Beacon Hill is Boston’s most famous neighborhood and a wonderful treat at Christmastime! Known for its wealth, good breeding, and elegant Georgian and brick bow front architecture, Beacon Hill covers approximately one square mile.
The exclusive neighborhood is somewhat secluded, even in the middle of the city, and far enough from traffic and bustle to be a quiet refuge for its residents and any contemplative walkers seeking a brief escape.
Beacon Hill is indeed situated on a steep (man-made hill) and its streets crest onto the grounds of the Massachusetts State House with its gleaming gold dome.
Suffolk Law School has buildings here as well, which has brought with it town and gown issues, but the school is moving closer downtown in the near future, leaving only a few admin offices here.
The hilly streets are treacherous in icy weather, but the brick sidewalks are tricky year-round, as they are seldom level or smooth. One must constantly navigate around or over large tree roots breaking through walkways and upending bricks into peaks and valleys.
Another trade off for residents living in this squeezed and pricey enclave is the rarity of garages or driveways.
Both sides of the streets are packed top to bottom with ‘pahked cahs.’ The ability find an open spot and parallel park, with not an inch to spare between bumpers, is an admired (and much needed) science and art form. Winter snowstorms with snowplows and street sanders bring another challenge for car owners and pedestrians.
Yet, despite these inconveniences and tight quarters, people dream of the chance to live on Beacon Hill. Long-time residents love the neighborhood’s charm, family friendliness, understated glamor and respect for privacy.
And at Christmas, the decorations and neighborhood traditions make it all even more so. It’s a splendid time to stroll the streets.
These dignified residences are post-American Revolution, balanced and well-proportioned with black shutters. Their famously welcoming doorways open into elegant spacious or cozy homes. Many lucky residents have hidden courtyards or tiny front gardens.
In spite of limited space, there are a handful of impressively large, detached mansions, with enviable garages, driveways and large gardens in the neighborhood.
Residents looking for more space are not far from the Boston Common, Boston Public Garden and Charles River Esplanade or take off to Cape Cod or skiing farther north.
Homes with original purple tinted panes of window glass are particularly prized and duly noted when discovered.
Various buildings have plaques that highlight points of interest, such as routes along the Underground Railroad and famous residents. Not surprisingly, many homes have interesting stories to tell about former or current residents. There are also a handful of house museums open to the public.
There are rumblings that long time Beacon Hill resident Senator John Kerry, will be nominated to be the next Secretary of State, which should bring interesting new challenges to the area.
A favorite pastime for residents, locals and visitors is admiring the unique entryways. Some doors are directly off the sidewalk, while others are fronted by steep steps.
Entryways are decorated year-round, but are especially beguiling at Christmas. A neighborhood contest for the best design has taken place for years. Doorway decorations are often accompanied by large window boxes similarly attired.
Among the well-heeled, students and less wealthy residents who live in tiny apartments or condos, where a 500 sf apartment can rent for $1600 or more. Typically, to rent anywhere in Boston, one must have the security deposit, and first and last month’s rent ready to secure a lease. Vacancies go quickly.
The luckiest apartment and condo dwellers have patios, decks or balconies for luxurious extra space to stretch out and enjoy the warmer months.
Similar to any little village, Beacon Hill has a couple of markets, a laundromat and florist. There are many amenities close by on the large streets that border the Beacon Hill community.
Beacon Hill has many hidden treasures and unexpected finds, such as:
The above ground archway/tunnel the locals use as a shortcut to Charles Street–best used in daylight hours.
The three completely out of place clapboard, detached Colonials tucked into an alley that appears to have had Beacon Hill built around them.
There’s also a side street all on its own at a dead end with a couple of townhouses hidden away.
Louisburg Square is a must see, with its circular cobblestone drive and Grammercy Parkesque garden. It is THE most recognizable address in Boston. And nowhere is more precious at Christmas.
The fenced garden is a tiny one, nothing like the walkable ¼ mile Gramercy Park in New York, but green space in any city environment is treasured. One story has it that when trees are pruned in the tiny park surrounding homeowners can claim the wood for use in their fireplaces.
The homes that face this tiny square are the stars of Beacon Hill, with their own share of year-round paparazzi photographing their steps of artfully arranged plants and exquisitely decorated doorways.
These posh homes have views of Beacon Hill, Louisburg Square on one side, and the Charles River and Cambridge on the other.
Recent buzz: a mammoth 6,570 sf townhouse sold for $11 million.
Years ago this exclusive little garden was a special meeting place on Christmas Eve, when carolers and bell ringers would perform a stirring intimate concert that ended with Santa Claus waving from a penthouse balcony prior to making his rounds.
There is still nothing sweeter on Christmas Eve than strolling these quaint streets and overhearing friends and family coming and going, and everyone wishing the other a Merry Christmas.
Nothing is overstated or out of place on Beacon Hill. Charm was invented here.
Please see the Beacon Hill photo gallery for more photos.
For an interesting read about Beacon Hill, visit: http://www.kellscraft.com/BookofBoston/BookofBoston03.html and http://www.beaconhillonline.com/tour.html
Curious about the interiors of Beacon Hill’s homes? Stop for a tour at Otis House http://www.historicnewengland.org/historic-properties/homes/otis-house/otis-house
and Nichols House http://www.nicholshousemuseum.org/visit.php
There are several historic home museums throughout the city and environs.
Keep an eye on the calendar for Beacon Hill’s famous garden tours.