The church at 50 Cedar Street has been an icon in the Highland Park neighborhood since its construction on the corner of Cedar Street and Hawthorne Street in 1910. The 8000 square-foot wood frame building was designed by Bostonian architect Edward T. P. Graham, and was originally built for a Norwegian Evangelical congregation. In 1955, the church changed hands to the African Orthodox Church as the area became a concentrated center for African American residents. The neighborhood and church provided the perfect environment for the growing African Orthodox congregation, an off-shoot of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA ).
In 1918, Garvey met a young priest who had immigrated from Antigua in 1894: George Alexander McGuire, a student of the Moravian Miskey Seminary in the Danish West Indies. Both shared visions of an African diaspora that would draw strength from their shared Pan-African heritage and wield that power to demand racial equality. In September of 1921, after two years with UNIA as the Chaplain-General, McGuire started his own church, The Independent Episcopal Church, which would become the roots for the African Orthodox Church, and would serve a congregation of black-nationalist neo-Anglican members around the country.
On October 31st, HBI closed on the $1.4 million acquisition of the property from Brookline-based City Realty Group with support from The Life Initiative, a community investment fund created by Massachusetts-based life insurance companies. The church, which had been under threat of demolition, will be preserved under a plan devised by the office of Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Historic Boston Inc.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh, the City’s Community Preservation Committee and the Boston City Council have awarded $500,000 to HBI for acquisition and redevelopment of 50 Cedar Street as affordable housing and neighborhood workspace. The $500,000 in CPA funds are among the first grants secured by HBI to support the project, which currently has a funding gap of about $3 million.
HBI is very pleased to announce Hacin + Associates’ selection as the lead architect for its new project. H+A was selected after a competitive RFP process that involved four other leading architectural teams from the Greater Boston area. President David J. Hacin FAIA, and Senior Associate Scott Thomson AIA will spearhead a multi-disciplinary team of designers, consulting engineers, and landscape architects. Hacin + Associates is an architecture and design studio located in Boston’s South End.
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