letters | sidewalks of Beacon Hill

Preservation should not trump safe walkways

The Beacon Hill Architectural Commission should know that the accessibility requirements of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act have been law for almost 25 years (“An old-fashioned Beacon Hill welcome for the disabled: Alone in resisting ramps and aids,” Page A1, Feb. 23). Sadly, full implementation of the law still goes unrealized.

The preservation of historic districts should NEVER be a higher priority than the right of any citizen to safely navigate the public byways. I doubt that, when they established the commission in 1955, Massachusetts legislators were thinking of treacherously uneven, hard-to-de-ice brick sidewalks as worthy of preservation. The notion that these walks are to be revered as gems of architectural history is absurd. We should revere instead the principles of universal access.

Our population is becoming older and frailer, making the brick sidewalks of Beacon Hill a menace to public health, and not just for the disabled. If Steve Young, chairman of the board of the Beacon Hill Civic Association, decries that accessible walks “smack of modernity,” perhaps the motor vehicles that clutter his district should also be banned.


The public ways belong to the citizens and should not be under the control of a narrowly focused interest group. Keep your historic slate roofs and copper gutters, but ensure that the sidewalks are safe for all.

Robin Lovett