Beacon Hill Civic Association Community Corner: Beacon Hill’s History of Supporting Affordable Housing

From its earliest days, the Beacon Hill Civic Association has sought to preserve Beacon Hill as a residential neighborhood for individuals and families of all economic backgrounds. Leaders in the community have a long history of creating affordable housing and raising money to support it. The first instance of this was the transformation of the old Bowdoin School on Myrtle Street. It had served as an elementary school from 1896 until 1936, after which the Boston School Committee housed its administrative offices there. When later vacated, civic leaders feared developers would purchase the property and turn it into luxury apartments. The BHCA took a firm stand against that idea, recommending instead that the property be used to meet the housing needs of seniors on the North Slope.

Whereupon the City of Boston provided public funds to encourage the conversion of the property into subsidized housing for the elderly and the poor. Volunteers from the neighborhood brought their expertise in architecture, real estate, financing and politics to acquire and renovate the building. In 1977, the Bowdoin School Apartments opened with 35 apartments on five floors with a community meeting room and lounge. Today it is a Wingate managed community.

Just a few years later, a fire destroyed a five-story apartment complex on Myrtle Street, formerly known as Beacon Chambers that housed 350 elderly men. Developers interested in converting the property to high-end condominiums rallied around the site. And again the community intervened, advocating that the building remain a sanctuary for elderly and low-income residents.

Meredith and Gene Clapp, who have been leaders in the community for many years, led a fundraising effort that enabled Rogerson Communities to buy the building and keep it affordable. The couple was subsequently honored with the Charles E. Rogerson Award for Community Service by Rogerson Communities.

Meredith Clapp continues her continues her support of affordable housing by serving as President of the Rogerson Beacon Corporation, comprising and its three Beacon Hill properties – the Beacon House, Peter Faneuil House and the Joy Street Residence.

Another example of the community’s support occurred when the Peter Faneuil School, which had served as an elementary school for Beacon Hill residents, was turned into 48 affordable apartments for individuals and families. The Beacon Hill Civic Association helped support it for six years, contributing more than $100,000 toward its operation. It is also managed by Rogerson.

The adjacent Joy Street Residence was developed by Rogerson Communities in partnership with AIDS Action Committee of Boston. It includes 20 affordable apartments in a sober and drug-free independent residence with supportive services for low-income persons from all walks of life who are disabled by HIV/AIDS. 

The Beacon Hill Civic Association remains committed to supporting affordable housing in our neighborhood.

Upcoming BHCA Meetings

Monday, April 22: Streets & Sidewalks Committee Meeting with Councilor Lydia Edwards, 6pm. 74 Joy Street.

Tuesday, April 23: Events Committee Meeting at 6pm. 74 Joy Street.

Other upcoming BHCA Events

Young Friends Social – Wednesday, April 24th

Founders Circle Reception – Tuesday, April 30th

New Members Reception – May 2nd

BHCA Annual Meeting – May 20th Visit the Beacon Hill Civic Association website bhcivic.org or call the office (617-227-1922) for more information about any of these events.

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