Charles Street Meeting House (Black Heritage Trail Site 5)
This building was home to a variety of congregations until 1979 and home to the Charles Street AME from 1876 to 1939.
Numerous abolitionists spoke at this building in the decades leading up to the Civil War.
Despite the historic appearance of the exterior, the interior has been significantly altered and is home to several Boston firms.
Backstory and Context
The original congregation saw a decline in white membership and sold the building to the leading African Methodist Episcopal congregation in 1876. The First African Methodist Episcopal Church, AME for short, was the first Black independent denomination in the United States. The AME saw declining membership as fewer Black families lived in the neighborhood, and the congregation sold the building in 1939. The new owners, the Charles Meeting House Society, rented the building to the Albanian Orthodox, the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, the Massachusetts Universalist Convention, the Unitarian Universalists, and other organizations over next few decades. A private owner purchased the building in 1979 and sold it to a group of historic preservationists the following year.
The Charles Street Meeting House Associates raised funds to repair and restore the building. After renovations he Charles Street Meeting House has become office space with a very modern interior but an exterior that won the American Institute of Architects Excellence in Architecture Award in 1983 for its historical integrity. While the interior is quite modern, the exterior looks much as it did when the building was home to the AME church and the property is part of Boston's Black Heritage Trail and significant as a site of abolitionist meetings and as one of the last Black institutions to leave Beacon Hill.