[Editor's note: The photos above and following statement were provided by the Museum of African American History.]
The Museum of African American History (MAAH), Boston and Nantucket, rededicated the pristinely restored African Meeting House on Beacon Hill in Boston last month with a series of private and public events marking the 205th Anniversary of the nation’s first anti-slavery church, and kick-off its five-year celebration of this international icon and Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. The critically-acclaimed Rededication Ceremony featuring spoken and musical tributes by national, regional, and local leaders—now available in its entirety at maah.org courtesy of the WGBH Forum Network—is infused with the words of Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Mariah Stewart and all the brave men, women, and children who gathered there centuries ago and changed the course of American history.
The $9.5-million-dollar historic restoration, complete with new elevator and stair tower for accessibility, has returned the African Meeting House to its 1855 appearance, with elegantly curved pews and pulpit, period wainscoating and wall finishes, cast-iron posts and golden chandelier. This National Historic Landmark, now open to the public after six years, welcomes visitors with Words Spoken at the Meeting House etched on granite panels towering in the new courtyard entryway.
From collaborating with contributors, to conducting archaeology studies, to assembling the dream restoration team, to using the most advanced technology to assist with this complex, delicate restoration, attention was paid to every detail. Construction equipment was reassembled in the small rear yard to build the new elevator stair tower, new bricks were made to match smaller 19thcentury bricks, and two original pews now stand with those carefully crafted for the restored sanctuary.
The pews, wall finishes, cast-iron posts and all the early 19th-century building features were completely restored as they appeared at the height of the New England abolitionist movement. In addition to historic renovations, modern upgrades were installed, such as the external elevator and newly designed stairwell to make it accessible, and the building’s electrical, heating and cooling systems were all replaced.