Joel Pierce, who served on the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission for nearly three decades before stepping down earlier this year, has been named the recipient of the Beacon Hill Civic Association’s 24th annual Beacon Award for his “significant and sustained contribution” to the community.
“I never though I’d be in the running,” Pierce said. “I saw the names of the previous winners and was surprised to be in such distinguished company.”
Pierce moved to Beacon Hill in 1978 and joined the Civic Association’s board of directors the following year, serving as its chairman for one year circa 1983. In 1993, he began his tenure as the Civic Association’s nominee to the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission and would go on to dutifully serve in that role until his retirement in July of this year.
“I’ve lived on the same block for almost 43 years now,” Pierce said, “and I served on the Architectural Commission for about half that time.”
Unlike some other commissioners he served alongside, Pierce wasn’t an architect by profession, but instead an attorney, and while he said his legal background sometimes came in handy during his time on the commission, ultimately, he said, “I’m grateful to have been entrusted in some small part to helping to preserve the neighborhood.”
Added Pierce, “I’ve learned a lot from my fellow commissioners, some of whom are architects, and over course of my work, I had the opportunity to meet lots of neighbors and see a lot of the community.”
His work with the commission made for good exercise, too, Pierce said, since he made it a habit to visit every building that appeared on that month’s agenda beforehand to see the conditions for himself.
Russ Gaudreau, chair of the Beacon Award nominating committee, said while there were many other candidates in the running for the award this year, Pierce was the “obvious” choice to all involved.
“As far as making a ‘significant and sustained contribution to the community,’ it was Joel Pierce, and it didn’t take us much time [to arrive at that conclusion],” Gaudreau said. “He understands the community and the purpose and role of the commission [in regard to] protecting the architecture and beauty of Beacon Hill. He had it right, and we really felt that he had served the community so well in that role.”
Moreover, Gaudreau said of Piece: “He did his homework and understood the purpose of the commission and understood the concept of architectural preservation, but he was also able to strike a balance between preserving architecture and making changes from time to time to accommodate families and so forth.”
In the end, Gaudreau said, “He was a real leader on the commission and did an outstanding is how everyone felt.”
For his part, however, Pierce is not only humbled to have been honored as the recipient of this year’s Beacon Award, but also to serve his neighbors and the community for so many years.
“It’s good to have the opportunity to give back to the neighborhood,” he said. “What’s impressive about the neighborhood is how nice the residents are. People are very respectful of each other, and there’s a lot of camaraderie among neighbors…and there are many people who have lived here for a lot of years and appreciate what they have, myself included.”