26 Jun The Legacy of Roger Webb
HBI was sad to learn of the passing of Roger Webb, a legend in Boston’s preservation community, and a kind, generous soul who made this city so much better in his lifetime. Roger was a member of Historic Boston Inc.’s board of directors for many years, and was founder of the non-profit Architectural Heritage Foundation, whose flagship project — rehabilitation of Boston’s Old City Hall — was an early model of adaptive re-use and an important financing model for historic buildings in partnership with the Boston Redevelopment Authority.
Roger was active to the end. We saw him in May at the Preservation Massachusetts awards dinner and, even though his health was declining, experienced the warm welcome and wit that was his calling card. In recent years, Roger spent time writing, capturing many of his experiences navigating Boston’s unique political environment in the 1970s when he put forward plans for revitalizing Faneuil Hall Markets and Old City Hall. His own memories of mid-century Boston characters like Mayors White and Collins, Ed Logue, and Walter Muir Whitehill fill out the story of how Boston went from a distressed city with dim prospects to a growing, dynamic place in a generation (in spite of itself if you read some of these stories!). Take a look at iamrogerwebb.com, and specifically at his story “Saving Old City Hall and the Restoration of Faneuil Hall Markets.”
For historic preservation in Boston, it was Roger’s generation that defined a new way of keeping the past while making it relevant to the future. Old City Hall and the Old Corner Bookstore became re-use and financial models for how to keep the historic fabric and stories of surviving historic places central to Boston’s character and growth. They continue to inspire the work of Historic Boston Inc. and the Architectural Heritage Foundation.
And on stories, Roger not only wrote some; he was also keen on making sure that the histories of places like Old City Hall continued to be told to visitors. Children today sit atop a donkey in the courtyard of Old City Hall as they walk along the Freedom Trail. Roger installed that bronze sculpture there in order to remind visitors of the 20th century political environment of Boston. Read about it here.
We remember Roger Webb fondly and appreciate the legacy he left us.