Selectmen Chairman Paul Healey presents Alexander Macmillan with a Town of Hingham Preservation Award at Sunday's ceremony at Hingham Community Center (Photo by Stephen Dempsey)
By Carol Britton Meyer, April 9, 2019
After traveling to Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, and noticing their many beautifully restored historic homes and buildings, Selectmen Chairman Paul Healey proposed creating a Town of Hingham Preservation Award -- supported by Town Historian Alexander Macmillan.
Hingham -- like both of those cities -- has roots in the Civil and Revolutionary wars, and noting that Charleston and Savannah offer such awards, Healey was inspired to explore the possibility of doing the same in Hingham.
The idea caught on with the Selectmen, Historical Commission, Macmillan, and others, a development and design team and an award evaluation committee were formed, a nomination process developed, and reward recipients were chosen.
The committee was inspired by preservation awards given by cities, towns, and organizations throughout the United States. The award is designed to reinforce the value of preserving Hingham’s “irreplaceable historic resources.”
Fast forward to April 7, when the first Preservation Awards were presented at a ceremony at the Hingham Community Center to:
* Larry Lindner, on behalf of the Hingham Cemetery board of directors for the restoration of the 1886 Ames Chapel near the entrance to the cemetery, which hosts many community events;
* Geri Duff for the Bare Cove Fire Museum rehabilitation project and for its education outreach efforts to the community, including children who visit the museum;
* Vicki Donlan, chairman of the Recreation Commission, for restoration of the Recreation Barn behind Town Hall -- formerly part of the cordage factory that once operated from that site -- that is now the gathering place for 450 Funky Feet dancers, yoga sessions, a summer camp, and public restrooms.
* Second Parish Church for its new handicapped-accessible side entranceway, which was designed to blend in nicely with the rest of the historic church building; and
* Alexander Macmillan for his nearly endless contributions to the preservation of many of Hingham's historic assets. Martha Bewick, who nominated him for the award, said when she first heard about it she thought, "This belongs to Alec, for one."
Macmillan, a lifelong Hingham resident, played a leading role in the creation of many of the town's historic districts, in saving a number of endangered town monuments, and increasing public awareness of the importance of preserving Hingham' historic assets. He also serves as a "gateway to Hingham" for people who live afar who reach out to him to inquire about their ancestors who have connections to Hingham.
Macmillian also served as Greenbush Special Counsel, working with the MBTA during the restoration of rail service to Hingham to protect historic properties along the Greenbush right-of-way and to negotiate an $80 million tunnel under Hingham Square to reduce negative train impacts on the area.
He was also instrumental in the creation of a $3.5 Greenbush Preservation Fund, which continues to support historic preservation projects in the area of the rail corridor. The purpose of the fund is to offset negative impacts from the train going through the heart of the downtown area.
He also led the charge to save the 1791 Buttonwood Tree in Hingham Centre some years ago.
"I am proud to have had a role in making these things happen," Macmillan said.
Bewick noted that Macmillan continues to advocate for new historical projects with the Historical Commission and the Historic Districts Commission.
Healey had this to say about Macmillan's contributions: "Alec Macmillan is a true son of this town, promoting preservation efforts through education and outreach and by example."
Macmillan thanked his many supporters over the years -- including the Selectmen, Historic Districts Commission and Historical Commission Administrator Andrea Young -- who organized the awards ceremony -- the Historical Commission, and the Historic Districts Commission -- who helped make his preservation efforts a success.
Caught by surprise
Healey, a lifelong Hingham resident, was taken totally by surprise when he received an award in recognition of his years of stewardship and service to the Town of Hingham -- including his family's beautifully restored historic Main Street home -- in the form of a copy of the 1600s town deed.
"Paul Healey is the inspiration behind this award," Young said. "He sees the big picture."
Macmillan also expressed appreciation for Healey's role in making the awards happen. "The champion of this award, Paul Healey, recognized the value of preserving our past as we move forward," he said.
Healey was the driving force behind the historical murals on some of the Hingham Shipyard buildings that depict its rich history, preservation of the gatehouse, and for the eagle that sits atop the Vitamin Shoppe.
This was a fitting tribute to Healey, who is wrapping up 37 years of service to the town in a number of capacities, including a long stint on the Planning Board and most recently as Selectmen chair. He is not running for another term.
"I feel the town is well protected and in good shape," he said. "Historic preservation is critical to Hingham's quality of life."
The award is "a positive -- there's no downside to it," Healey said before the awards were presented. "It promotes the importance of Hingham's history and the architecture of the town. Hingham is fortunate to have our Historic Districts Commission and Historical Commission."
While such awards are typically presented to property owners and builders, craftsmen, architects, longtime stewards of building exteriors and interiors, and all who use their skills and talents to preserve Hingham’s buildings, streetscape, landscape, and neighborhoods are eligible to potentially receive the award, either by self-nomination or nomination by another.
Nominations for projects, individuals, or organizations are required to have the consent of the property owner or nominee to be considered.
Members of the Development and Design Team for the awards includes Joan Brancale, Suzanne Buchanan, Benjamin Burnham, Elizabeth Dings, Mary Morrison, Joyce Schreier, Vcevy Strekalovsky, and Ben Wilcox.
Members of the award evaluation committee include Peter Bickford, Suzanne Buchanan, Ben Burnham, Jack Hobbs, Jennifer Schwartz, and Vcevy Strekalovsky.