HBI Officially Purchases St. James African Orthodox Church from City Realty

HBI Officially Purchases St. James African Orthodox Church from City Realty

Historic Boston Inc. is pleased to announce the successful completion of its acquisition of the St. James African Orthodox church at 50 Cedar St in Roxbury.  HBI closed on the $1.4 million acquisition of the property from Brookline-based City Realty Group today.

HBI’s offer to purchase the site was accepted by City Realty Group in August and the acquisition was officially closed on October 31st.  We’re grateful to The Life Initiative, a community investment fund created by Massachusetts-based life insurance companies, for providing HBI support in completing the purchase transaction.

Exterior view of the stained glass windows.

St. James African Orthodox Church, an 8000 square foot wood frame building, was designed by Bostonian architect Edward T. P. Graham and was completed in 1910.  The church sits on just 4000 square feet of a 19,000 square foot parcel, was originally built for the Norwegian Free Evangelical Church as worship and welcome space for immigrants from Norway.  In 1955, the church was sold to the St. James African Orthodox Church, whose members mostly originated in the Caribbean islands and followed a faith that aligned with the philosophies of Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican-born black nationalist and leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association.  The parish worshiped in the church up until 2015, when the remaining few elders sold the church to an affiliate of the City Realty Group.

Left: church tower, Right: View of St. James from Hawthorne St.

City Realty Group had proposed new housing units and demolition of the church building.  Neighbors, through the Highland Park Neighborhood Coalition, opposed City Realty’s plans and mobilized over 2700 neighborhood signatures and successfully petitioning the Boston Landmarks Commission to designate the site a Boston Landmark, thereby preventative demolition.

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.