Back Bay: A Miracle of Preservation Documents the work of NABB

By Beth Treffeisen

Within the pages of Back Bay: A Miracle of Preservation, a compilation of stories and pictures document the hard work that members of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) have done to make the neighborhood the world-class destination that it is today.

The introduction asks the reader to imagine a world where NABB did not exist, and what the neighborhood would look like without them.

“The Back Bay today could be quite a different destination center,” said Anne Swanson the editor. “The narrative may be different if it wasn’t for the challenges faced over the last 60 years by NABB and all of the things we’ve done.”

Back Bay: A Miracle of Preservation was revealed at NABB’s annual meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27. The book was complied and edited by Anne Swanson and was designed by Joanne Legge.

Swanson began working on the book this past December with a goal of documenting all of the hard work members of NABB have done over the years.

“If it’s not in print all of this would be forgotten and it shouldn’t be forgotten,” said Swanson. “I felt I had to tell the story.”

The story begins in the 1950s with James Bayley a lawyer who lived on Gloucester Street who recognized the neighborhood was in decline and wanted to do something to stop it.

Bayley soon paired up with his friends Edwin Bacon and Diggory Venn to start the organization with a board composed of some of the neighborhood’s longtime residents.

As the years went by, other residents joined and fought to preserve the historic neighborhood many residents and tourists know today.

The book highlights the work of the many volunteers and committee formed throughout the years that worked to better the quality of life for the residents. Highlights include development battles, saving the Elms from Dutch elm disease, business licensing, residential parking permits, groundwater management, and the Graffiti NABBers.

Swanson noted that people who just bought a new home or moved to the area have no idea on the full story on what it took to make the neighborhood the way it is today.

“Some people may think we are all elitist or rich,” said Swanson. “But we’re not that way. We’ve donated 60 years to make it the neighborhood the way it is today.”

She continued, “We are great down-to-earth people who don’t complain – we act.”

The dedication goes to the past, present and future members of NABB.

“A lot of people know little parts of what we’ve done and this is the true story,” said Swanson. “I hope people read about the dedication of hard work of the volunteers. It all adds up to be part of the current story and I hope a lot of people read it.”

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