January 31, 2023 St. Luke’s Chapel in Transformation
In these coldest months of the year, the interior of the historic St. Luke’s Chapel in Roxbury is warm enough to support a crew working on the building’s restoration. Construction is underway in the tiny chapel on the campus of the Episcopal Church of St. John St. James in Roxbury. A project of the congregation and the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, the chapel is being restored to serve as community meeting and performance space as well as worship space for the congregation.
With grants from the City’s Community Preservation Program and the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, the future of St. Luke’s is very bright. The current work, led by architect Lynne Spencer and the Spencer Preservation Group, includes restoration of the altar’s decorative wood carving and paneling, restoration of brick interior arches, re-framing of the floors, and insertion of a lift and new stair to the basement level. What was once a crawl space is being dug out to create a full useable basement for mechanical systems, bathrooms, a kitchenette and additional meeting space.
Empty for nearly 40 years, St. Luke’s was built as an Episcopal chapel in 1901 for residents of the convalescence home that occupied the larger building on the site – known as Ionic Hall – from the late 19th century until the 1960s. The architect for the chapel was the renowned ecclesiastical architect Ralph Adams Cram. While this building is simple in its decoration, its neo-gothic architecture and interior wood carvings and structural beams are characteristically Cram in their design and detail. With no regular use, the building declined resulting in water infiltration and structural instability.
The interior work is expected to continue through to September. Exterior features that will be addressed later in the schedule are the main door to the chapel and secondary egress. The team is particularly grateful to the Commonwealth’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the Roxbury Heritage State Park for assistance with parking and vehicular access to the chapel via DCR land for construction and heating equipment.
Stay tuned for more on this project in coming months.