St. James African Orthodox Church, Roxbury, MA (1910)

About This Project




PLANNING STATUS AS OF JUNE 1, 2019 — HBI and Hacin + Associates are currently evaluating options for redevelopment of 50 Cedar Street in advance of the meeting with community to be scheduled in Summer 2019. Future meetings about the St. James African Orthodox Church will be announced online. Stay in the loop by following HBI on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter. Click here to sign up for our email alerts.


HISTORY — 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.


PURCHASE — 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.


BUILDING STATUS — 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. HBI’s first steps have been centered around stabilizing the building in order to arrest the rapid deterioration that the building has suffered from over the last five years. The structure was designated a Boston Landmark by the Boston Landmarks Commission in 2018.

HBI has performed preliminary stabilization services like pest removal, the installation of a rubber roof, and waste/ trash removal. HBI expects to undertake a full rehabilitation of the building and to restore the grandeur of the two-story sanctuary space. Plans are also being considered for new housing construction at the rear of the building, which will help to subsidize the historic building’s rehabilitation.


CPA FUNDING — 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.

H+A’s dedicated team of design professionals has built a broad portfolio of award-winning projects, including the Seaport’s District Hall, IDEO Cambridge, and Four51 Marlborough in the Back Bay. Working within important historic districts across the United States, H+A has won some of the profession’s highest awards for preservation, housing, and design excellence, including designation from the Boston Preservation Alliance, national AIA and HUD housing awards, and the John M. Clancy Award for socially responsible housing.

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