st. augustine's church
What's Going On?
St. Augustine's African Orthodox Church at 137 Allston Street has won a Institutional Preservation Grant from the Cambridge Historical Commission. This grant gives them $50,000 outright, and the opportunity for matching funds up to another $50,000.
The money will go toward 4 elements crucial to preserving the building:
1) Replacing the roof. This includes repairing leaks and providing insulation against the weather. The original wooden ceiling inside the building will be preserved.
2) Improving the windows. Current windows are single-pane and leaky. They will either be replaced or fitted with storm windows.
3) Restoring the siding. The building still has original shingles from 1886-88 that help bring out its historical character, but many are rotting or missing and additional insulation is needed.
4) Adding ADA accessibility. The side entrance, with trellised woodworking and interior painted wood, was originally the main entrance. Restoring it also provides an opportunity to make the building accessible.
Click here to
The National Trust for Historic Places has just awarded us a
to cover design costs and a site survey in preparation for the restoration work.
What's the history?
St. Augustine’s was built by St. Peter’s Church (838 Mass. Ave.) in 1886 for the convenience of its parishioners in Cambridgeport because, as an 1887 newspaper explained, “communication with St. Peter’s Church by horse car was very indirect.” Its architect was Robert H. Slack, who designed New Bedford’s county courthouse, a wing of the Harvard Peabody Museum, and several other unique shingle-style churches—one as far afield as a lakeside town near Dallas, Texas.
Bishop George A. McGuire (1866-1934) of Antigua was minister of two African Orthodox Churches in Cambridge, including St. Augustine’s; he founded the African Orthodox Church denomination in 1921 and kept a close relationship with Marcus Garvey’s Back to Africa movement. Membership at the Cambridgeport church location has ebbed over the years, seeing full congregations in the 1930s-40s and 1970s-90s, initially from the West Indies and, over time, many other Caribbean and African parishioners, both locals and transient students.
Today Charles (Kit) Eccles serves as the minister at the church, taking after his mother, Mariam Eccles, who led the church from the 1970s until the early 2000s and whose photo is still prominent on the church piano. Kit remembers, "The black church was the center of our community and it provided help when we needed it. We didn’t have much, but together we pitched in to assist others with less. St. Augustine’s was a mecca for us back in the day."
How can I help?
Preservation is an expensive project, and completing the work will require the matching funds from the Cambridge Historical Commission. $50,000 in donations will provide the church with $100,000 in additional funding. The CNA is excited for this neighborhood institution and wants to help them get there.
Your tax-deductible donation to the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association will be given in full to the St. Augustine's preservation work, and your impact will be doubled by the matching funds. Every dollar helps! Please donate by check or online:
202 Hamilton St.
Cambridge, MA 02139
Donate by check, payable to "Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association"
Click "Donate" to use a credit card.
(2.2% fee applies)
From St. Augustine's Church &
the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association