date published: May 7, 2007

5 questions with...

Leah Walczak
by Josh B. Wardrop

As a Regional Site Manager for preservation organization Historic New England, Leah Walczak is part curator (for the Otis House Museum), part tour guide and all-around historical resource for Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. Panorama recently spoke to Walczak about life today in one of Boston’s most historic communities.

Q: Fill in the blank: If the South End is artsy, and the Back Bay is trendy, Beacon Hill is…?
Bricky? (laughs) I’d have to say historic. When tourists come to visit Beacon Hill, that’s what they’re looking for—the old Boston.

Q: What are the “off-the-Freedom Trail” spots you’d recommend people not miss in Beacon Hill?
Well, certainly the Otis House—Harrison Gray Otis was one of the first to develop the neighborhood out of pasture land, and we’re proud of how we’ve maintained his home. The African Meeting House is being renovated right now, but it’s a great spot to visit. And Acorn Street is quintessential Beacon Hill—one of the few cobblestone streets left, and every home is from the 1800s and early 1900s.

Q: Is there any kind of common attribute Beacon Hill residents seem to share?
Overall, I’ve always been struck by how community-minded Beacon Hillers are—they really get involved in their neighborhood. And it’s that civic engagement that’s kept the neighborhood a living, breathing vibrant community.

Q: Apart from a McDonalds or maybe a Hooters, what do you think we will never see in Beacon Hill?
Any sort of real modern, high-rise type building. That would get nixed pretty quickly!

Q: Are Bostonians obsessed with their past?
I don’t think so. I just think that people who live here know more about their city’s past than some other places. Even if they can’t recite all the details, they have a sense of what’s happened here and they value that.