|Charles Street Meeting
Asher Benjamin, 1804
The Charles Street Meeting House has lived as many lives as any other building
in Boston. Its been home to three congregations, progressive causes, retail
stores, a residence and offices. In 1920 it dodged demolition, literally,
by being moved ten feet toward the river to make room for the widened Charles
Street. It was saved again in the 1980's as it took on a new secular life.
In 1804 carts of dirt were still coming down the side of Beacon Hill as
it was built out. Asher Benjamin, who's copy book, Country Builder's
Assistant, was widely circulated among American builders. He was likely
influenced by Federal style popularized by Bulfinch
on Beacon Hill. Its overall symmetry, use of blind arches, fanlights, and
smooth brick place it in the Adam's-Style Federalist tradition. Rather than
a steeple, it is topped with an octagonal cupola.
Originally build for the white Third Baptist congregation, the Charles Street
Meeting House hosted a range of abolitionist speakers. Eventually part of
this congregation split off and formed the first integrated congregation
in the US, Tremont
Temple. This history is detailed as part of the Black
In time the Meeting House was home to AME and Unitarian Congregations. But
the 1980's found the church vacant and facing destruction. Architect John
Sharratt restored it, generally preserving the exterior, while accommodating
retail shops on the first floor, and his home and office on newly established
second and third floors.