The Saint James African Orthodox Church at 50 Cedar Street in Roxbury's Fort Hill neighborhood was built in 1910 and designed in the Neo Gothic Revival style by Edward Thomas Patrick Graham. The church building is a contributing resource in the Roxbury Highlands National Register District. It is a blend of Gothic and Shingle style elements and is described as "A square corner tower with battered, projecting corner pilasters is topped by an octagonal turret and pyramidal roof. Though now sheathed in asbestos shingles, the flared siding and shingled pilasters and brackets betray its Shingle style antecedents." The church has a long history of supporting diverse members of the Roxbury community and is an anchor in the historic fabric of the neighborhood.
The Alliance supports the adaptive reuse and restoration of this important church building. We are working with the owner and members of the community to find a solution to incorporate the church into a sensitive redevelopment of the site.
Highlights from our activity log:
• October 31, 2018
Historic Boston, Inc. closes on the purchase of the property. HBI shares: "HBI’s first step will be to stabilize the building in order to arrest the rapid deterioration that the building has suffered from the last three years. HBI expects to undertake a full rehabilitation of the building, to restore the grandeur of the two-story sanctuary space. In furtherance of its rehabilitation and development goals, HBI plans to work with the Highland Park Neighborhood Coalition to create a mixed use plan for the site that creates housing in form of home ownership units and affordable rental housing, and to work spaces with community access in the sanctuary space."
• July 19, 2018
The extensive advocacy of the Alliance, the Roxbury community, the Boston Landmarks Commission, and Mayor Walsh pays off! Our long-standing partner Historic Boston Inc. agrees to purchase the church and develop a plan that preserves the church and meets community goals.
• July 11, 2018
After working behind the scenes on a number fronts, the Alliance learns that the Boston Landmarks Commission has posted a hearing for the evening of July 31 to consider a study report developed by BLC, the next step in the Landmarking Process. The City also secured emergency 90-Day protection for the property.
This protection is allowed under BLC Enabling Legislation((Chapter 772, M.G.L. 1975, as amended):
"The commission may at any time after notice of a public hearing to consider designation of a landmark under this section, record as above provided, a notice that a designation is under consideration relating to the property, in which case for the period of ninety days after such recording or until the proposed designation is rejected, if such action occurs sooner such property shall be treated as and entitled to all the protection of a landmark hereunder."
• June 12, 2018
Alliance staff attends Boston Landmarks Commission hearing. The Commission unanimously votes to accept a petition for further study of the African Orthodox Church as a local Landmark. The church is now a pending Landmark and BLC staff will study the site's history and significance, creating a report for the Commission's consideration. However, status as a pending Landmark does not protect the building from demolition. The demolition delay period expires on July 9.
• June 6, 2018
Alliance Director of Advocacy, Alison Frazee, quoted in The Bay State Banner article, "Neighbors seek historic designation for former African Orthodox church." Alliance staff continues dialogue with City Realty and potential partners to discuss options for rehabilitating the church.
• May 30, 2018
The Boston Landmarks Commission announces a preliminary hearing date is set to consider a petition to designate 50 Cedar Street, Roxbury, as a Boston Landmark. The hearing is scheduled for June 12, 2018 in Room 900 of Boston City Hall. At this hearing, the Commissioners will vote on whether to accept the petition for further study which would place the property on a list of pending Landmarks. This is the first step toward a Landmark designation but does not protect the building from demolition or compromise. The public is encouraged to submit comments. More information about the process can be found here.
• May 2018
The Alliance communicates with City Realty to continue a conversation about alternatives to demolition.
A change.org petition is launched by the Highland Park Neighborhood Coalition to rally support for saving the church and for making it a Boston Landmark.
• April 10, 2018
Alliance staff attends the Boston Landmarks Commission Article 85/Demolition Delay hearing. The proponent's structural engineer reports that the building is in poor condition. The building has been vacant for over two years and not sufficiently secured from weather. There are about a dozen comments from the public in attendance, all of which are in support of invoking the 90-day demolition delay. Alternatives are discussed, including converting the church building into residential units or selling/leasing the church to a community group or school. The Alliance offered assistance to the proponent, City Realty, to try and develop a plan that saves the building.
• December 19, 2017
Alliance staff gives a brief presentation about the threat of demolition to the Board of Directors.
• October 31, 2016
Alliance staff attends a site visit to the church.