to share is encouraged to be in touch with Hill House. Photos or memorabilia can be dropped off at or mailed to the Firehouse at 127 Mt. Vernon Street or emailed to [email protected]. Contact Schmieg at 617-227-5838 for more information about the history project or the October Gala.