Appreciation: Silence Was No Option for Bill Lamb on Highways and Preservation: Long-Time Charlestown Residents Dies Tragically in Boating Accident

If one has stood at the apex of City Square and looked off over the Bunker Hill/Zakim Bridge with a beautiful unobstructed view of the Charles River and downtown Boston – then they have seen Bill Lamb’s vision.

If anyone has walked up Solely Street, Pleasant Street or down Warren Street and marveled at the detailed and uncompromisingly preserved architecture and homes, they have seen Bill Lamb’s vision.

Bill Lamb.

In the future, when the other side of Rutherford Avenue is connected to the mainland of Charlestown with a series of stoplights and crossover streets, one will see Bill Lamb’s vision for the new Charlestown.

In short, look all around the Town, and one will forever see the imprint of architect and preservationist Bill Lamb, who died tragically and suddenly on Sept. 1 due to a boating accident in Maine.

Lamb, 82, had been out rowing as he always did on the lake at Little Deer Isle, Maine, where he summered. He didn’t return from his trip, and after a search was found on the shores the next day. Lamb was born in Cambridge in 1938, and went to Harvard College, graduated from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and enjoyed a long career as a architect. However, in Charlestown where he lived for 40 years with his wife, Carol Bratley, Lamb was known for being ever-present at community meetings and always being in favor of making the community more historic, more walkable and slowing down cars. He carried a clipboard and files with him to every meeting, was very quiet, but made his voice heard on so many issues over the years as a resident, Neighborhood Council member and chair of the Preservation Society’s Design Review Committee.

But beyond making his voice heard, Lamb enacted change and was uncompromising in preserving Charlestown. He was more than just a voice, but really a quiet and effective change agent before that term was even coined.

One of the achievements that will forever be attributed to Lamb is his patience and vision for City Square, single-handedly getting everyone to agree not to place overhead highway ramps over the Square.

Annette Tecce, a former governor of the Friends of City Square, said she got to know Lamb on the North Area Task Force that fought to preserve Charlestown during the Big Dig (or CANA).

“Bill was the visionary that said to the federal, state and City governments not to add more overhead ramps to City Square,” she recalled. “It was his vision to get that part of the project changed and it was the priorty of the North Area Task Force…We wouldn’t have City Square without Bill. It’s not so much the Park, which was a Ken Stone victory, but Bill saved City Square from overhead ramps. It was momentous for Charlestown and remains so to this day…He was so important to the Town and not only that, he was a gentleman, soft spoken but determined to make sure development was good for everyone in Charlestown.”

David Flanagan was a representative working on the CANA project so many years ago, and is currently a resident of Charlestown as well. He said Lamb was a constant force during the discussions of City Square, and a great advocate for the community.

“Bill was a great man who did a lot publicly to help Charlestown and offered great insight behind the scenes,” said Flanagan. “I met Bill in the winter of 1986 as I was about to begin work on the CANA project. Over the next three years Bill offered advice personally and publicly about how the project should go to best protect Charlestown. Bill was the CANA Project that transformed City Square into the gem it is today. Bill will be missed by all who liked his quiet demeanor yet solid ability to make himself heard when necessary.”

CNC President Tom Cunha said Lamb helped to make so many projects better in Charlestown while serving and heading up their design committee.

“Bill Lamb showed incredible patience to inform and guide the layman and woman of the EDC through the process of design, contractor vetting and construction, said Cunha. “Some of his most valuable contributions were permitting knowledge of the city and state. The Charlestown townhomes on Main Street are a better place to live because of the incredible efforts of Mr. Lamb. May he Rest In Peace with our sincere gratitude.”

Fellow architect John Benson served with Lamb on the CPS Design Review Committee for the last 10 years or so, and became personal friends with Lamb as well.

“I remember Bill as the best-informed among my friends on any Town issue and the most likely to be at any community meeting,” he said. “In fact, whenever I attended a meeting in Town, whether on-site at a house, or at the Knights of Columbus, Bill got there ahead of me. I’ll miss his wisdom and gentle humor. It’s hard to believe that we won’t still have his ever-presence as we face future issues in our community.”

Former Charlestown Preservation Society (CPS) President Ellen Kitzis said Lamb left his mark on the Town for the 40 years he was here. She said Lamb became her mentor after meeting him at a New Year’s Eve party – teaching her the importance of zoning and the Article 80 process to help in strengthening preservation.

“As a former CPS President, I worked closely with Bill on many projects including the fight for the right development for One Charlestown and Hood Park, and our early efforts to document critical historic homes in Charlestown,” she said. “I can’t think of a time when Bill wasn’t present at a public hearing or open meeting that might affect development in Charlestown. He has been the steady voice for the Design Review Committee and well-respected by everyone from city planners to the Mayor.”

On a personal note, Kitzis said so many like herself were struck by his old-school manners and politeness – even when in disagreement with another.

“I will miss my friend Bill,” she said. “I remember one night coming back from a Boston Preservation Alliance meeting on the T and discovering it was pouring rain as we walked home. I had no hat or umbrella and Bill just had the fisherman’s cap he often wore. He offered me his hat. That’s just the kind of guy Bill was.”

Services for Lamb were held in Ellsworth, Maine.

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