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This blog is a place for dialogue on issues and actions relating to Boston's unique built environment and the preservation and continuing evolution of historic resources within it. My goal, as the Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, is to post timely, relevant and thought-provoking intelligence, ideas, and insights that will engage conversations, inform our actions, and broaden perspectives on preservation.

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Greg Galer, Executive Director, Boston Preservation Alliance

Executive Director

AllianceViews Blog

Community Stewardship through Preservation

The Parish of All Saints, Ashmont

September 11th, 2015  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

The following is part two of a series of posts that provides a behind-the-scenes look into each of the ten projects that will be honored at the Boston Preservation Alliance’s 2015 Preservation Achievement Awards.

The restored All Saints tower, winter 2015.

The restored All Saints tower, winter 2015.

Before Ralph Adams Cram designed West Point, and the John W. McCormack U.S. Post Office & Courthouse, there was the Parish of All Saints in Ashmont. As one of the first works of the renowned architect, All Saints’ is considered one of Cram’s most important designs and a landmark in American architectural history. After designing the church in 1892, Cram partnered with numerous artisans and craftspeople that embellished the Gothic Revival structure with additions, furnishings and art over the course of 40 years. Under his guidance, All Saints’ became home to an impressive collection of art including paintings, sculptures, stained glass, and metalwork.

By 2009, many of the building’s original elements – some nearly 120 years old – were in need of major repairs. The Parish received support from an anonymous foundation and undertook a major capital campaign to raise funds for a comprehensive restoration project. In the summer of 2013, the Parish launched an extensive campaign to fully return the entire complex – including the church, tower, chapels, cloister and parish house – to their original state.

“It’s rare that a congregation is able to undertake such a comprehensive rehabilitation project,” said Jeffrey Gonyeau, a parishioner and preservation consultant. And comprehensive it was. In addition to major building systems updates and improved accessibility, the Parish and the project team were committed to restorations that reflected Cram’s original vision for the church. All stained glass, leaded glass and other windows in the buildings were restored, with many windows completely rebuilt to original specifications.

The slate and copper roofs, flashing and gutters of the entire complex were renewed. The light fixtures  Cram designed for the church were restored to their original appearance, based on a drawing of them found in a 1923 advertisement for the company that had created them for Cram & Ferguson. The list goes on. The restoration of All Saints boasts numerous examples of creative, ingenious preservation solutions that each contributed to an outstanding finished product.

Interior of nave before restoration.

Interior of nave before restoration.

Interior of nave,as restored.

Interior of nave, as restored.

Another visually striking component of the restoration included returning the church to its original warm interior color palette. To do this, the stone arches inside the church and the Lady Chapel were carefully stripped of the layers of paint that had been obscuring the beautiful red sandstone, revealing Cram’s original design intent and interesting choice in materials.

At some point in the church’s life, the sandstone had been painted a light gray, and the plaster and the building had been painted white. “We don’t know why that was,” said the Reverend Michael J. Godderz, who noted that the paint may have been applied to conceal grime and soot. “The paint on the sand stone was starting to trap water, so we knew that we needed to remove it as part of the restoration. The architects let us know from the beginning that leaving the paint would make the stone spall.”

The project’s architects also took samples from the painted plaster walls for analysis, and were able to determine the color of the walls at the point when the final chapel was added, and the church assumed its current form. This warm tan color was reinstated in the church, to a very attractive effect.

Restoration of the tower in the works.

Restoration of the tower in the works.

Throughout the extensive restoration, the congregation was able to meet in the church each Sunday – Father Godderz even became accustomed to celebrating the mass with scaffolding a mere 8 inches from the altar for a year and a half.

A preservation project can be a community affair, and this was certainly true in the case of the All Saints’ restoration. The project contributed to increased community engagement, as well.

“Many community-based organizations use this facility, and the Parish goes out of its way to accommodate additional uses beyond the Masses during the week. That’s a strong part of the Parish’s mission, and we had this in mind when we were planning this project,” said Gonyeau.

The project team and All Saints’ staff engaged with the Dorchester community, providing information about the building and frequent updates about the restoration. They hosted dozens of tours, participated in the Boston Landmarks Commission Preservation Month, and co-sponsored events with the Dorchester Historical Society and St. Mark’s Area Main Streets. “We wanted to make sure that there was a really strong educational component to the project. Peabody Square is the heart of the neighborhood, so we opened our doors and brought hundreds of people through the project as it was going on,” Gonyeau explained. “This was a great way to engage the neighborhood and to demonstrate the value of high-quality preservation work to the community.”

Father Godderz noted a similar experience. “I’ve had a number of people stop me on the street and talk about how excited they were. It’s been an opportunity for people to come into the church for the first time,” he explained. “We’ve had a lot of support from the neighborhood, which we’re grateful for.”

For additional information about the Parish of All Saints restoration, click here.
For additional information about the 2015 Preservation Achievement Awards, click here.

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