Frederick Stahl, 82; architect with touch for preservation

Mr. Stahl was a leader in the restorations of many Boston-area historic sites and a mentor to young architects.
Mr. Stahl was a leader in the restorations of many Boston-area historic sites and a mentor to young architects.

Frederick Stahl’s memorial service was held in Old South Meeting House, where in 1986 the architect helped lead a restoration of the famous landmark.

Among those who gathered to pay tribute were architects who formed an equally significant part of Mr. Stahl’s legacy, the “large numbers of people who had gotten their start in the profession under his tutelage,” said Ted Landsmark, president of Boston Architectural College.

In firms where he worked, Mr. Stahl was known for his role as a mentor to young architects.


“He really epitomized what aspiring architects sought to be,” Landsmark said. “He was a mentor, a very good listener, a strong advocate for community groups, and he had a sensitive touch for historic preservation.”

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Mr. Stahl, whose work drew praise for combining modern and historic architecture, died July 26 while traveling, apparently of a pulmonary embolism, his family said. He was 82 and had lived on Beacon Hill for many years.

During a career spanning 50 years, he was a leader in the restorations of Quincy Market, the Talbot Building at Boston University, and many other historic sites. Buildings he designed or helped design include the State Street Bank building, the Dodge Wing of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, and what formerly was known as the Massachusetts General Life Building.

Ann Fienman, managing director of the Boston Society of Architects, said Mr. Stahl “exemplified the idea of a citizen architect, not only by his contributions to the city in his professional work, but by his civic management and activism over many decades in the city.”

Known to friends and family as Tad, Mr. Stahl “was very deeply committed to education,” Landsmark said. “He advised our students, and was an inspiration to them and to many of our faculty, who recognized his work in the city of Boston.”


In addition to his work at Boston Architectural College, Mr. Stahl taught at Wellesley College, Newton College, and in London.

His wife, Jane, said Mr. Stahl, who served on a number of city planning committees, was especially interested in the “evolution and preservation” of neighborhoods.

“He wanted communities to take the long view,” she said of his work with groups such as the Beacon Hill Civic Association. “He was insistent that people think in 50-year increments, rather than five-year plans.”

Steve Young, current president of the association, said Mr. Stahl “brought the skills of an architect and the unique view of a neighborhood planner.”

As a member of the group’s board of directors and cochairman of its planning and oversight committee, Mr. Stahl was “very generous with his time and talents,” said Young, who described him as “an advocate for the neighborhood in a forceful but very graceful way.”


Mr. Stahl, who also worked with organizations such as Historic New England and the Boston Society of Architects, was known for volunteering his advice to community groups in the North End, the Back Bay, and other Boston neighborhoods that were similar to the Beacon Hill Civic Association.

Mr. Stahl ‘brought the skills of an architect and the unique view of a neighborhood planner.’

He and his wife lived for 50 years in the Egyptian Revival home on Beacon Hill they bought in 1963.

“If you’d asked him, he would have said he was a ‘caretaker’ of that unique house,” Young said. “He really saw the importance of preserving Beacon Hill, not just for those who live there now, but for those who will come after us.”

Frederick A. Stahl was born in 1930 in Danbury, Conn., and graduated from Dartmouth College in 1952 with a degree in art and architecture.

He did graduate work in architecture at Harvard University and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which he graduated with a master’s degree in architecture in 1955. He also studied in London for 18 months on a Dartmouth fellowship.

In 1961, he founded the firm F.A. Stahl Associates, and lived for a while above the company’s Cambridge offices. Soon after, Mr. Stahl moved to Beacon Hill, where he met his neighbor Jane Moulton on a blind date. They married in 1961.

The State Street project arrived early in his career. Afterward, Mr. Stahl had so much work he was forced to relocate his firm.

“An architect needs a place with some scope,” he told the Globe in 1968, speaking about the unusual Milk Street space he chose, a circular-shaped attic whose ceiling pointed skyward, with pie-shaped sectors that delineated work space for Mr. Stahl and his 25 employees.

The space had never before been used for business, but because of its “openness, accessibility, spirit,” he said, “it works extremely well.”

In 1999, his firm was acquired by Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates, and Mr. Stahl became an executive architect. That firm was acquired by Stantec in 2011. Mr. Stahl worked there until retiring in the spring.

While best known for his Boston projects, he also worked on many buildings across New England and beyond, including the Landmark building in St. Paul and Union Station in Washington D.C.

In 2009, the Boston Architectural College awarded Mr. Stahl an honorary degree, and three years later presented him with its award of honor.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Stahl, who enjoyed spending time at his family’s home in Searsport, Maine, leaves two sons, Matthew of London, Ontario, and Nicholas of San Francisco; and a daughter, Isabelle Stahl Addison of Edmonton, Alberta.

The Apollo Club of Boston, a men’s chorus in which Mr. Stahl sang bass for decades, performed at his memorial service.

“He had a lot of irons in the fire,” said Apollo singer Chip Huhta. “He was very collegial and well respected, well liked by everyone in the group, and a very fine bass singer.”

Young called Mr. Stahl “a wonderful guy, an architect and a gentleman. The people of Beacon Hill were very lucky to have him.”

Kathleen McKenna
can be reached at