A New-Old Look For A Historic Boston Site

By WGBH News

Dec. 7, 2011

African Meeting House

The 200-year-old African Meeting House has been fully restored to its 1855 appearance. (Courtesy of the Museum of African American History)

BOSTON — At the African Meeting House, it's 1855 all over again. Politicians and civic leaders gathered in Boston on Tuesday to rededicate the national landmark after a 10-year, $9.5 million restoration.

Boston’s African American community began organizing during the American Revolution, executive director Beverly Morgan-Welch said at the event, opening the African Lodge in 1775 and then a benevolent society and a school. The meeting house opened in 1806. Community members called it “Abolition Church” and the “Black Faneuil Hall.” It now commemorates the history of African Americans during slavery and in the abolitionist movement.

Learn more about the building's history on WGBH's "Basic Black."

Parts of the structure have been restored in the past, Morgan-Welch said, but this is the first complete restoration.

The building was closed for 6 years as everything from the chandelier to the wall sconces to the walls themselves were restored or replicated to their 1855 appearance. When "Greater Boston" took a tour this summer, the pews were being put in place, including two of the Meeting House’s original pewsThe outside of the building got a facelift as well: the brick has been repointed, the windows restored and the colors repainted.

There's just one touch you wouldn't see in 1855: a new elevator tower.

At the Dec. 6 rededication ceremony, professor Lois Brown shared the significance of the building.
“This church and its community played a defining role in the American Civil War — that unforgettable chapter in our history that was shaped indelibly by the formation and heroism of African American regiments. The very first soldiers to enlist, in the very first African American regiments in the North, were recruited here,” Brown said.

The building reopens to the public on Friday.

Mickey Fearn of the National Park Service says Yosemite brings a source of awe — but the African Meeting House gives him what's even more important: a sense of affiliation


Watch the complete ceremony, including a performance by Sweet Honey in the Rock, on WGBH's Forum Network.

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