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Inside a Charlestown church in the 1960s, but which one?

Inside a Charlestown church in 1967

The folks at the Boston City Archives say the BRA took this photo inside a church in Charlestown in 1967 and wonder which church it was. This isn't one of those historic puzzlers where they will tell us the answer later - they really aren't sure and are seeking help identifying the church. See it larger - or see it gigantic.


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I believe it is St. Catherine of Siena, on Bunker Hill Street, but not 100% sure.

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I way that’s st catherines

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Not with that pulpit. Vatican II changed up a lot but no Catholic church looked like that in the 60's.

This is a mainline Protestant church. Based on the columns and the pulpit, this was built 1865 to 1880. There are no stations of the cross and no stained glass either further reinforcing that it wasn't subject to Lake Street. The church isn't that big either because the organ would be in a loft it it was a bigger (taller) church.

Given Charlestown credit. They were the first to really tell the BRA's bulldozers to take a hike. The original BRA plan was to pulverize a lot of the neighborhood and replace it with the construction like you see at Cass and Tremont.

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unless it's possible it's not the main sanctuary? Could this be a chapel at either a school or a larger church, rather than a small church? Though it isn't likely they'd have that extensive of an organ if they had a larger sanctuary, but yeah.

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It is gone now.

It is where the park is on Harvard Street.

Matches right up in terms of size and with the BRA urban renewal 'efforts" area.


This isn't to be confused with the First Church in Charlestown which is up the hill by the B&G club.

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Great catch! It's not the size of the organ. It is where they stick it.

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Is that really something we want to be saying about the Catholic Church?

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Cut it out.

This borders on hate speech.

There was no need to post this.

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Did I miss something. Hate speech how?

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Gaffin let in an anon with a church pedophilia joke. Not so subtle bias and overall "locker room" talk that TFG wallowed in.

Ha ha. Everyone laugh.

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Nothing wrong with Adam's comment.
Plenty wrong with the anon creep comment.

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It is an Anon comment. So Adam vetted it and posted it. He's responsible.

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It was in poor taste the way it was joked about, but it is not hate speech. The Catholic Church has in fact had a problem with rampant sexual abuse of children by people with power over the children and a pattern of officials covering it up.

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Is it now "hate speech" to remind people that the Church aided, abetted and protected serial rapists for decades? If so, lock me up.

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That was the first thought that went through my mind as well. Definitely not a Catholic church. For me it was the pews that were the determining factor. Where are the kneelers?

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The giveaway: no altar rail and no stations of the cross are visible on the outer walls. But I guess there were still some non-Catholics in Charlestown in the 1960s, just not very many of them. I did a closeup of the gigantic image and noticed "Baptist Hymnal" in the back of the pew, so I did a google image search for "baptist church" and "Charlestown, MA" and found two Baptist churches, Bunker Hill Baptist Church, and First Baptist Church of Charlestown. A further search of interior images found this pic of the interior shot looking back from the altar of the First Baptist Church (the pic above is towards the altar). The capitals on the columns, the ends of the pews, the medallions on the walls, and the pattern on the vaulted ceiling more or less match in both photos, so I'm pretty confident that the photo above is of the First Baptist Church in Charlestown.

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That interior shot looks like a match. Go post on their Twitter!

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Agreed, looks like a winner!

According to the 1922 Bromley atlas, the First Baptist Church occupied a large part of the block bounded by Austin, Lawrence, and Seminary streets, with the main entrance facing Lawrence. This was directly across the street from today's Bunker Hill Mall.

Google StreetView [https://goo.gl/maps/ZfTJWqq6s3orAckD7] shows that the site is now occupied by modern brick rowhouses, built to look old, probably from the 1970s.

You're right, there weren't many non-Catholics left in Charlestown in the '60s, but their church buildings from the 1800s were still there, with no one and no money to maintain them. And thus good targets for urban renewal.

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(beat me to it just above)

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I'm going to guess it's the First Universalist Church, on the site that's now a parking lot behind the building with the Starbucks and the bank on Warren St.

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I agree that something looking far more like pulpit than altar and the lack of sanctuary rail (at that point in time) are pretty suggestive as "not Roman Catholic". So, too, the presence of a plain cross but not a crucifix.
I'd put less stock in the plain windows and lack of visible Stations of The Cross. We had then and have now some assuredly Roman Catholic church buildings that the architecture is very suggestive of New England Protestant aesthetic. Saint Stephen's (North End) has no stained glass - just plain clear glass. Saint Clement (Boylston St) and Saint Francis de Sales (Roxbury/South End) - those buildings were built by other denominations and acquired by the RCAB later. Sometimes the Stations of The Cross were done in minimalist styles (though, yeah, not too often back then)
Saint Irene in Carlisle is another - a beautiful building that manages to be Catholic, modern, and New England.

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Roman Cops Are...oh wait no.

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