The French Cultural Center is a non-profit organization that provides a French cultural and social experience for Bostonians and other visitors. The center has a library that contains the second largest private collection of French books, periodicals, DVDs, and CDS in the United States. They also offer language classes and programs for kids and adults. The center houses lectures, concerts, cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, art exhibitions, celebrations, and after school programs.
A national group, called “France
Forever,” was founded in 1940 in an attempt to unite French men and women for
the liberation of occupied France. There
were soon 23,000 members of the group among each of the chapters, made up of
people of varying nationalities. The American
group grew to include the National Chapter and fifty-six regional chapters, including
Boston. Boston was, in fact, one of the most
active chapters in the United States. The
Boston chapter was led by Belle Rand, who is noted for establishing the small lending library of French books and periodicals.
The French Library in Boston,
Inc. was established in 1945 to hold the
growing collection of books and gifted to the group by the French government,
as well as to build and improve cultural relations between the United States
and France. It was originally a 1-room collection that expanded into 2
buildings and became a “notable international institution” (“Who We Are”). The group moved into the current location at
53 Marlborough Street after the building was generously donated to it by Katharine Lane Weems, a prominent American
sculptor. She deeded the property to the group in two
separate transactions on December 27, 1961 and then on January 17, 1962. She stated in her second deed that the
building itself was a donation and was to be used “only for the purposes of
the French Library and related French cultural purposes, and could not be sold
or otherwise disposed of unless the Board of Trustees of the French Library
determined doing so would be “essential…due to changed circumstances (Back Bay
Ten years later (April
1972), the organization acquired the building next door at 300 Berkley Street to
add to their existing operations.
The Alliance Françoise of Boston and Cambridge, Inc. was
founded in 1898 and these two organizations joined together in 200 to create
the French Library and Cultural Center and the Alliance Françoise of Boston and
Cambridge. In 2010, it was renamed the
French Cultural Center.